21 Mar 2019

Christchurch shooting prompts increase in kōrero on racism - Tame Iti

2:42 pm on 21 March 2019

There was a record turnout for a public talk by activist and artist Tame Iti in Palmerston North yesterday.

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Tame Iti speaking at Massey University in Palmerston North yesterday. Photo: Supplied / Dr Steve Elers

Mr Iti is at Massey University as the activist-in-residence and is running a series of workshops.

As part of his residency, Mr Iti visited local schools, including Manukura School and the alternative education programme at Highbury Whānau Centre, to foster discussions about decolonisation - which Mr Iti describes as in his Tūhoe mita (dialect) as 'Te wetewete o te pakehatana kei roto i a koe'.

There were about 500 people at yesterday's kōrero, with some being turned away after a lecture theatre filled to capacity and another lecture hall with a live stream of the talk was also filled. The university also had extra precautionary security since the Christchurch terrorist shootings on Friday.

One of the events organisers, Steve Elers, said he believed that was a record turnout for an invited speaker at Massey University.

"Having a guest speaker pack out two lecture halls at the same time is unheard of," Dr Elers said.

Mr Iti said the response was huge and that although interest for his mahi prior to last weeks terrorist attack was there, he has noticed a huge increase of people wanting to engage in these kōrero about racism and white supremacy.

"I am not trying to tell people what to do. It's my job to provoke thought and try to get people there to look at things and how do we deal with these issues that are in front of us right at this very moment."

He said in his kōrero he also put challenges to institutions about collaborating with tangata whenua.

Mr Iti said white supremacy views have existed in this country, especially in Christchurch, for a long time and he had warned of something like this happening.

But he says it's now about fostering discussions about these kaupapa.

"The larger community need to engage in these conversations and it's really important as an activist to share some thoughts to help bring people together and finding solutions."

Massey Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) director Mohan Dutta agreed.

"White supremacy and racism has always been alive in Aotearoa.

"You only need to scratch the surface and it's there ... anti-racism and anti-white supremacy interventions have always been one of our key focus areas of CARE.

"In light of recent events we will continue to do this work vigourously," Prof Dutta said.

Mr Iti's residency finishes at the end of this week, he will then return to his kainga in Ruātoki where he is working on projects around sustainable homes. He will also continue to work on his art which he said was also another waka to help social change.

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