Government funded agency backs Christchurch poet’s material

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Mar 02, 2023 |

Government funded agency Creative New Zealand is backing Christchurch author Tusiata Avia who’s been accused of inciting racially motivated violence.

Tusiata Avia’s book ‘The Savage Coloniser’ has been turned into a theatre production for the Auckland Arts Festival.

Creative New Zealand funded the project by $107,280.

The Human Rights Commission has confirmed it has received multiple complaints, but refused to condemn the material.

One of Avia’s poems reads:

These days
we’re driving round
in SUVs
looking for ya
or white men like you
who might be thieves
or rapists
or kidnappers
or murderers
yeah, or any of your descendants
or any of your incarnations
cos, you know
ay, bitch?
We’re gonna F… YOU UP.

In a statement, Creative New Zealand CEO Stephen Wainwright said “we are aware there has been recent criticism of the book’s poems; it is important to note that while a single poem has offended some readers, it sits within the context of a whole book that draws upon multiple, imagined perspectives exploring colonisation and its aftermath.

Art is where ideas can be explored, tested and shown.”

He said “all Creative New Zealand’s funding applications go through a rigorous assessment process, and the application to fund The Savage Coloniser show received strong support. 

Under our governing legislation, one of the functions of the Arts Council is to “uphold and promote the rights of artists and the right of persons to freedom in the practice of the arts”.

“We recognise this freedom is not absolute. However, whether a work of art constitutes ‘hate speech’ or contravenes the Human Rights Act is a matter for a body other than Creative New Zealand to determine.” 

He said “we understand that artworks can divide opinion, especially when they are addressing powerful themes such as Tusiata’s in The Savage Coloniser. However, we support the sharing of ideas, stories and experiences through art.”

Creative New Zealand CEO Stephen Wainwright

Act Party Leader David Seymour said “the Government should withdraw the $107,280 in taxpayer money given to a racist stage show about murdering James Cook, his descendants and ‘white men like [him] with pig hunting knives,’ then apologise to the public for giving so much to racism in the first place.”

Seymour said “it goes on to suggest descendants of Cook and all white people be tracked down and stabbed through the ribs with pig knives because they might be criminals, too.”

“The Government, through Creative New Zealand, which taxpayers fund and whose board Ministers appoint, is supporting works that incite racially motivated violence.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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