The four winning posters of the Aotearoa Poster Competition, which was launched last year in response to anti-Chinese sentiments that arose out of Covid-19, have been added to The Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa’s collection.
More than 50 submissions were made to the competition which was born in the midst of the April 2020 Covid-19 Level Four lockdown. More than 1000 Kiwis voted for their favourite poster.
Dr Grace Gassin, curator of Asian New Zealand Histories at Te Papa, said they were thrilled to give support to a much-needed conversation.
“As a national institution, we are delighted to be able to signal our support for the competition’s anti-racist Kaupapa. Asian New Zealanders’ experiences of, and courageous responses to, the targeted racism they have endured during the Covid-19 pandemic are an important part of the national conversation.
“Collecting the winning posters from the inaugural Aotearoa Poster Competition will allow Te Papa to record not only the wonderful creative efforts of the artists, but also the perspectives and motivations of the organisers who set it up.”
Wellbeing researcher and one of the competition organisers Bev Hong described the decision by Te Papa as “momentous”.
“It’s an acknowledgement of the lived experience of many Asian, including Chinese-New Zealanders, and validation of the messages that these posters convey,” said Ms Hong.
“It’s been such a privilege to be part of the team working in collaboration with Chinese community groups and others in this shared kaupapa.”
Ms Hong said the competition was successful in achieving its aims to add to the conversation through a strength-based approach that gave artists a voice, was supportive of Chinese and Asian communities, and provided resources to spotlight the diversity of Chinese communities and ways to respond as an upstander to racist behaviour.
“For all New Zealanders, Covid-19 has been, and is, a challenging time — however add to this the impact of heightened anti-racism activities that directly cause harm and also indirectly undermine your sense of safety and societal belonging or acceptance.
“Asian Family Services who offer free and confidential face-to-face and phone support services reported in April 2020 – a significant increase in number and duration of calls which included more diverse family distress, mental health and issues around race-related bullying and discrimination in schools and workplaces,” added Ms Hong.
She also acknowledged the racism experienced by Māori since tauiwi arrived through colonisation and says that should also be recognised as a primary issue for our nation and other marginalised groups.
In addition to being acquired by Te Papa, the four winning artworks will also be used in a nationwide street poster campaign sponsored by Phantom Billstickers, with an aim to further conversations about race, diversity, and inclusion throughout Aotearoa.
INTERVIEW WITH BEV HONG:
HAUORA: How thrilled were you and the other competition organisers about the posters being added to the Te Papa collection?
MS HONG: We were absolutely thrilled and extremely pleased that the collaborative efforts of all involved, the kaupapa of the project and the wonderful posters would be acknowledged and preserved. The Te Papa collection of the posters helped to amplify the inclusive and anti-racism message of our national project as a response to the heightened anti-Chinese sentiment sparked by Covid-19. I think it also recognises the competition as a marker along Aotearoa New Zealand’s ongoing journey as a diverse society and the importance and growing urgency for Anti-Asian behaviour to be recognised, acknowledged, and actively addressed as evidenced by the Anti-Asian racism march in Auckland last Saturday.
HAUORA: Was the competition successful in terms of stirring up conversations around the topic of racism against Chinese people in Aotearoa?
MS HONG: Yes, the competition was successful in achieving its aims to add to the conversation through a strength-based approach that gave artists a voice, was supportive of Chinese and Asian communities, and provided resources to spotlight the diversity of Chinese communities and ways to respond as an upstander to racist behaviour. It is hard to judge specifically how successful the competition was in terms of stirring up conversation because of the other events and activities that were occurring at the time – such as the Human Right’s Commission “Racism Is No Joke” initiative and media reporting about the increase in anti-Chinese behaviour. At an anecdotal level – unprompted feedback to public street display of the promotional competition posters with an anti-racism theme as well as the winning posters later in the year were extremely positive. Other indications of its success include: over 15,000 website page views over the life of the competition; art entrants from all over New Zealand including Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Gisborne, Hamilton, Lower Hutt, Feilding, Invercargill, Karamea, Lawrence, New Plymouth, Pirongia, Queenstown, and Upper Moutere; over 1000 public votes cast to decide the winning entry for the Popular Vote Category and social media and media reporting about the competition.
HAUORA: It was interesting to note that the poster competition also aimed to highlight the diversity of the country’s Chinese communities, which is so important?
MS HONG: key aim of the project was to reflect Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse Chinese communities and inform people about our national history. We created two new resources for the website: a profile of the broader mainstream historical narrative of Aotearoa New Zealand. The audience for these resources was so that the diverse population of Chinese living here could see themselves reflected as Chinese Kiwis in the project, and to help the public recognise the diversity and long history of Chinese living and settling here (since 1842). For example: in 2018, 26% of Chinese Kiwis are born in New Zealand, 51% were born in the People’s Republic of China and 21% were born in one of 115 other countries. We also provide links to creative, film and other resources about Chinese in Aotearoa. These aspects are so important for our understanding of who we are as a diverse society and helps address the “othering” that occurs – as also reflected in the choice of phrasing as part of the competition theme: He waka eke noa – We’re all in this together.
HAUORA: As a wellbeing researcher you must have gotten to see first-hand how much of an impact the increased incidents of racism has had on the wellbeing of the Chinese community/individuals?
MS HONG: We, as a project team, worked collaboratively with the New Zealand Chinese Association, Asian Family Services, and The Asian Network Incorporated (TANI). As part of that I got to appreciate the need to see the impact of increased incidents as part of a broader spectrum of concerns that Asian and Chinese communities are facing in the context of Covid-19 in terms of their wellbeing. For all New Zealanders, Covid-19 has been, and is, a challenging time – however add to this the impact of heightened anti-racism activities that directly cause harm and also indirectly undermine your sense of safety and societal belonging or acceptance. Asian Family Services who offer free and confidential face-to-face and phone support services reported in April 2020 – a significant increase in number and duration of calls which included more diverse family distress, mental health and issues around race-related bullying and discrimination in schools and workplaces.
HAUORA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MS HONG: Thank you for the opportunity to share about the competition and its kaupapa in your newsletter. It has been a real privilege to be involved in this initiative and to work with the project team. The positive energy and support for the competition and its kaupapa from a diverse range of groups and people has been an essential part of its success. We positioned 2020 as the inaugural competition and we’re reflecting on the experience and lessons learnt with the potential for a future one in 2022 which continues a strength-based focus and has a related diversity theme.
It is now just over two years since the 15 March Christchurch Mosque attacks, and I think it is important to acknowledge that the 2020 competition spotlight on Chinese communities is within a broader conversation and context regarding racism in this country.
This includes the continuing and urgent need for institutional and systemic change to address the racism suffered by Māori, tangata whenua, since settlement of tauiwi through colonisation.