11 Jun 2020

Time to review colonial monuments' place in society - artist Nick Tupara

5:36 pm on 11 June 2020

A Māori artist is backing calls for the country to review its colonial monuments, but doesn't necessarily believe they should be removed from our streets.

Nick Tupara, Spokesperson for Ngati Oneone

Spokesperson for Gisborne iwi Ngāti Oneone Nick Tupara. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, monuments of controversial figures - including slave trader Edward Colston - have been taken down.

The Māori Party has since called for an inquiry into monuments in New Zealand, and the removal of those that symbolise racism and oppression.

Artist Nick Tupara, who is a spokesperson for Gisborne iwi Ngāti Oneone, agreed it was time to open up the conversation about New Zealand's colonial past.

"I think we should review them, absolutely," Tupara said.

"I think we should be aware and we should acknowledge what these things are there and actually what they mean, and I imagine most New Zealanders will pass these things every day and don't give two hoots about them, or certainly don't understand what they represent or the connotations behind them," he said.

"I think we should be aware and then as communities we can then make collective decisions about where we want to be as a community."

Monuments had already been taken down in Gisborne previously, Tupara said.

"A Captain Cook statue that we had on one of our ancestor mountains here in Gisborne was taken down last year, we had it physically removed and that came with some objection, and in the end we altered its context and now it sits with other Cook memorabilia in our museum and will be presented in a context that is more appropriate to our community today."

He said the objective should be ensuring markers of history were balanced.

"If we can clear the space and clear our minds and ensure our balance is fair," he said.

"I don't want things getting taken down because we need to bring a balance, but we need to grow those other parts of our history and our story to ensure that at least they have a place alongside some of the ways that we've told our history already."

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