Nobby Clark called out for use of 'n-word'

Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark is proud of what his council achieved in the first months of the...
Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark used the notorious racial slur during an Arts Foundation event. FILE PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark has been called out for using the "n-word" at a public event.

Mr Clark used the word when speaking at an Art Foundation event yesterday where he touched on the issue of freedom of expression in art.

Two people at the event complained to the Otago Daily Times after the event, saying his use of the word left the audience shocked.

"He warned us that the speech would make some uncomfortable, but I think from the reaction in the room, people were still a bit shocked with the n-word.

"I don’t think is a word it should be used at all," one said.

Another said it was not appropriate whatever the context.

"I understood the context and knowing Nobby, you don’t get too surprised — but I don’t think it is the appropriate language that a mayor should use. Especially in a public event," one of the sources said.

Mr Clark used the word during a talk where he asked members of the arts community at the event questions which he warned would make them uncomfortable.

After talking about other topics he asked a question about freedom of expression, saying: "Does poetic expression override some of our society norms? So you have got to close your ears if you have got a sensitive mind now.

"But if we have art or poetry that uses words like queer, n*****, f*** the bitch, which I have heard recently, is that beyond our tolerance as a society and how does that interface with the right of people within the art world to have freedom of expression to push their points."

Mr Clark defended the use of n word when when contacted by the ODT.

"I used provocative language, or used words that were recently in the media to make people think.

"I told them at the beginning of the presentation that I wasn't going to give a speech about our Art Museum, I was going to give a speech that has a series of questions that would make someone feel very uncomfortable or would make them leave the room thinking about things.

"So what I was saying to them was ‘are these words OK, if you're using your artistic license or art expression?"

He said after the meeting he received a good feedback, including from Creative NZ representatives.

"They said my speech was great, it pushed buttons. I had a councillor who also said that it was provocative, and it was meant to be."

He was upset the people who approached the ODT did not speak to him directly as he went to the event one day after surgery to support the art community.

"It is very disappointing that people are prepared to not ring me and say ‘Hey, Nobby, I thought your comments were out the line or pushed the parameters too far'."