Thursday, January 07, 2021


I've got a piece about nude trampers and poetic mountaineers in the new North and South. Read it with your kit off.

Sunday, December 13, 2020


 Sam Russell from Lindin thinks that it is wrong for the Maori Party's co-leader to use the word 'Holocaust' in the context of New Zealand history. I've disagreed in this twitter thread

Sunday, November 29, 2020


It was a pleasure to speak at the launch of MK Joseph's long-lost anti-fascist novel Tomorrow the World last weekend. Jack Ross has written about the launch on his blog. Ross has for years been trying to bring Joseph's science fiction to the attention of his fellow academics. 

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Dark enlightenment

She's probably got bigger things to worry about right now, but I've queried the suddenly notorious Olivia Pierson's understanding of the Enlightenment in this twitter thread

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Weka Pass

Last week I tramped to Weka Pass Cave, where people made art with charcoal and ochre five hundred or more years ago. Now I wonder: was that iron fence by the cave's limestone overhang intended to keep humans out, or to keep the painted cryptids - writhing eel-birds, lizard-dogs, dancing insect-men - in? When I close my eyes creatures surface, through the blackness.

Caves like this are not only sacred to Maori. Generations of Pakeha artists travelled here, to learn what could not be learned in the polite galleries of tight little colonial towns. I could sense Tony Fomison and Theo Schoon, as I squatted beside the cave mouth. Both men were possessed by these caves, and this art: both spent years in these limestone galleries.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Warriors in wood


I've written about the syncretic and subversive sculpture of Whare Joseph Thompson for EyeContact

Monday, September 07, 2020

The old gods

Some conservative older Pakeha are complaining about Labour's promise to make Matariki, or Maori New Year, a public holiday. They say Matariki was never part of their childhoods in the '60s or '70s. That's not surprising. Matariki is a Polynesian religious celebration, & indigenous religion was outlawed in New Zealand between 1907 & 1962 by the Tohunga Suppression Act. Tohunga, the priests of Maori religion, were fined or jailed. Whare wananga, where knowledge was passed between generations, went underground. Matariki celebrations would have been unthinkable in mainstream New Zealand society. By making Matariki a public holiday now, New Zealand can make some restitution for the repression of the ancient religion of these islands.

Matariki is a Maori celebration, but it has parallels in many other Polynesian societies. In Hawai'i, for example, the festival Matahiki sees tributes to the god of fertility Lono, cousin of Aotearoa's Rongo. By making Matariki a holiday, New Zealand can remember ancient Pacific connections.
In many parts of the Pacific, Christian indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices are still repressed. My friend the Tongan artist Visesio Siasau, for example, endures abuse & discrimination because he rejects Christianity & follows his country's ancient gods. In Tahiti, the self-proclaimed 'pagan' Moana'ura Walker has overcome a history of Catholic authoitarianism and established a thriving indigenous temple. By making Matariki a holiday, New Zealand will send a message of support to Siasau and to activists in other Pacific nations suffering from Christian oppression.