Lest we remember
Associate Professor Joanna Kidman from Victoria University of Wellington and Dr Vincent O’Malley of HistoryWorks will explore how New Zealanders selectively remember and forget difficult and violent events from our colonial past.
Published 8 November 2018
In 2015, students from Ōtorohanga College successfully called for a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars. Their petition highlighted that wars fought on distant soils are better known and commemorated than those that occurred within our own nation. Why are some conflicts publicly remembered while others are forgotten? And who decides the stories we tell about our past?
In a new Marsden Fund project, Associate Professor Joanna Kidman from Victoria University of Wellington and Dr Vincent O’Malley of HistoryWorks will explore how the New Zealand Wars have been collectively remembered or forgotten across time by different groups. They will combine archival research, ethnography and hīkoi to examine contested memories of conflict in Māori tribal society and the wider New Zealand nation. Focusing on the wars’ impact in Waikato, Tūranga and the Bay of Plenty, the team will ask how memories of conflict have been transmitted between generations and how they shape contemporary group identities.
The Māori saying ‘Me huri whakamuri, a ka titiro whakamua’ highlights that the future can only be understood in the context of what has gone before. Genuine reconciliation and cross-cultural engagement require an understanding of divergent memories about pivotal events in New Zealand’s past and how these memories shape the narratives told by subsequent generations. The project aims to help New Zealanders better remember, commemorate and own our collective past.