Tohutō (macrons), 2018-23

Leather, nails, performance 
Variable dimensions and duration

Content disclaimer: This work acknowledges the historical abuse and continuing discrimination against Māori people.

In this performative wall work, a pile of tohutō- (macron-) shaped segments, cut from black leather belts, are to be periodically nailed to the wall first by Langdon and then by invited kaiako (teachers) from visiting education groups. Langdon’s opening performance is a lament to the history he inherits and continues to address within his whakapapa-based art practice. The work is intended to be a wero (challenge) to the state education system to acknowledge past trauma and to invest in the future by valuing the need for te reo Māori in the learning environment of all ākonga (students). 

Macrons are the horizontal accent lines placed above vowels (such as the ‘o’ in tohutō) that signal the elongated sound required when speaking te reo Māori. This diacritical mark was introduced to aid the pronunciation of the Māori language for non-native speakers. Langdon’s work speaks to the violent colonial history associated with speaking the language—particularly by Māori children within an education setting as a result of the Education Ordinance 1847 and the Native Schools Act 1867 (creating a system that lasted until 1969), which discouraged te reo Māori from being spoken or learnt in schools. These directives also led to the physical and psychological abuse of Māori children within schools for over a century and ongoing consequences today. Therefore, by transforming functional belts into tohutō, Langdon highlights the historical use of belts as a tool of punishment, one used by teachers to separate Māori children from their language.