Monday, June 12, 2017

Talking war and peace

Here are some photographs from Saturday's Ghost South Road korero at Manurewa's Nathan Homestead gallery. I sat with Vincent O'Malley and Pita Turei on a panel while Paul Janman showed slides of some of the photographs and artefacts on display on the gallery's walls and tables.
After Paul asked him about the Great South Road's connection to the Waikato War, Vincent cited some 1857 issues of Te Karere, the newspaper New Zealand's colonial government set up for the benefit of the country's indigenous people. According to Te Karere's propagandists, the Romans had civilised Britain and prepared it for imperial greatness by building roads through its forests. The British latecomers to Aotearoa were, in the same spirit, building roads through their new colony. Vincent said that this curious history lesson was designed to reassure Maori who saw theodolites being raised and gravel being laid, but that it had the opposite effect, and made them connect road-building with a threat to their lands. And by 1862, when Governor Grey was pushing the Great South Road to the very edge of the Waikato Kingdom, anxiety had become a mixture of panic and anger.

Vincent talked about how secure and efficient supply lines had become an obsession of British military planners in the aftermath of the near-disastrous Crimean War of the 1850s, and emphasised the size of the army that Grey marshalled against Maori in 1862 and '63. The Great South Road had to feed and arm the twelve thousand troops who invaded the Waikato in July 1863, and it became a logical and regular target for Maori taua in the first months of the war.
When he explained why Maori chose to wage a guerrilla war in South Auckland in the days and weeks after the invasion of the Waikato, Vincent emphasised how much weaker they were than their imperial opponent. The British had heavy artillery, the latest rifles, and ironclad battleships; Maori boasted wooden waka, old muskets, and the odd unreliable cannon thieved from the enemy. George Grey wanted to fight on open ground; King Tawhiao preferred to break his men into small groups, and to let them riad and retreat. By attacking convoys on the Great South Road and the cottages of settlers Maori slowed the British invasion of their rohe.
Pita Turei took up where Vincent had left off. He'd driven to our event from Taranaki, where Chris Finlayson had been apologising for the destruction of the pacifist settlement of Parihaka in 1881. Pita insisted that Maori pacifism didn't begin with Parihaka, but with the iwi of the 1830s, who realised the futility of the decades-long Musket Wars, and decided that new ways of settling disputes must be found. Pita argued that, in the early months of the Waikato War, King Tawhiao and his allies combined peacemaking with their low-level guerrilla war along the Great South Road. They wanted to tire the British and bring them to the negotiating table, not to refight the devastating Musket Wars.

Pita and Vincent went on to talk about Irish republican allies of Maori, Pakeha soldier-settlers who were cheated out of their land by the corrupt banker-politicians around Grey, the campaign for a national day of remembrance for the New Zealand Wars, and polar bears.

Paul talked about the wargamers and apostles of alternate history who had helped him model the first ambush and battle on the Great South Road, and a military modeller named James Andrews, whose whakapapa linked him to the war party that staged the ambush, presented us with a sculpture dedicated to the clash, and also showed off a venerable musket.

We've filmed Saturday's discussion, and on Sunday Paul took Vincent O'Malley on a tiki tour of the Great South Road and shot an interview with him.

6 Comments:

Blogger Carl said...

Thanks for this post. Is the film from Saturdays discussion available at some point?

Regarding the relationship of Roads- Governor Bowen quoting the Duke of Wellington stated that roads were the first tools of colonisation, to pacify the natives , like was done in the highlands of scotland.

8:38 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I should have gone Scott. I would like to go to similar. I enjoyed the original 'Ghost Great South Road'. Interesting points and connections are arising from your project or a walk and a movie and also a book.

The korero arising is among some of the most important to New Zealanders and the Tangata Whenua. It also connects us back to the history of Colonialism which includes the building of roads by the US in America, the British everywhere they went, the French and others.

I'm dubious of the claim the Romans laid any foundations. But there is undoubtedly more to it than I know...Perhaps the roads did more than we think. A road is like a wall.

It continues today. Trump's Wall is another pathetic manifestation of the ongoing and generally failing of the Imperialist powers...but the drive by them continues. We are inside of history...

10:45 pm  
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