Yinka Shinobare references beauty as “one of the most radically subversive strategies to counter a Eurocentric hegemony on the use of beauty. The debates on aesthetics cannot be narrowly defined as a modernist concern the politics of aesthetics is directly related to globalisation” If I implement this statement to my work, I wanted my works to look simultaneously aesthetically pleasing, absurd, inappropriate and confusing in meaning. Making comment on the globalisation and colonisation of countries whose indigenous culture has been brutally transgressive. Quite similar to Shinobare my ‘subversive strategy’ is found in humour. If I can’t make fun of myself and my somewhat obsessive compulsion to highlight the absurdity of post-colonial culture and all its touristic traits and failures who will? And by the same token how else would I represent that part of me?
Through my artistic practice I seek to answer these questions. My ‘pou’ are supposed to be simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and disconcerting. Am I being disrespectful? Holding my own cultures (plural) in contempt? Or assuming control over the ‘antidote’ Pakeha function through? That secular, individualistic manner and way that Pakeha culture functions? Within a Maori narrative. At the end of the day I do believe that its relative to how you behold culture. If I were to decide that yes my pou are offensive then that would be absolutely detrimental to my creativity, so how do I navigate this space where I’m subverting both of my cultures? I borrow Te Aroha Henares’ words here in that ‘expressive discovery’ was practiced by my tupuna far before me. “ It is almost implicit in the Tai Tokerau make up that they can be expected not to conform to tradition, ritual and custom. It is as though Nukutawhiti, Kupe and Ngake who stand at the prow of their waka and are moving forward on a voyage of discovery. Discovery means moving into the unknown, and being totally confident and fearless about launching into the deep. To linger for too long in one place, on one sentiment even, threatens to imprison one there. That is not expressive discovery. That is not true Taitokerau nature.” (Henare)
Initially the Pou were an approach to move into a 3d sculptural format. I had big ambitions to do traditional carving but I think that I jumped the gun and that there is a much more easier and cheaper way of doing it, also realising that carving is a form of sculpture and looking at contemporary sculpture I can see the oppurtunities of mixing up mediums and approaches. “I was looking for another medium than wood for carving. I found it in clay, the body of Papatuanuku.”(Wi Taeapa) Ceramics opened my world to processes I was not accustomed to and which I found incredibly enjoyable, in difference I do recognise that carving is very much an intuitive practice and making moulds is a very different process void of much creative input. However adding hair and characteristics that were uncanny and unexpected lead them to have character synonomous with artists such as Francis Upritchard and Micheal Parekowhai.
In an opposing move I returned to painting, because I was looking into a lot of historical records about early contact between Maori and Pakeha, trying to capture the essence of what happened at that crucial time of our countries existence. Utilising Anthropologists method of ethnography to suggest a fictional anthropology in the making of my tool /bone artefacts. I am questioning the dominant cultures ‘historical accounts’ of Aotearoa and realise that its subjective to whoever wrote the history and that interpretations of that history is just as subjective. Myth, history and truth are all intriguing themes in my artistic practice.I looked into museum culture and the repatriation of taonga, this being a contentious subject which I try to distance myself from in the application of the paint, drawing only the non-fictional aspects of my ‘tools’. Furthermore I plan to focus on Maori success and through means of an anthropological study of my brother who recently obtained his PhD in Maori studies and New Zealand History. I recognise his success within the dominant culture. It’s the little steps, the everyday rituals, the familiar objects that assist you, that hold practical importance, they represent how we relate to the world around us, this is uniform with those anthropologists of old who documented the tools and objects of our forbearers. In contextualizing the objects by themselves I aim to give them a self importance, the large scale paper gives the object a lonely feeling as if its been alienated, ideas about feeling unrecognised or dishonoured come into play here, such is the way I feel about my Taha Maori. I desperately wanted to do a lithograph but I couldn’t even find any lithography tools at the Art store! I would also love to upscale or ‘Parekowhai’ my ‘artefacts’ as well as my ‘pou’. My stance of ‘subversive strategies for halfcastes’ is visible in the Pou that stands at the top of this page. He is pulling the fingers, I’d love to further this by producing more pou with different hand gestures… West side, South side, Maori side, peace signs… etc. So much to do so little time….