Instigated by Samoan writer, teacher and community activist, Leilani Salesa, The Rise of the Morning Star was a performance undertaken on Auckland’s Queen Street on Sunday 1 December 2013 as part of a network of global events to create awareness and activate support for the struggle towards independence in West Papua.
It was an honour and privilege to be part of this collective of Maori and Pacific women standing in solidarity, activating our own awareness, moving with love and intention, silence, respect, sadness and hope. Leilani designed this performance because, “our freedom as indigenous Maori and Pacific women in Aotearoa/New Zealand is inextricably bound up with that of our indigenous West Papua brothers and sisters. We call on all New Zealanders to take notice, that at this very moment in the Pacific, there is a genocide taking place”. Read more here.
The performance included an ordered procession down Queen Street stopping at three major intersections. When the pedestrian light turned green, the performers assembled in a circle around Salesa in the middle of the intersection. Facing outward, the women raised their right fists to the sky as a gesture of solidarity. Throughout the performance, the Morning Star flag representing the West Papua independence movement, was symbolically raised 15 times, a reference to the 15 year jail sentence handed to Papuan independence activist, Filep Karma in 2004 for raising the flag at ceremony in Jayapura, Indonesia.
The performance symbolically began and ended at Selwyn Muru’s public sculpture, Waharoa, a stylised Maori gateway in Auckland’s Aotea Square. The performance inspired emotion amongst all its participants; in its silence, its visibility and in the stark juxtaposition of consumerism and commerce with the quiet reflection and gratitude for the freedom of expression, speech and for independence.
Whilst the issues are large, and there is much to know and understand, small gestures of awareness and opportunities to reflect on our positions as indigenous Pacific women are inspiring and commendable. Well done, Leilani Salesa and sincere thanks to the women who took time out to support, to be aware and be visible.