Monday, December 07, 2009

Foreign devils

What is it about the rest of the world the Dominion Post doesn’t understand? With well over a million New Zealanders living overseas, the internet tying us all together, and New Zealanders’ passion for travel, you might wonder why the Dom labels Te Papa’s prospective Welsh director a Foreigner first and foremost. Part of it will be the newspaper’s desperation to hold its circulation, a task they have put on the shoulders of kids eating ice creams and crime reports. The other thread that makes its intense provincialism possible in this case is Te Papa’s own reluctance to play a part in the larger world we live in.

Our Place should have stood for Our Place in the world but has instead narrowed to our place as in our backyard. That’s why in the most recent list of Te Papa’s 106 art purchases over the last year, only one painting, five works on paper and six photographs came from outside New Zealand. Te Papa’s made-in-New Zealand policy extends into the rest of the collections. In its purchasing category International History and Culture there were only four items purchased last year. Maybe a “foreigner” is just the thing to turn this around.