I step mindfully onto the farmland to photograph a panorama of the battle site from both Maori and Pakeha points of view. After several footsteps, and with some bafflement, I stop dead in my tracks at a strange sensation deep inside my belly, which today I’m still unable clearly to throw light on. History was here, I grasp that, but this was out of that range. Does earth hold memory, and deliver that memory when the gravity is ripe?
Over several years, photographer and artist Bruce Connew has roamed the many memorials and gravestones of Aotearoa’s colonial wars to seek out the texts on these testaments to folly: A vocabulary of colonisation.
Depicting remnants of memorials scattered across mostly Te Ika-a-Maui North Island, the exhibition seeks to interact with residual memory, what is misremembered or not remembered, and to contend with the Imperially inflected histories scattered across Aotearoa.
A Vocabulary, Bruce Connew, was first exhibited at Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, 5 December 2020 – 14 February 2021. A Vocabulary is an abstract, narrative selection of images from an artist book of the same title published concurrently with the exhibition. A Vocabulary (Vapour Momenta Books, 2021) is an artist book designed by Catherine Griffiths and Bruce Connew, with He Mōteatea The Lament and essay by Dr. Rangihīroa Panoho.
Image: Memorial (1913), Capt James Cook (b. Yorkshire, England, 1728), visited Meretoto Ship Cove (between 15 January and 6 February 1770), killed Kealakekua Bay, Hawai’i, 14 February 1779. Meretoto Ship Cove, Tōtaranui Queen Charlotte Sound.
Exhibition photos by Sam Hartnett.