This letter from Stephen Wainwright Chief Executive – Pou Whakahaere Creative NZ
extends an open invitation to create beautiful things #CreateAroha
Poetry can play a part.
Kia ora tātou katoa
As – Salaam – Alaikum
The hate, gun violence and crimes directed against the faithful at the Masjid al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch have left us bewildered, feeling vulnerable, struck to the core. We have had to accept that an act of terrorism has been inflicted on our people and our national innocence has been lost. We are hurt; we are grieving.
Our thoughts are with the affected Muslim families, and their communities in Christchurch, in Aotearoa and around the world. We hold dear the people of Christchurch, who have already endured so much but have responded with warmth and love, and acknowledge that our country is in mourning. In time, this tragedy will be marked by formal commemorations.
Right now though, we are feeling raw or numb. It’s not a situation we are familiar with or could prepare for, and people are thinking about how to respond. Some are finding a way.
You may have seen some beautiful examples of creative expression in the past few days, including Wellington artist Ruby Jones’ image “This is your home and you should have been safe here”, Māori artist Akoni Pakinga’s tribute to the Muslim community “Kotahitanga”, a beautiful collection of poems “I keep walking”, and the many other examples outside mosques and in public spaces. Just this morning we heard renowned novelist Witi Ihimaera’s heartfelt karakia for Christchurch.
These are reminders of the power of the arts and the impact creative expression can have on our individual and collective wellbeing. Turn to your creative skills. Take comfort from them. Share them if you think it would help others.
We invite you to share words, images, videos of your creative expression and related events using the hashtag #CreateAroha. We, in turn, will share them on our social media platforms. Nothing is too small or too big. I see each creative expression as a thread denoting dignity and mana, woven into a digital korowai to nourish and protect us, and demonstrate our unity, in solidarity against hatred.
While discussion and debate continue about the roles these platforms play in spreading hate, let’s fill them with positivity.
In time, our country’s artists and creatives will express their response to this tragedy through major works. These too will help us reflect and grapple with this difficult kaupapa. To grieve. To make sense of our fractured world. To come to terms with what has happened. To challenge. To push for a better future.
Professor Peter O’Connor put it beautifully when talking about the role of the arts in healing traumatised communities, and particularly children, on Radio NZ: “I would hope in the coming days that we make beautiful things in defiance of the acts of ugliness that were created on Friday. Every time we make something beautiful, either as individuals or as communities, we act in defiance. We reject the hate of Friday.”
The deeper extremist agenda is to divide and conquer, and pull us apart so that we lose faith in our shared humanity. Let’s instead embrace what unifies us. Let’s embrace this necessary work together. We need to make every effort to be part of a community that stands up for diversity and tolerance, where unity and peace are the norm.
Mā te kotahitanga e whai kaha ai tātau
In unity, there is strength
Chief Executive – Pou Whakahaere