What is culturally significant to me as a New Zealander?

By Marie E. Potter 2012 

We are all citizens of an evolving throwaway society, of changing values and culture, all caught up in a global social revolution in the 21st century. As a third generation New Zealander of British descent, I believe that for mankind to strive to sustain a vibrant and a thriving united world, each society must play a part by knowing, fostering  and  honouring the significance of its own culture and history, as part of everyday living.

From a European perspective, our New Zealand history goes back to the early European settlers who established the British hegemonic system during the 1800s, and it is this system that has underpinned New Zealand culture and traditions for approximately the last 170 years. However, over the last 25 years New Zealand has changed from being predominantly a bi-cultural nation, to be being a vibrant established multicultural society. Whilst I embrace change, as a mature European New Zealand woman, mother, wife, grandmother nurse and artist, I am challenged to hold on to the memory of my cultural significant and ancestral past. I recognise that the British hegemonic cultural, social and traditional values that underpin me as an individual, were values and standards that were up held by my English grandmother, (who migrated to N.Z. on her own in the late 1880s), as well as my N.Z. born grandmother and N.Z. born mother. These strong women all had the Kiwi mindset of pragmatism, positivity, tenacity, innovation, and improvisation.

As we know N.Z. history is predominately written by men, from a male perspective and the role played by the early settler women, is generally recorded as one of support. Yet archival recordings of letters, stories and diaries tell us otherwise.

Over the last two decades my art has been inspired by these pioneering women and my female ancestors and as a result I have achieved a Master of Fine Arts degree from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in 2010. My degree reading enabled me to contribute to the broader contemporary cultural discourse around issues which re-evaluated N.Z. cultural and social traditions in a manner in which I could interrogate not only the cultural significance and experiences broadly associated with pioneering / settler woman, but also the status of their everyday objects, the presence and physical materiel qualities of these artefacts which are loaded with history.

 My current unique multi - disciplined art which incorporates many artefacts brought to N.Z. in the 1800s, creates a sensory frontier, a prompt to memory that challenges the viewer to recognise and value the significance of their own cultural and social history and to identify where they place themselves in N.Z. at such a vital time of global change.

 (Cited In search of the Vernacular pp 44-45. AK Council Creative NZ 2013.)