Ralph Hotere and ‘New Commonwealth Internationalism’
In 1961 Māori artist Ralph Hotere moved to London to study at the Central School of Art, subsequently settling in Vence, France, before he returned to New Zealand in 1964. He became part of a cultural moment that has been called ‘New Commonwealth Internationalism’, in which artists from British ex-colonies, fed by an anti-colonial awareness and an alliance to the processes of decolonisation happening internationally, reinserted the human condition into formalist modernism. Hotere’s paintings from this period make reference to the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria, and the human rights movement, along with other forms of 1960s protest. Applying the term ‘decolonisation’ to Hotere’s fine art illustrates the possibilities of indigenous modernism – and of creativity more broadly – as a decolonising process, while highlighting the need to understand decolonisation through a transnational lens. By articulating Hotere’s investment in the project shared by many native artists who went to London after the Second World War and revitalised late modernism with the issues of anti-colonial struggle, and in identifying how this was not necessarily shared by settler artists from New Zealand who followed the same trajectory, the different projects of decolonisation caught up in the moment of New Commonwealth Internationalism are made visible.
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