An Exploration of Colonisation at Toi Poneke Gallery

21 April 2010

Visitors will literally be walking up the garden path when they enter Toi Poneke Gallery during its next exhibition, Ghost Paper: Thoughts on being an unsettled settler, by Jack Trolove (from 3 May).

The exhibition consists of charcoal portraits suspended from the ceiling, a video installation and grass and turf on the gallery floor.

It's all about Pākehā relationships to colonisation. Audiences are invited to make what they will of the theme - Jack is keen to encourage people to explore the idea themselves and says she is not interested in telling them what to think.

Jack grew up in what she describes as a "very white, small farming community in North Canterbury" before being opened up to a "very different world" when she left home at 18. As well as studying fine art, she took part in many social justice and environmental campaigns throughout her 20s.

She says it wasn't until Treaty and decolonisation workshops at art school that she learnt more about how non-Māori, or Pākehā, colonised the land and formed governments. Here she also learned about the stereotypical ideas of Pākehā and their nuclear family status, and underwent something of an identity crisis.

"I come from a big Irish Catholic family where three generations of us, and for a few days, four generations, were living under the same roof. So I guess you could say that I didn't really fit into the small nuclear family idea either," says Jack.

Around the same time, Jack spent a year in the United States, where she spent some time staying with a Cherokee woman, whose stories, challenges and questions got her thinking about New Zealand in a different light.

"The event that really got me thinking about land, ownership and belonging was when I was on the west coast of the South Island protesting the logging of old growth forest by a state-owned company. I realised that as a Pākehā I approached saving the forests with a bit of a missionary mentality sometimes.

"It was a really important campaign, but it made me realise colonial thinking doesn't just disappear, we have to actively undo it. To me, it's impossible not to think of the importance of history when you're standing in a forest that feels like it's been there since the beginning of time."

More than ten years older and not so inclined to chain herself to helicopters anymore, Jack loves to explore these themes through striving to "make sense of the world" and making 'sense of place' here, making art and taking part in and providing education programmes.

Jack studied at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology in 1999. She returned to university in 2007 where she gained a Masters Degree in Fine Art at Massey University.

Jack is also working on a weekend series of conversations and presentations hosted for artists, writers, theatre makers and educators from around the country looking at similar issues. For more information go to:

Whiteness / Whitemess blogspot website 

GhostPaper: Thoughts on being an unsettled settler is open from Monday 3 May at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 Abel Smith Street - just up the road from Real Groovy.