Friday, September 20, 2019


Canada's leader is in trouble for coming to a fancy dress party as a parody of an Indian. NZ has its own, forgotten history of blackface. At the end of the 1933 academic year, a band of 'n****r minstrels', pictured above, entertained students of Auckland Teachers Training College. Similar entertainment was common at theatres & at parties throughout NZ in the early 20th century. The newspaper article from 1935 reproduced below promises that a team of forty 'n****rs' will provide 'most suitable' entertainment for children who visit Auckland's Regent Theatre.

It was normal for both adults & kids to come to fancy dress balls in racially charged costumes; the white hood of the Ku Klux Klan was another favourite outfit. A kids' fancy dress ball held at Patumahoe in 1920, reported in the article reproduced below, featured a 'Persian lady', a 'Hawaiian lady', an 'Egyptian lady', & two Klansmen. In 1920 the Klan was exploding in numbers across the US; in 1923 it would appear in NZ, & carry out attacks against Asian businesses in Auckland & Christchurch.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

From kumala to kumara

Ethnogenesis is continuous. In the little Northland town of Okaihau a new culture, a blend of Tonga & Aotearoa, has been made over the last forty years. I've written about Okaihau artist Matavai Taulangau for EyeContact.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Two signals from a wrecked star

In 1863 the troopship Orpheus foundered on a taniwha-shaped sandbar. Pressganged soldiers swam ashore, hid in the Waitakeres, on Fenian farms, at mill camps, using new names, rising from the dead. Others found refuge in the earth. In 1974 commemorators formed an honour guard along the bush track to Cornwallis' Orpheus cemetery. The dead refused to rise and march.
Light from a dead star can reach distant worlds. The Orpheus sank in 1863, but its relics - booms, boards, soldiers' buttons, bones - keep landing on Auckland's western shores. In 1976 Bill Barr posed with the iron bolts that had found him through Whatipu's surf. They were burdens. They pulled him deeper.