This week in cultural vandalism . . .

National’s Southland candidate Joseph Mooney’s election hoardings were smashed at the weekend....
Fun fact, or not so fun, depending on which side of the destruction you’re on, writes columnist Liz Breslin.
Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

The Vandals were an ancient "barbarian" people, along with Goths and Gepids and Huns and Isaurians and other names who don’t get such a bad rap, which has something to say about the power of who gets to tell and preserve histories. Anyway, there was this one time the Roman pope agreed that the Vandal people could plunder the city as long as they didn’t actually burn it down or kill people. Which is what I’ve been thinking about this week and bring you my bottom three "how very dare they" examples of vandalism of the week:


What is it with defacing election posters? I have driven past Judith Collins with horns and blacked-out teeth in three different locations this week and while there are online lols going round about the tinfoil hats put on some of the candidates on billboards out in Hawea, it makes me nervous that people think that any of this is a laughing matter. The vandalism may be deemed petty but the policies are deadly. Also, it makes me sad to see the wooden remnants of support struts lying wrecked at intersections pretty much every early morning. "Oh, morena Mr Wairepo", my passenger says, as the Labour-sign-people hopefully erect another fluted polypropylene rectangle. We haven’t had that many high-wind days to explain this destruction away. This kind of wrecking takes time, determination and anger and I wish those things could be channelled into something like voting, for example. And maybe some kind of martial arts training to focus that feeling.


Trashing more than 600,000 books is a pretty spectacular act of vandalism by any account. But that is what our National Library has started doing this week. This kind of wrecking takes time, determination and an absolute disregard for stories. Their rationale is that it is only books from other places (aka the Overseas Published Collection) and since they have to move into a smaller building to keep everything safe as houses, they won’t have as much space and so out the books go — to maybe some local libraries or prison libraries or charity sales. Which is what kind of model of curation? Their marketing spin is to make more space for Maori, Pacific and New Zealand stories, as if these live in a vacuum. As if no Maori, Pacific, New Zealand readers, writers and researchers are, or have been, interested in and influenced by the world beyond our borders, or a history before our time. We’re talking about, among other things, the Holocaust collection. Just, what?, the National Library? What are you thinking? And you literally and actually do not know the exact contents of what you’re trashing and couldn’t you at least digitise all of it before you start the slash and burn?


It’s Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori 2020 and this kind of cultural wrecking takes time, determination and accountability to rebuild. It’s a week to celebrate. It’s a week when some of us reflect on how colonists destroyed the language, beat people, children, at school, until they were literally bleeding, for using words that have meaning and haven’t yet ever apologised.

Some of us scroll past our phrase a day on Instagram. Some of us are learning. I’ve done both these things this week and then got very mad at myself as well as the world because personal tokenism is both mask and deadly, just not as visible as on those billboards. Thank goodness for karate. Not that it makes anything materially better in itself, but I’m going to find something hard to kick, and kick it, hard, thinking about how my vote is going to count.



A billboard is an advertisement. That doesn't justify it's destruction, but moral compass has been misaligned by offshore War, riots and Utilitarian self interest.

Cultural vandalism of the Harbour Molars public Art installation was not punished by law.

Colonialism was a violent outfit. Naturally, our national shame prompts us to say 'you can't judge History by present day standards'.

Oh, yes you can.

Will you kick them in the Bors Pond Road?

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