Colonial versus ancestral legacy: The assertion of culture and identity through public arts in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton
Kiff, S. (2021). Colonial versus ancestral legacy: The assertion of culture and identity through public arts in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14316
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14316
This thesis is an ethnography of Hamilton. It focuses on the role of public arts as a cultural regeneration tool and their function in shaping the community(s) in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton through building a sense of place and identity. As a qualitative study, I conducted nine semi- structured interviews with public art artists, art advocates and residents to explore the relational context within which the development and transmission of meaning takes place, a process which is central to culture and identity. The primary purpose of the research interviews was to gain insight into the factors that motivate arts organisers and planners to direct valuable limited resources into public art projects and its observable outcomes. The second purpose of the interviews, conducted while walking to public artworks in the city centre with six participants, was to examine the effect of public art on the public. My methods also include tracking press reviews, monitoring comments and posts on social media and institutional debates involving residents, artists, and public authorities concerning public arts. I also recorded data by taking photographs and recording field notes of my observations during and after the fieldwork process. Data gathering was also enhanced by the large-scale collection of written materials and resources, including public art publications and HCC policy documents. Taken together, these research methods allowed me to investigate whether Hamilton had achieved its goals in its cultural regeneration efforts. In my analysis, I discuss the role of public art and its association with place and consider how artworks may antagonise Māori-Pākehā relationships or otherwise emphasis residents’ sense of place. Biculturalism and monoculturalism narratives appear to dominate public arts with the purpose of invoking either a colonial legacy or ancestral legacy while the politics of multiculturalism continue to jockey for place. Colonial legacy refers to the glorifying of colonial achievements while ancestral legacy in this context refers to Māori assertion of history, culture and identity. Particularly, in this research, ancestral legacy belonging to local hapū, Ngāti Wairere. Participants’ narratives reveal four overarching themes, 1) the publics’ resistance to the making of colonial places through public art, 2) Ngāti Wairere struggles to assert ancestral legacy through public arts, 3) the need for ethnically diverse artworks to create and maintain ethnically diverse places, and 4) a yearning for a collective identity represented through public arts. Hamilton’s public artworks are variously perceived as a superficial representation of Māori culture, identity and history, a reminder of a colonial binary discourse, the colonised versus the coloniser, an assertion of either a Māori ancestral legacy or a colonial legacy or, minimally, a nod to multiculturalism. Nevertheless, my research shows that participants engagement with these artworks reveal a yearning for a local collective identity that is still a work in progress.
The University of Waikato
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- Masters Degree Theses