Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paris Journal: Leurs tresors ont une ame

Leurs tresors ont une ame, “their treasures have a soul,” is the title of the show about the Maori at the musee du quai Branly. It’s reassuring to know that the culture wars are alive in this iconic Parisian location across from the Seine and footsteps away from the Eiffel Tower. For the show in question essentially documents the tortured relation between  the Maori and  the government of New Zealand which goes back to the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 where the Maori translation of governorship was turned to sovereignty by the Crown. Cultural imperialism and assimilation are two subtexts in an exhibit that ostensibly documents the survival of a culture based on whakapapa or  the interconnectedness of animate and inanimate objects in a world that was changing around them. The exact relation of western influences within the historical time frame presented is curiously absent in the displays, though the exhibit’s very title connoting as it does “the ability to choose one’s own destiny” implies that a way of life which has indeed earned a respected place in the culture of New Zealand society still finds itself in some way imperiled. It's interesting to the think about questions pertaining to a minority in the capital city of a country, where the majority finds their centuries old style of life imperiled by the influx of immigrants from former colonies that still bear the scars of centuries of imperialism.

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