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Exhibition: The Dawn Raids - Educate to Liberate

Published: 7 May 2019
George Jackson/Soledad Brothers solidarity march to the U.S. Consulate on Queen Street (3 March 1972) Photographer: John Miller

Fresh Gallery Ōtara is proud to be the first North Island venue of an important new touring exhibition called 'The Dawn Raids - Educate to Liberate'.

The exhibition was developed by Pauline Smith in collaboration with Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Niho o te Taniwha

With support from Creative New Zealand and Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board, the exhibition runs in Auckland until 25 May.

In the mid-1970s, the government introduced the practice of dawn raids, allowing police and immigration officials to enter homes of Pacific Island people in the early hours of the morning and ask for proof of residency, permits and passports.

Author of My New Zealand Story Dawn Raid and curator of the exhibition Pauline Smith says the work gives a brief account of the dawn raids of the 1970s and documents the courageous activities of the Polynesian Panthers and their fight for social justice.  

“This was a terrifying and humiliating experience for many people, and the shame and hurt often lingers,” says Smith.

Powerful and insightful, the exhibition The Dawn Raids - Educate to Liberate seeks to inform and educate about this time in New Zealand’s history and highlights the role of the Polynesian Panthers, an influential group that emerged during these turbulent times.

“The Panthers fought for social justice and protested against unfair treatment and the targeting of Pacific Islanders. They encouraged immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their human rights,” says Smith.

Lotu Fuli, Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board Chair, says: "This is an important exhibition because it's important for this part of our history to be told, for our Pasifika community and for us all as New Zealanders. This was the reality for many of us growing up in New Zealand, including my own family.

"Some of the photographs may bring back raw memories for our parents and grandparents, but I believe it's crucial for our younger generation to understand the struggle their families faced during this time.

“I also think this exhibition is timely and can add to the discourse our nation is beginning to have about facing up to our discriminatory past and racism. This can contribute to moving towards a future of healing, compassion, forgiveness and building a more inclusive and racism-free society," she says.

The gallery space will be themed as a 1970s Kiwi-Pacific Island family’s lounge room, forming the backdrop for original artworks, memorabilia and photographs from the dawn raids era. Perspectives have been drawn from extensive research and personal interviews undertaken by curator Pauline Smith.

The exhibition showcases a range of creative projects by artists who have documented the period by developing imagery related to the issues surrounding the dawn raids. Contributors include; John Miller, Minky Stapleton, Emory Douglas, Robert George, Jos Wheeler and the unknown designers of the iconic identity, posters and other ephemera created for the Polynesian Panthers.

Event details

The Dawn Raids - Educate to Liberate

Venue: Fresh Gallery Ōtara, 5/46 Fair Mall, Ōtara, Auckland

Dates: Closes 25 May, 2019

Times: Tue-Fri 10am–5pm, Sat, 8am–2pm

Curator: Pauline Smith