Questions Sarah raises about weaving together artists and curators within a specific locality are particularly poignant here in Taranaki, a region which embraces the unique cultural resilience of Parihaka, a place that has survived the direst of colonial clashes to become a centre for cultural preservation and development.
They are also particularly poignant now, on February 5th. Tomorrow is Waitangi Day, nationally and very diversely celebrated - or not - for the signing in 1840 of the highly conflictual Treaty between North Island Maori and Pakeha / UK colonisers, which has subsequently and especially since the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in the nineteen seventies been revised to (begin to) address grievances and anomalies.
So here and now at SCANZ is a loaded moment.
We've moreover been privileged with the presence of an elder, Te Huirangi, spokesperson for our group at the powhiri, the formal welcome we received upon arrival at the meeting house, the wharenui, of the beautiful Owae marae here in Taranaki. Te Huirangi's message is one of respectful dialogue, of carefully opening up spaces where difference can be articulated and perhaps resolved, of creating social protocols in which we can develop trust and interaction. He was with us again this morning so our ears and minds are resonating with this commitment to shared knowledge building, perhaps epitomised by a group of people in the room now who are learning to weave freshly cut harakeke - flax - under the patient guidance of a friend of Te Huirangi's. Hands-on knowledge sharing. And it smells really good.
So maybe for me, the lesson from this and the link with Sarah's question, is of the same order: how one brings people up to speed under the constraints she's outlined, and in keeping with the ethic we're encountering on a daily level, seems to have much to do with this quality of carefully creating protocols in which we can develop trust and interaction. This is what we see Sarah and Mercedes and the team doing with dedication down at the Govett Brewster Gallery. It's what we see Dominic Smith and Brett Stallbaum and Andrew Gryf Paterson doing in order to engage effectively yet non-intrusively with the local participants who've joined their projects. A kind of unspoken maieutics or midwifery. It also resonates strangely with qualities we encounter amongst improvising performers and musicians at ICMuS in Newcastle, who learn early that silence does not necessarily mean passivity, and that open listening is integral to playing, to socially and creatively opening up spaces for interaction and exchange. As Te Huirangi repeatedly points out, awareness of and respect for difference, the distinctive ways and contexts for subjects and areas of interaction, is the starting point for moving together.
So I think this holds equally for the curatorial issues.
kia ora from SCANZ, Taranaki, Aotearoa, from a wiwi kiwi
Sally Jane Norman
Grand Assembly Rooms
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU