Stereotypes have facilitated the restriction and construction of Maori identity as well as heightening racial discourse within New Zealand. Wall discusses the stereotype of Maori as the primitive natural athlete, a stereotype which emerged as a justification of the Crown’s conquest of New Zealand – in terms of portraying Maori as primitive, savage, and a military threat (41). Michael Parekowhai’s ‘Kapa Haka’ consists of fifteen nearly identical life-sized figures based on his older brother who worked a security guard. This piece plays into the concept of Maori as the primitive natural athlete by portraying the Maori in a physical job as security guards – which is often associated with night clubs and large events. It confronts the over-representation of Maori working in the labour force in low-income jobs that satisfy the needs of others. This, in turn, speaks to the racist conception that Maori are genetically suited to physical work rather than intellectual activities (Wall 41). Parekowhai asks the viewer to revisit their assumptions about Maori identity and acknowledge their ability as more than just ‘natural athletes’ who are built solely for physical activity.
Kleiman, Eden. “The Powhiri Process”. 2016. Drawing.
Parekowhai, Michael. Kapa Haka. 2003. Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland.Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
Wall, Melanie. “Stereotypical Constructions of the Maori ‘Race’ in the Media.”New Zealand Geographer 53.2 (1997): 40-45. Wiley Online Library. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.