IN: HOUSES OF MEMORY, AN ACADEMIC AND ARTISTIC EXCHANGE AND EXHIBITION
DURBAN ART GALLERY, DURBAN, APRIL 2007
MALMÖ MUSEUM, MALMÖ, NOVEMBER 2007 - MARCH 2008
15 drawings, ink on paper, in 5 rows + text Phoenix Parihaka
Carlos Capelan, Clifford Charles, Loulou Cherinet, Jan Håfström, Doung Anwar Jahangeer, Langa Magwa, Tova Mozard, Tracey Rose
Malmö University, Malmö Museum, Sweden; University of KwaZulu-Natal, Centre for Creative Arts, Durban, South Africa
Only by awakening can you know the true meaning of that word
It is said that the Phoenix represents our capacity to vision into the future, for the bird would travel long distances scanning the environment; the activities and events created by humans. The mystical creature’s ability to ignite itself in a pyre of aromatic branches and spices in order to be reborn is a powerful image. It helps remind us that even fiery re-awakenings constantly occur in the mythical, physical and spiritual worlds.
In 1881, the hamlet community of Parihaka on the scenic west coast of the North Island of New Zealand agreed to put into effect a sequence of non-violent civil disobedience actions. They removed surveyor pegs from confiscated land, ploughed up surveyed land and removed government built fences. Spiritual leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi organised peaceful protest marches to raise awareness and support, to keep their land. In response, over one thousand militia invaded the village and hundreds of followers were arrested…soldiers and settlers at the ready to claim the land. Almost simultaneously, several hundred Parihaka supporters were transported and imprisoned at wintry Dunedin in the deepest part of the South Island. Held captive in exile from their loved ones, many died from the harsh living conditions of sealed caves and tunnels and enforced hard labour.
Twelve years later, a legal case drew Mahatma Gandhi to Durban. When he booked a first-class train ticket to Transvaal he was duly ordered off the train for being ‘coloured’. The event changed his life and he started his revolutionary philosophy of active disobedience through a practise called Satyagraha meaning ‘truth and firmness’. His teachings prepared the minds of individuals and communities to be disciplined and commit to awakening their consciousness through courage, patience and non-violent action. Gandhi’s political career was launched with Satyagraha, and he devoted his life to promoting public action in support of human and legal rights… without fear of imprisonment or death. When he left Durban in 1914, he took leave of 21 years of practice as an advocate for personal and political freedom and spiritual rigour.
The above events in our human history are repeated the world over, on a daily basis. Such actions illustrate the infinite power of individuals and communities who gently lean into the harshness of unconsciousness with perseverance and awareness, for to do so allows the severity to dissolve.
Indigenous Curator, Maori Art
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
Auckland, New Zealand, April 2007