A Vocabulary

A Vocabulary by Bruce Connew

This is a past Exhibition that is no longer showing – see a list of our current Exhibitions here

Over several years, photographer and artist Bruce Connew has roamed the many memorials and gravestones of Aotearoa’s colonial wars to seek out the texts on these testaments to folly: A vocabulary of colonisation.

These remnants are scattered across mostly Te Ika-a-Māui North Island, residual memory, misremembered, not remembered. And there are those who know the Imperial story only too well.

A Vocabulary is an abstract, narrative selection of photographic images from an artist book of the same title published concurrently with the exhibition. A Vocabulary (Vapour Momenta Books, 2021) is designed by Catherine Griffiths and Bruce Connew, with He Mōteatea and essay by Dr. Rangihīroa Panoho. 

“I step mindfully onto the farmland to photograph a panorama of the battle site from both Māori and Pākehā points of view. After several footsteps, and with some bafflement, I stop dead in my tracks at a strange sensation deep inside my belly, which today I’m still unable clearly to throw light on. History was here, I grasp that, but this was out of that range. Does earth hold memory, and deliver that memory when the gravity is ripe?”
-Bruce Connew

A Vocabulary exhibited at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa from 6 April 2023 to 28 August 2023. Developed and toured by Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery.


Image credits:

– Memorial (1913), Capt James Cook (b. Yorkshire, England, 1728), visited Meretoto Ship Cove (between 15 January and 6 February 1770), killed Kealakekua Bay, Hawai’i, 14 February 1779. Meretoto Ship Cove, Tōtaranui Queen Charlotte Sound.

Memorial (1891), British and ‘kāwanatanga’ forces, 58th and 96th Regts, Royal Marines and seaman from HMS North Star and HMS Hazard, British forces, under Lt Col William Hulme, with ‘kāwanatanga’ forces, under Tāmati Wāka Nene, te rangatira o Ngāti Hao, Ngāpuhi, killed in battle against Hōne Heke Pōkai, te rangatira o Ngāti Rāhiri, Ngāi Tāwake, Ngāpuhi, with Te Ruki Kawiti, te rangatira o Ngāti Hine a Hineāmaru, Ngāpuhi, Te Kahika pā, Puketutu, 8 May 1845. Saint Catherine’s Church, Ōkaihau.

– Photographer Bruce Connew.

A Vocabulary (Vapour Momenta Books, 2021) designed by Catherine Griffiths and Bruce Connew, with He Moteatea and essay by Dr Rangihiroa Panoho. Photo of the book by Sam Hartnett.

– Photographer Bruce Connew standing at the entrance of his exhibition ‘A Vocabulary’.


Opening Ceremony and Floor Talk – 6 April 2023