St Paul st Gallery AUT

Language

Official history has it that Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first man to see, from a summit in Panama, two oceans at once. Were the natives blind?

Who first gave names to corn and potatoes and tomatoes and chocolate and the mountains and rivers of America? Hernán Cortés? Francisco Pizarro? Were the natives mute?

The Pilgrims on the Mayflower heard Him: God said America was the promised land. Were the natives deaf?

Later on, the grandchildren of the Pilgrims seized the name and everything else. Now they are the Americans. And those of us who live in the other Americas, who are we? – Eduardo Galeano

In the conquest of coloniality language and other cultural practices are a hugely significant ground of power relations. Language is culture; world views are expressed in language, its words and its structure. In discussing the ‘weaponry of imperialism’, writer and poet Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o refers to the ‘cultural bomb’ whose effect “is to annihilate a people's belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.”[1] As a survival mechanism the language of colonisers has been often embraced by educators, politicians and parents and prioritized as a necessity to provide access to all “the benefits of the New World” they are confronted with.[2] Alongside this, local languages are typically aggressively discouraged by colonisers.

Topics:

  • Examples of the flipside of acquisition of colonial languages: sites and acts of resistance, protecting knowledge, new hybrid languages developing out of culture eg. Ebonics, Jamaican Patois.
  • Communication and translation between languages is a site of misrepresentation or misunderstanding. eg. the Treaty of Waitangi translation, numerous treaties with Native Americans.
  • Language around gender.
  • Non-verbal languages/communication.

Questions to consider:

What do we think? What do we ask with the language we have?

How do we change our language? What does it mean to name?

What does it mean to rename?

Language Project

Under the language kaupapa the first project is to rename the Gallery. This has begun in 2018 in conversation with Local Time, who first raised renaming as a possibility in 2012 when they were invited to occupy Gallery Two. One aspect of this included research into the Gallery’s naming and into the history and geography of the area, taking the cue of the AUT marae, Ngā Wai o Horotiu and the now covered waterways of central Auckland. Along with Local Time we will consult and collaborate with others including representatives from Te Ara Poutama and Ngāti Whātua. The renaming project is expected to flow into 2019 with a new name to be announced sometime during that year.

Bibliography

[1] Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, London: J. Currey; Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1986, 3.

[2] Ranginui Walker ‘Reclaiming Māori Education’ in Decolonisation in Aotearoa: Education, research and practice Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER Press, 2016, 24.