Leilani Kake


Tell us about yourself

Kia Ora, My name is Leilani Kake, I live in Otara, Manukau, Tāmaki Makaurau and I am a practicing video installation artist of Ngāpuhi, Tainui and Manihiki (Cook Island) descent. My work transfers documentary footage and the recording of real events into an fine arts context. My projects tend to be highly personal stories dealing with issues of identity and culture, tradition and change. I currently work as the gallery coordinator at the Papakura Art Gallery in Papakura for Auckland Council. This October I will be presenting a new artwork at the 4th International Biennial of Casablanca 2018 in Morocco.


Swallow, 2017, Leilani Kake

Swallow, 2017, Leilani Kake


About this piece

On July 9th 1863, Governor George Grey issued a proclamation ordering all Māori living in the Manukau and closer Waikato district to recite the oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria. Any Māori who did not comply were forcibly removed and seen as colonial antagonists. Three days later July 12th 1863 British Imperial troops, led by Lieutenant -General Duncan Cameron, crossed the Mangatawhiri River and into Kingitanga controlled lands. This was the vanguard of a government sanctioned armed attack land grab in the guise of punitive justice. December 1863 saw the land confiscation law passed which deemed any tribal land where the owners had ‘engaged in open rebellion against Her Majesty’s authority’ to be confiscated (raupatu). In 2011 minister of parliament Hone Harawira called for a change in the wording of the oath of allegiance asking for it to include or replace the queen with the treaty of Waitangi, believing it more relevant to serve the people rather than the queen. 
My new experimental series titled Swallow reflects how as a whole, the 1863 campaign of terror is evident in the historical and systemic discrimination that is still being employed today within our government. The symbolism of the mouth and moko kauae represents the Māori voice; my voice, re-telling New Zealand history to new audiences and questions whether or not to take the‘prescribed medicine’ of the coloniser as this is still a bitter pill to swallow. 

What is it about this piece that captures your fancy? Any particular aspect that really stands out to you?

The part of the work that captures me is the pill and the colour. The colours are supposed to capture the viewer and then if you read the writing on the pill it is the actual Oath of Allegiance to Queen Victoria.
As a person living in Tamaki Makaurau it is important to know our collective history of this place. There are many hidden histories in and around Auckland and their stories need to be told.
What is it that makes this piece different from others like it/others by the same artist?

The work is different because it discusses an often hidden history of Māori who lived in Tāmaki Makaurau in the 1800s. A lot of this information is unknown to both Māori and non-Māori .

Find out more about Leilani here:



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