June 29, 2015
Icy reception for historic racist
A Finland-based Swiss-Haitian artist has teamed up with a Ngai Tahu hapu to un-name a South Island glacier.
Sasha Huber, who is artist in residence at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts in Wellington, has a long term project to remove the name of 19th century Swiss naturalist and glaciologist Louis Agassiz from a peak in the Swiss Alps.
She says Agassiz Glacier on the western side of the Southern Alps was one of more than 100 places named by German geologist Julius von Haast to endear himself to the name-bearers and to locate New Zealand within white European culture.
Ms Huber says Agassiz was a proponent of scientific racism and polygenism – the idea that races were created separately.
She went to the glacier earlier this month and Jeff Mahuika of Poutini Ngai Tahu, who offered a karakia to symbolically cleanse it of its association with Agassiz.
Ms Huber is talking with Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and Makawhio Runanga about finding new and appropriate names for Agassiz Glacier and Agassiz Range.
An exhibition of her Agassiz Down Under project opens at Te Whare Hera Gallery on Wellington's waterfront on July 7.
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