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23 May 2020 —
16 August 2020

Matt Ritani:
The Block

Matt Ritani, The Block, 2020. Courtesy of the artist
Matt Ritani, The Block, 2020 (installation view, Reeves Road). Inkjet billboard prints. Commissioned by Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett
Matt Ritani, The Block, 2020 (installation view, Parnell Station). Inkjet billboard prints. Commissioned by Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Photo by James Tapsell-Kururangi

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The Block recalls 6000 acres of Tāmaki whenua named Kohimarama. The Kohimarama Block was purchased from Ngāti Paoa by The Crown on 28 May 1841. The extent of the area sold ran from Kohimarama to Waiparera, to Whakamuhu, to Te Tahu, to Omaru, to Te Whanake, to Te Puakawau, to Mokoia, to Kokoripo, to Tauoma, to Pakaukio to Waiatarua. Today suburbs from Mission Bay to Mt Wellington occupy this area.

Using the billboard's latent promotional qualities, The Block advertises the sale of Kohimarama Block – in 2020. The land is priced at the same value as 1841, adjusted for present-day currency to a value of $12,023.90. It also includes the items in the original consideration: one large boat with sails, two horses with saddles and bridles, one crosscut saw, two pit saws, two pails, ten pieces of print, two hundred blankets, twenty cloaks, ten coats, one hundred pairs of trousers, one hundred shirts, forty shawls, twenty caps, ten pairs of boots, three hundred casks of tobacco, six bags of flour and two bags of sugar. The combined value of cash and goods is $43,045.56. The substitution of present-day value in place of the historical sale value has been undertaken using the Reserve Bank – Te Pūtea Matua inflation calculator. As the Reserve Bank tracks inflation only back as far as 1862 at the earliest, it is anticipated the present-day value is likely lower than $43,045.56.

The Block considers the equity of land transfer between Mana Whenua, The Crown, the settlers who first purchased the land from The Crown, and current property owners in 2020. Who benefited from the sale and ownership of whenua in Tāmaki Makaurau in 1841? Who benefits now?

Matt Ritani (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Koata) is an artist and researcher based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.