I was privileged to be invited to speak briefly at the opening of Taku Tāmaki – Auckland Stories South at MIT Manukau yesterday. This awesome little exhibition is open for the next year and I love it! Check it out next time you’re in South Auckland. My korero went a bit like this:

I want to acknowledge the speakers who have come before me, it’s my privilege to be standing up here as a local, an artist, and a proud resident of Ōtara-Papatoetoe, South Auckland.

A blog post about the voice and involvement of ‘source communities’ in the curation and management of objects and stories from indigenous peoples has stirred up anger and outrage, sadness and frustration in the past week. Tiffany Jenkins’ polarising perspective has inspired broad commentary about authorship, ownership, racism and privilege which is too often found just below the surface in the international Museum space.

I want to acknowledge Simon and Kelly, Kolokesa and Amiria, an inspiring team of conscious and caring professionals who represent a new era of Museum practice. Bringing this show to us here in Manukau shifts the focus, it re-aligns the centre… an act that quietly changes the game of Museum practice in Aotearoa. Thank you.

It was my privilege to be consulted in the development of this important exhibition. I want to thank the team for listening, accommodating for me and my toddler, taking time to hear and appreciate the nuances of living and working, and feeling proud of being a South Aucklander.

I want to acknowledge the whole team who has created this exhibition – I know that time and energy has gone into every aspect of what we see here, your consideration and attention to detail, your skill and expertise, elevates our stories and I’m grateful for your efforts.

I wanted to acknowledge too that… I’m here on purpose. I choose to live here. This is my place to stand, not by accident, but by informed choice. I migrated to Manukau, not to New Zealand, or Auckland, to this place, and I’m still here because this place gives me life, it settles me, reminds me where I came from and where I can go.

I love feeling so close to the Pacific, I loved being a student and later working at an institution which prides itself on raising the bar of Pasifika achievement. Pacific people feel at home in Manukau because we see ourselves, our norms, our culture and languages represented in our environments. And that helps.

It makes all the difference when our stories and experiences are celebrated, not for overcoming adversity, but for making massive strives for our communities on national and international levels.

I appreciate that this exhibition highlights the socio-economic, political and historical forces that shape our lives here in Manukau. These factors affect and inspire so much of the vibrant culture of creative expression, of visual and performing arts, of music and spoken word that are proudly coming out of our art centres, our churches, homes, halls and neighbourhoods.

I learned my craft as a curator here at MIT; I learned to appreciate the value of creativity and the value of my position, my space, my voice and context. MIT opened doors to me I hadn’t even considered, and I’m incredibly proud to take this institution with me wherever I go.

Although I now find myself working outside of the Arts, Manukau reminds me every day that art is a vehicle to talk about people, and culture and belonging, and when those things are in the foreground, when those stories and nuances are heard, reflected and honoured, a community thrives, and that’s where I want to be.

A last acknowledgement; to Vinesh Kumaran, the photographer, creative visionary whose talent I’ve been privileged to feed off for the past decade – thank you. And to my colleagues from Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura – I’m on a new journey of service and celebration with you, for the love of South Auckland, thank you for your support.

Vinaka vakalevu, fa’afetai tele lava, malo ‘aupito.

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One Response to “Taku Tāmaki – Auckland Stories South at MIT Manukau”

  1. Efeso Collins

    You spoke beautifully at the event Ema and reading your speech again reminded me of just how poignant and powerful your words were. Malo.

    Like

    Reply

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