#lifeinside with Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara


Rangi Kemara, one of the so-called Urewera 4 who is currently serving a 2.5 year prison sentence, is blogging at aocafe.blogspot.co.nz In this interview he discusses developing a food forest in Bennydale and the need to stop chasing carrots.

Tell us about Prison is it everything you thought it would be?

I had been wondering where all the Maori had gone to, assumed we were all moving abroad, turns out we are just getting locked up in droves, over and over again. For most Maori and working class people being imprisoned is like being kicked out of a burning 747 without a parachute. The system of rehabilitation in here is akin to being put through the theory part of a parachute making course while falling. Once Maori enter the prison system we rarely escape its revolving door policy. Iwi, hapu, and whanau need to custom design their own solutions to this issue. Anything has to be better than what is going on in here.

You said once or something to the effect that having hope in the State and the System undermined the effectiveness of movements for rapid social change? What are your thoughts on this issue?

Im going to have to use another metaphor, hope in that sense can be compared to a donkey chasing after a dozen carrots proverbially suspended from its head. Connected to the donkey is a cart full of freeloaders calling themselves business and political leaders. Each iwi, each hapu, each community needs to stop chasing carrots and begin determining their own future from within their own means, values and geography etc. We call this Mana Motuhake.

So you are an anarchist then?

I would say I am a Maniapoto ….. Rereahu … of the Rohe Potae

Among other things you’ve worked as a web programmer and as an avid permaculturist but you were also a professional musician and composer. What are your thoughts on the roles of artists and musicians and social change?

Tame of course is known as an artist with one of his recent paintings on the cover of National Geographic, myself and my co-accused Urs Signer are both professional musicians. In the past artists have been crucial to social change. You know your art has challenged bigotry, racism and falsities of the powerful when it comes back to bite you in some shape or form. The life sentences being handed out to electronic graffiti artists, members of the Anonymous movement are a recent example of this along with punk band Pussy Riot who got jailed in Russia for mocking Putin. A relevant local example would be the artistic enactment in Ruatoki in 2005 which had the media plastering images of Tame shooting a flag on the marae atea. This of course led to the government spy operation and lock down of Ruatoki. 18 people were arrested, many of whom were artists, musicians and creative dancers. Art that doesn’t move, inspire or provoke is just fancy wallpaper really. Art and Activism can be like close cousins if the artist chooses.

Tell us about your latest projects?

Most stuff is on hold or in planning stages for obvious reasons. The most advanced in terms of development would be the work I was doing as a part of a small collective called Te Karaka o te Waonui based in the Rereahu territory developing a modern type of native food forest. The premise being that forests should be self sustaining ecosystems providing food and medicine rather than nice places to have a picnic that sort of thing. We are endeavouring to transform a neglected park in Bennydale, eco-sourcing seedlings of food and medicine bearing native trees, bushes and vines to create a snapshot of what is possible.

interview held with Teanau Tuiono over the phone


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Rangi, he mihi nui ki a koe e toa taiao. Ki a Tame hoki, he mihi mahana. Me hoki mai rā ākuanei te tikanga. Me wetekina ngā kaiwhakaora o Tūhoe, ā, o ngā whānau, hapū, iwi katoa o Aotearoa.

Rangi, I absolutely agree with your thoughts on the forest, great to hear what the collective you are part of is doing in Bennydale. I'd love to get in touch and see if there is any way the Aotearoa Permaculture Network can support the kaupapa.

He mihi nui hoki ki a Teanau. Pai rawa te mahi tuhituhi nei, e hoa.

Recently stopped in Bennydale and saw Rangi's fruit trees falling over they were so laden with fruit and the community orchard was being well looked after by someone with natives and edibles growing strong.

One Love Rangi Thoughts & prayers to you. I agree with you wholeheartedly our justice system is a disgrace and having hope in the system and government is hopeless. How can these elitist politicians possibly know the average struggling New Zealander. When they are living in million dollar homes driving 70k vehicles and earning 200k a year. How can these Wellington politicians possibly know how my family and I struggle and how virtually impossible it is to get ahead living off a student allowance whilst my partner is trying to become an engineer, I study Maori Rongoa and Spiritual healing and raise 2 kids. I believe in Anarchism that every community should. Operate and govern it's own community. My family and I live in Tokoroa we see people struggling here terribly and not getting anywhere and we are trying to lead by example. We volunteer at our beautiful community garden here its awesome giving a few hours of your day to lend a hand and then receive gorgeous chemical free fresh vegetables to take home. I love the people there and the place it's idyllic. Everything is priced cheap as and they are so generous all profit goes back into the community and charities and food is donated to the local food bank. I definitely believe that our entire system could be run like this through volunteers offering there services. A community run on give and take. Jah Bless you Rangi keep up your great perspective it's very inspiring. Whakapaingia te Io Matua Kore :)

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