Named after a souvenir shop on Auckland’s Queen Street, Kiwitown, this photographic exhibition by Angela Mihi Colbert explores her fascination with the uneasy alliance between how things are and how we would like them to be. It opens at te tuhi - the mark on 17 January and continues until 29 February.
The Auckland photographer documents New Zealand souvenirs in various guises with specific attention focused on the souvenirs depicting Maori people and their culture. Angela sees that while the souvenirs depict the contented, pastoral Maori, the reality of urban Maori, racial disharmony and marginalisation is discreetly overlooked.
She used Brian Brake’s photography from the 1984 Te Maori Exhibition as a point of reference - both visually and ideologically - seeing it as a turning point in Maori culture. ‘The unique nature of Maori culture is diffused in plastic ‘wahine’ dolls, meetinghouse clocks and plastic tiki salad servers. This appropriation of Maori culture, sanitised for mass consumption, can be viewed as a new form of colonisation. The nature of the typically Kiwi/Maori souvenir needs to be more closely scutinised, and examined for what it is,’ the photographer says.
The exhibition will include 12 photographs (images of souvenirs available from the average tourist shop), with frames augmented with paua and miniature plastic tikis - echoing the souvenir aspect while also lending them a cheap/tawdry ‘preciousness’. This exhibition is Colbert’s second at te tuhi -the mark. Her first The Cult of Fame showed subversive images of look alike famous people.
→ Plastic trinkets, on arts - nga korero toi, issue 28, 12-2003
→ The hype is... Native Art, Sunday Star Times, 15-02-2004
→ Angela Mihi Colbert: Kiwitown, 2004, exhibition card