Aboriginal activist and Tuhoe traditional leader Tame Iti has re-entered the art world. Facing arms-related charges from a raid last October by New Zealand authorities that saw the arrest of some 16 people (including 2 artists apparently arrested for knowing Iti), Iti has re-issued a hip-hop song “Terra-ism” on a CD of songs produced in conjunction with a four-part panel of paintings produced by New Zealand artists Mike West and Otis Frizzel.
The hip hop-style song describes state action against indigenous people as terrorism — certainly not a new idea for anyone familiar with the history of AIM (American Indian Movement) and their fight against colonialism in North America or the writings of Ward Churchill. But when indigenous people accuse states of terrorism, it always seems to cause outrage, especially among those who want to monopolize the idea of terrorism in politically strategic ways. In a direct reference to 9/11, the paintings depict, among other things, aircraft flying into a tattooed Maori head.
Earlier in May, Iti had his bail conditions relaxed to allow him to travel to Europe in a version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” produced out of the Corban Art Centre and directed by writer and director Lemi Ponifasio. Iti plays Prospero in a version of the play that, according to Ponifasio, addresses issues of unlawful detention in a post 9/11 world.
See earlier stories about Tame Iti: