resistance maps

Maps have a subversive potential that is often ignored and overlooked. They have been used by rulers, whether kings or ‘elected’ governments to name and signify, telling us what places are called and why they are significant. There is a power in naming places, as those who fought for Bangalore to be called Bengaluru and those who call New Zealand by its Maori name- Aotearoa, can attest. It is never 'just' a name as the resistance to both changes shows!

While singularly unimpressed by Google Corporation’s dream of taking over the internet world, the potential of the maps application amazes me. Here is a chance to take back our world, so to speak, to name and signify in resistance to dominant forces, whether governmental, colonist, corporate or any other interests one would like to resist. The effectiveness of this resistance, however, is not so much in launching attack on the ‘enemy’, but in defending one’s position, maybe in helping one understand where one stands.

Much like the Maori Pa.

Maori Pa are earthenwork fortifications, sometimes with a wooden stockade on top. They were typically built in locations that overlooked possible attack points, and were known to be effective against the English settlers. The Pa was also used to store food and was a centre of learning and crafts. With the over running of Aotearoa New Zealand by the English, these Pa structures have mostly been lost, though the memory of their location remains.

While I knew two locations of Paa in Hamilton, it is thanks to an exhibition at the Waikato Museum that I can now see all the locations in the area. With thanks to Te Winika Gallery of the Waikato Museum and in response to this supressed history, here is another map.

View Hamilton Pa in a larger map

Update: Here is another intersting read on maps!

...information wants to be free

View Waikato Region Public Libraries in a larger map

I love libraries. Not just that they have books, I love the fact that they lend them out, letting you read books you could never afford and (when functioning properly) are a beautiful slap-in-the-face for big business publishing. I particularly love the public libraries in Hamilton, with the free internet on wi-fi and fairly decent collections of music and video. Yes, yes, that means you can listen to music without always having to buy it. And no, that is not equivalent to piracy. The 'shhh' law is also sparingly applied, making it much more people friendly. They even have a blog, though I will not bother with a link as they are yet to figure *that one out yet. For almost the first time in my life, I feel no particular need to buy books. And I am happy.

Hamilton Op Shops

View Hamilton Op Shops in a larger map

Op (opportunity) shops are *brilliant places where you can
get second hand clothes, furniture, cutlery and almost anything
that people are willing to give away. People give the op shops
things they no longer want/need, and the shop then sells it cheap,
using the money generated for the charities they are part of.
They are usually staffed by volunteers.

Op shop shopping is brilliant because

1) you are reducing waste and helping the environment
2) you are challenging the consumerist mindset
3) you are saving money
4) money spent goes to a good cause
5) you find very interesting things

Op shopper for life!

UPDATE: .pdf file available for printing. write to feddabonn AT gmail DOT com to get a copy.

the promised land

torn away from our vision
of the happy hunting grounds,
we are condemned
to an english heaven.

so torn away, in fact
that the only term i know
to explain it
is borrowed-
a bland american rendition
of another tribe's afterlife.

[published in blackmail press 26]

[much thanks to deepthi for the title]

leave us our hills

digging out an old post in response to the murder of chongkham sanjit and rabina devi by the police in the indian state of manipur. see the initial story here and a deeper analysis here.

goddamn you chinky rebel fools
(who water these hills with our blood)
goddamn you indian army goons
(who water these hills with our blood)

leave us alone, you bastards,
to eat and sing and dance and sleep
a quiet meal
a happy song
a drunken dance


constant, constant, constant
of your
goddamn guns.
and bloody countries.

leave us our hills.
all you bastards,

in search of another perspective

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot, lately, is about Colonialism and indigenous cultures. This is not to attack and aportion blame, but to get a better understanding of the presumptions we (I) make, and where possible, to challenge them. Nor is this an attempt to suggest that the West/North is evil and the East/South is good- I think all cultures can learn from each other, and none have all the answers. With the caveats out of the way, look at these two examples.

1) 1) The Zo tribes (spread across Mizoram, Manipur, Assam and Myanmar) were head hunters- they would bring back the heads of their enemies as trophies. My grandfather’s ancestral village is called Samlukhai, quite literally ‘[place of] head hanging by hair’. We seem to have been taught to be ashamed of this part of our history, and most people speak of this time as ‘dark ages’ of a sort. Reuben, a filmmaker/songwriter friend, recently pointed out to me that the issue with head hunting was not so much the taking of the head, as the fact that one had to kill the person the head belonged to! The problem, he said, was the killing. While we no longer take heads, we still kill in war, though no longer with the chem (machete/dao). Killing has become a sophisticated business now. And is it any more acceptable because we do not take heads? Shouldn’t our shame be the killing, and not the head taking?

2) A large part of New Zealand European art between the 1860s and the 1970s has been of landscape. This is a beautiful country, and on the surface it seems reasonable that artists would devote so much energy to capturing it. Apparently though there was a bit of an agenda here- the landscapes were empty. This served the purpose of the New Zealand Company who wanted to attract European settlers here, conveniently leaving the Maori tribes out of the pictures to deliberately give the impression of a vast empty land that was just waiting for the settlers to come and take over. By leaving the Maori out of the paintings, they glossed over the fact that this land belonged to someone- the tribes! A predecessor of the modern tourist brouchere, I guess.

The connection? In both cases, it has been a dominant Western/Colonial perspective that was generally accepted as ‘fact’, even to the extent where, as in the case of the Zo tribes, we beleive the lies we have been told about ourselves! Happily for the Maori, they have managed to hold on to many of the things they find important, increasingly challenging the Euro-centric worldview with appeals to their own.

This is what I am asking: what will happen to my worldview if i take off the red spectacles I have always (unconsciously, sometimes) seen the world through, and try green spectacles instead? What will happen if I deliberately look at the world through 'tribal' value systems (if such exist)? Will I come to a very different understanding of the world? Will it be any better?

I'd be very glad for company, whether you are a tribal or not. Care to join me?