Book Review: Te Tiriti o Waitangi, by Toby Morris with Ross Calman and Mark Derby

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_te_tiriti_o_waitangi.jpgToby Morris is a cartoonist and illustrator who will be familiar to many New Zealanders as the creator of The Side Eye on The Spinoff Website. He’s well known for his commentary on social issues, and has also written books including Don’t Puke On Your Dad: A Year in the Life of a New Father and The Day the Costumes Stuck.

The Treaty of Waitangi\Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a flip book – one way the text is in English, turn it upside down and you have a Te Reo Māori version. The English text was originally published in two articles in the School Journal and has been developed into a graphic book by Morris.

The text is straight-forward, as you’d expect for something that was written for young people. It is factual and non-emotive, and lays out the timeline up to the Treaty being signed in 1840, and then what happened afterwards. It’s the same narrative that you’ll find in museums and libraries across the country. It’s Morris’s illustrations that bring the text to life. Starting with the cover, which depicts a wide variety of people from different eras, you know that what you’re about to read is about people, not about legal arguments. This makes the book accessible to anyone, regardless of their prior knowledge or attitude towards Te Tiriti.

This book should be in every home in the country.  It should be in every school and public library and given to every new migrant who arrives to live in New Zealand as part of a welcome package. As Morris’s narrator says at the end of the English version: ‘What happened [after the Treaty was signed] wasn’t always the nicest story, but we can’t pretend it didn’t happen.  If we’re honest about our country’s past, we can try to fix some of the damage that still affects us today.  We all want a country that’s fair for everyone.’

It’s a sentiment that’s hard to argue with.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The Treaty of Waitangi|Te Tiriti o Waitangi
by Toby Morris with Ross Calman and Mark Derby
Published by Lift Education
ISBN 9780473470654

Book review: We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998

work-with-youThis book is in bookshops now.

A cursory glance through We Will Work With You suggests it might be a somewhat light-hearted accompaniment to last year’s exhibition of the Wellington Media Collective’s (WMC’s) work at the Adam Art Gallery. But the colourful poster plates with their catchy slogans and designs belie the activism at work. Indeed, this title works in the same way as the WMC’s best campaigns, capturing readers’ attention with expert aesthetics, and then demanding an engagement with far more serious and complex socio-political concerns.

We Will Work With You is about the two decades in which the non-profit WMC operated, providing media, design, marketing and advertising support to a myriad of local organisations and causes. The WMC were careful about the way their working relationships were defined, and to ensure that projects operated collaboratively with mutual opportunities for learning, rather than the client service model adopted by many groups today. Their mission statement? We will work with you, not for you.

Eclectically arranged, We Will Work With You comprises two plate sections of the WMC’s posters, separated and book-ended with essays about the WMC’s social, design and activist history.

Polly Cantlon’s essay Design Democracy is particularly fascinating for anyone interested in the use of design as a means of political dissent, and she ends it with the most pertinent question posed in the book, ‘don’t we need another Wellington Media Collective today?’

The present moment is as turbulent a time for New Zealand as the revolutions of the last 40 years, and it’s worth considering the value of such a group to keep pace with the changing technologies and economic factors affecting all parts of society. And yet, with mass access to computers and social media, today’s political activists are arguably more engaged than ever, as the Arab Spring and worldwide occupation movement have attested to. Perhaps, with the reinvigoration of grassroots community organisations, we are moving closer to a shared learning environment once more.

Three short essays at the back of the book are easy to miss in this treasure trove, but worthwhile digging out to understand the WMC’s work in an international context, alongside other political histories such as Cuba’s which have played out through poster design. The inclusion of more first-person accounts might have brought the bold history of the WMC to even greater life, but it’s nonetheless an engrossing and visually appealing read, certain to intrigue anyone with an interest in design or New Zealand history.

Reviewed by Caitlin Sinclair

We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998
Edited by Mark Derby, Jennifer Rouse and Ian Wedde
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN: 9780864738837