This month: a reprieve from dark theatres with vital writing about gaming culture at Gitmo, the Wild Rivers Act, and a poem about Ewan McGregor in Speedos.
Our monthly round-up of awesome mahi, featuring essential new reading about gaming culture at Gitmo, a poem about Ewan McGregor in Speedos, and a series of late-night conversations about immigration, allyship and privilege.
At this point we're all deep in The New Zealand International Film Festival, and if you're like our film team (fifty movies and counting!) you're probably craving some quality time outside of a darkened cinema. This month, our editorial team have recommended a range of Sunday afternoon longreads and a series of nourishing conversations (with wine!)
I’m technically breaking the rules already. By the time you read this, Vice’s (US-based) gaming vertical Waypoint will have just finished running a week-long series of features called At Play In The Carceral State. It’s a series of eleven pieces about games and game culture in the context of America’s prison-industrial complex. The centrepiece is a five-part story about video games and board games at Gitmo, but it also includes a follow up to one of my favourite pieces published anywhere last year, a story about a Dungeons and Dragons clan formed in a Colorado maximum security prison. This whole thing pushes my buttons because I’m a fucking nerd, but also because I think it’s really fascinating and incredibly relevant to our own country, a nation built on its own foundation of racist, classist mass incarceration. Our justice system sustains its particular mode of penal populism, like America’s, because it denies the humanity of the people who move through it and we let it do that. Games, and the act of play, reject that denial, and I think Waypoint’s coverage this week is going to ask a lot of questions that’ll be uncomfortably applicable to what’s happening in our own backyard.
There are a lot of things worth celebrating this month, but one thing I am really looking forward to is LATE at Auckland Museum. LATE is a series of four curated evenings which involve panel talks, performances and snacks. The 2017 series will look at immigration, allyship, privilege and misogyny in music. And it all kicks off on 9 August with Home Sweet Home? A Question of Immigration which within the context of election year, asks “In a world where people are more mobile than ever, who do we let in?” Chaired by Noelle McCarthy, the conversation features Ali Ikram, Dr Arama Rata, Roseanne Liang and Paul Spoonley. I don’t know about you but a week night away from the kiddies, with a wine and a smart conversation sounds like a pretty great time.
Tim Neale’s Wild Articulations: Environmentalism and Indigeneity in Northern Australia, covers one of the major legislative controversies of the vast north’s 21st century. The Wild Rivers Act, a piece of state environmental legislation in Queensland, became “an event that drew together a diverse cast of actors – including traditional owners, prime ministers, politicians, environmentalists, mining companies, the late Steve Irwin, crocodiles, and river systems – to contest the future of the north”. (15 November, the official Steve Irwin Commemoration Day, has seen the late Crocodile Hunter invoked by supporters and opponents of the bill).
The complex responses to the wild rivers law challenged essentialising narratives across the country – environmentalists as constant indigenous advocates, indigenous peoples as undiffering and noble stewards of the land, legislation as redress. It was into this vexed environment that Neale, an Aucklander by origin and a cultural anthropologist at the University of Deakin, wandered. As the debate it covers continues to rage on (the current Queensland government is under pressure to keep its election promise to revive the law), his contribution raises pointed questions about top-down governance of indigenous lands in settler societies, and how those societies’ incremental concessions in the return and devolution of land sit with their being loudly and proudly open for transnational business.
Wild Articulations’ book launch is being hosted at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies in North Melbourne on Tuesday 8 August. The book itself is available from the University of Hawai’I Press.
Sarah Jane Barnett
If you don't already know, Starling is an online journal of poetry and prose for young Aotearoa New Zealand writers. You have to be under 25 to submit, although each issue leads off with work from an established New Zealand writer, and closes with an interview from a ‘person of note.’ The latest issue Starling, Issue 4: Bury Your Burdens issue has new poetry from Chris Tse inspired by PJ Harvey’s album Is This Desire? and an interview with Bill Manhire. While Manhire and Tse are as great as ever, they get overshadowed (sorry guys), by the younger writers. My favourites: Joy Holley’s short, short stories, Olivia Nonoa’s touching haiku series, and Sharon Lam’s poem featuring Ewan McGregor in swimming trunks.
"What do you think about the current state of NZ theatre?"
This was the question put to the 12 contributors for Playmarket’s recent publication, The State of Our Stage (featuring perspectives from playwright Victor Roger, Taki Rua Artistic Director Tanemahuta Gray and theatre maker Alice Canton). Created as a provocation for a series of industry hui that Playmarket have been hosting this past month around the motu, the booklet is a rare collection of 20% historical context, 20% celebration, and 60% provocation from theatre practitioners and producers alike. Reading it cover-to-cover is an interesting exercise in understanding regional and practice-based perspective, and if an alien with a love of performance landed in New Zealand and needed a picture of where we’re at in 2017, I would hand that E.T. this particularly valuable document. Earthlings can get a copy by emailing Salesi Le’ota at Playmarket.