Friday, November 28, 2014

Anzac's monument

At the beginning of The Bridge. A Story of Men in Dispute, Merata Mita's alternately fesity and melancholy documentary about New Zealand's longest strike, Anzac Wallace ponders the islands of steel and concrete strewn across the Manukau harbour between the suburbs of Onehunga and Mangere. The half-finished bridge is 'hanging out there like a monument', Wallace thinks. It could be 'a modernist sculpture' called 'the Redundancy Bridge'. He wonders whether it will ever be finished.

Wallace was a gangster who made a fifteen year tour of New Zealand's prison system before he found a job with the carpentry crew on the Mangere bridge. When he and his militant co-workers were locked out by their employers, with the connivance of the Muldoon government, Wallace flourished as a picket line orator. Shortly after starring in Mita's film, he would play opposite Bruno Lawrence in Geoff Murphy's Utu, a revered depiction of racial feuding in nineteenth century New Zealand that might also be a parable for industrial relations in the turbulent first years of the 1980s.
Merata Mita's film deserves to be as famous as Utu, and the Mangere Bridge, which was eventually finished in 1983, after the workers had ended their two and a half year blockade, deserves to be considered one of New Zealand's great monuments. It was intended as a symbol of the nation's confidence and prosperity, a link between the burgeoning suburbs of South Auckland and their international airport and the city's central business district. It became a sign of the country's economic malaise and social divisions, and is happily invoked by right-wing politicians who like to scare their audiences with horror stories about hubristic trade unions.

This weekend Paul Janman and I and other members of the Committee for the Reconstruction of Space and Time on Pig Island will be giving two guided tours of the pedestrian underpass of the Mangere bridge, as part of our contribution to the Other Waters festival, which is designed to celebrate the history and aesthetics of Onehunga, Mangere, and the harbour that both links and separates them.

You can join us at two o'clock tomorrow afternoon, and at ten o'clock on Sunday morning, as we follow the underpass' modernist curve high above the harbour, push peeriscopes through convenient holes to get a view of the bridge's foundations, and examine a geocache filled with old texts - accounts of the epic strike, but also texts that document other neglected parts of local history. There are newspaper articles about subjects like opium deals and dens in Mangere, officials' attempts to make the old Mangere bridge a whites' only zone, and a raid on Onehunga's greengrocer by cops who were looking for Bolshevik literature rather than courgettes.

Ian Powell will be filming proceedings with one of his antique, suitcase-sized cameras.

Footnote: you can find GPS coordinates for the cache here, along with reports from searchers.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Blogger Craig said...

Hi there! Is the geocache in place? It has been published on the website but I could see no evidence of it at the listed coordinates. Cheers!

11:12 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I think it's going in tomorrow around about lunch time, Craig! Sorry it wasn't about when you turned up. You geocachers are demons!

11:16 pm  
Blogger Craig said...

We race to be first to find. Bit frustrating when it's not there. See you tomorrow then!

11:30 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

704Yes, sorry Craig! I didn't think the reviewer would approve it so quickly! Last time I did a cache it took several days. Still, it was great day of appreciation of the possibilities of geocaching as a form of cultural expression!

10:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:03 am  
Anonymous Alec Morgan said...

Talked with Zac at Auck Int film festival last year when Utu got a relaunch. He was looking better than back in those days.

“Hammer and the Anvil“ by Mita is related to this too.
Labourers, Riggers, Drivers and Storeworkers–those were the days. Take on the boss with no apologies!

11:27 am  

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