Artist wants peo­ple to re­think im­mi­gra­tion


The con­tentious topic of im­mi­gra­tion is set to take an un­usual form in Auck­land’s Mar­itime Mu­seum.

So­cial prac­tice artist Tif­fany Singh has crafted ex­hi­bi­tion The Jour­ney of a Mil­lion Miles - Fol­low­ing Steps, an in­stal­la­tion which she hopes will chal­lenge peo­ple’s think­ing towards those with ‘‘refugee back­grounds’’ and im­mi­grants in New Zealand.

Singh uses the term refugee back­grounds to en­cour­age a shift in the lan­guage peo­ple place on some im­mi­grants.

The Jour­ney of a Mil­lion Miles was first dis­played on Wai­heke in Jan­uary in part­ner­ship with the Auck­land Re­set­tled Com­mu­nity Coali­tion (ARCC).

The Wai­heke in­stal­la­tion, based on book Be­yond Refuge - Sto­ries of Re­set­tle­mentt in Auck­land, aimed to ’’hu­man­ise’’ the politi­ci­sa­tion of im­mi­gra­tion in New Zealand, Singh said.

The in­stal­la­tion fea­tured aban­doned boats that were used as sound shells which con­tained au­dio read­ings of sto­ries from Be­yond Refuge. They were recorded by fa­mil­iar Kiwi voices in­clud­ing broad­caster John Hawkesby.

Singh said us­ing Kiwi ac­cents was a way of mak­ing a point that im­mi­grant voices in the book were in fact New Zealan­ders.

‘‘The di­a­logue was largely to counter the lan­guage and to re­ally re­po­si­tion the nar­ra­tive around th­ese peo­ple as New Zealan­ders,’’ Singh said.

‘‘It gives it a for­mal­ity and when it’s said out of the voices of New Zealan­ders rather than peo­ple with ac­cents, it has a weight to it.’’

The Mt Al­bert artist has had work fea­tured in­ter­na­tion­ally that ex­plores cul­tural, spir­i­tual and psy­cho­log­i­cal ideas.

The Mar­itime Mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion builds on the Wai­heke dis­play and will use mu­sic, au­dio and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to ex­press ex­pe­ri­ences peo­ple face when mov­ing to a new land.

Singh, the daugh­ter of an im­mi­grant, said much of the con­ver­sa­tion around mi­gra­tion to­day was based on statis­tics and money. ‘‘It’s very re­moved from the hu­man el­e­ment of the story.’’

‘‘I re­ally wanted to in­vert that and pro­vide a space that was more related to a hu­man re­la­tion­ship so that rather than statis­tics and the num­bers, [peo­ple] ac­tu­ally get a han­dle on who th­ese peo­ple are.’’ The Jour­ney of a Mil­lion Miles runs from March 18 at the New Zealand Mar­itime Mu­seum.


Tif­fany Singh wants to chal­lenge peo­ples’ bi­ases towards im­mi­grants.

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