The Occultation of Lisa Reihana
These claims come not from John Ansell or the One New Zealand Foundation or some other source on the right-wing fringes of New Zealand politics, but from veteran artist and lay Buddhist monk Terrence Hanscomb. In an essay for EyeContact called 'The Occultation of the Sun', Hanscomb moves from his allegations of Maori privilege into a condemnation of Lisa Reihana's work In Pursuit of Venus, which has been on display for months at the Auckland Art Gallery.
A video made to look like a vast stretch of moving wallpaper, In Pursuit of Venus depicts some of the earliest encounters between European mariners and traders and Pacific peoples in places like Aotearoa and Tahiti. The work has attracted big audiences and garnered praise from many reviewers; for Hanscomb, though, it is an expression of the privilege Reihana enjoys as a Maori. As an 'imperialist' and an 'entrepreneur', she is, according to Hanscomb, exploiting the history of the same Pacific peoples that Maori today oppress.
In the comments thread under Hanscomb's review, Ralph Paine and I have taken him to task for his analysis of contemporary New Zealand society and his lack of interest in Pacific history. I don't find Hanscomb's responses to our criticisms at all convincing - but I would say that, wouldn't I? Read Hanscomb's review and the discussion it has generated here.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]