Hundreds of thousands to be spent celebrating NZ ‘discovery’ by Cook
James Nokise says sailing the Endeavour replica into Marlborough for the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook “discovering” this country is embarrassing.
The comedian has challenged New Zealand’s 2019 celebrations on stage, and he and other artists intend to continue doing so.
Celebrations and parties should include acknowledging the devastation caused by Western influence in the Pacific, says Nokise
“How can all of New Zealand celebrate this?,
“What will Tuhoe do?”
Nokise’s new poetry show Faovale Imperium, performed in the Fringe Festival 2017, challenges glorifying European discovery, and invites Pacific voices to join the discussion about Cook’s arrival.
Roughly translated as letting in the empire, Faovale Imperium was created to question why we don’t question colonisation, Nokise says.
Nokise’s show has successfully sparked a dialogue about the upcoming anniversary.
“People made contact afterwards to talk about how they felt they were the only person who knew about slavery, or about the restrictions on French Polynesia.
“You sort of realise that because we don’t openly talk about [Pacific history] in New Zealand, people who talk about it feel like they can’t,” says Nokise.
“I’m an earnest believer that it should be normal to talk about the Pacific. But it’s not.”
Nokise will continue the work-in-progress in a new project called Cyclone with slam poet Te Kahu Rolleston and dancer/poet Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala, which will build on how New Zealand talks about imperialism.
“There are other like-minded artists out there from all different backgrounds, offering Maori and Pakeha responses to Cook and trying to reconcile history with who they are, and what they believe in,” says Nokise.
Nokise is Samoan and Welsh, so understands how racism looks in New Zealand.
“If it was European countries we were talking about, we’d be talking about invasion and war.
“But because it’s brown people on the other side of the planet, we use words like civilisation.”
Preparation for the anniversary of Cook’s landing at Ship’s Cove in Marlborough is celebratory.
District councils and local trusts around New Zealand have been preparing since 2015, including planning to sail a replica of the Endeavour to Marlborough from Sydney.
Trusts have been established in Marlborough and Northland, and grants of up to $300,000 have been allotted from the Marlborough District Council between now and 2019.
Asked what he thinks about the Endeavour replica, Nokise said he finds the idea “embarrassing”.
“Celebrating by sailing that ship into the harbour and what that ship represents, you shouldn’t be allowed to do that until you’re finished with the treaty,
“Figure out the treaty, then figure out how to ‘celebrate’ Captain Cook’s arrival.”
Faovale Imperium focuses on the stolen islanders of Ata, the many colonies New Zealand still controls for Britain, and about Tupaia, the Tahitian navigator who helped Cook use Pacific cartography this country.