Tai Moana Tai Tangata

The Great Replacement

Tai Moana Tai Tangata

Taking the form of an inverted ship's hull, Graham's newest work responds to the history of Ōtautahi Christchurch. Despite proud Māori waka traditions, local pedigrees are instead often traced to the first four ships that delivered British settlers here under the Canterbury Association scheme. In addition, following the invasion of Parihaka, some Taranaki Māori prisoners were transported by ship to Ōhinehou Lyttelton, before being sent to locations around Te Waipounamu.

Graham has used materials that echo the city's colonial architecture – the ubiquitous weatherboard houses and grander wooden structures built for prominent organisations such as the Christchurch Club. He links these to the redoubts (temporary forts) built in Taranaki to protect and defend settler interests from Māori. Colonial speculators profited from the New Zealand Wars and subsequent land confiscations, and some later founded financial institutions such as the Bank of New Zealand and New Zealand Insurance. Tangata whenua, stripped of their land, were left with little or no means of developing their own wealth.

The work's title, The Great Replacement, brings it immediately and uncomfortably into our present. Named for the racist White Supremacist theory referenced in the manifesto of the perpetrator of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks, it addresses the idea of race as the basis for exclusion and inclusion. The Great Replacement theory supposes that "white nations" like Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand are in danger of being "replaced" by non-white and immigrant populations. Ironically, it is the Indigenous populations in these countries who have suffered from replacement, with their traditions, languages and beliefs overwritten by colonial equivalents.

(Extracted from Tai Moana Tai Tangata's exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

Yellow cedar
12000 x 5300 x 2700mm

photos by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū