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Why Gandhi Doesn't Belong at Wellington Railway Station
Abstract

Abstract:

Aotearoa New Zealand is often described as a site of tolerant, humane and (relatively) non-violent settler colonization, a model bicultural nation, yet this claim is propped up by regimes of collective memory that continue to marginalize, elide or silence public memories about indigenous people and places. For example, in late 2007 a statue of Gandhi was erected at Wellington Railway Station, a prominent site in the national capital yet there are no statues of New Zealand's own heroes of passive resistance, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, who led a large, anti-colonial nineteenth century community at Parihaka, on the West Coast of the North Island. This article argues that Gandhi's bronzed permanence may be contrasted with the impermanence of his non-violent Maori forerunners and it uses family, local and national histories to explore why a global nonviolent superstar is so much easier to accommodate, recall and unveil than a couple of difficult little indigenous nobodies and their white-feathered followers. Gandhi was a leader whose work was completed but the Parihaka leaders are still dangerous, threatening figures whose actions continue to make demands on the nation-state and whose protests and teachings destabilized and continue to destabilize cherished stories of New Zealand as a tolerant nation where peace and non-violence are the rule.



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