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This content is taken from the National Maritime Museum's online course, Confronting Captain Cook: Memorialisation in museums and public spaces. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Captain Cook represents me the colonisation of the Pacific. I know it wasn’t his idea, but he was an instrument for his bosses, which he played out and has affected the Pacific totally and forever. The colonisation, assimilation, and oppression of our people. So that’s what he would represent for me. When I think about James Cook, I think about how I was robbed of my heritage. I should say my birthright to know my native tongue. We were brought up knowing that he’s this famous person.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds And I suppose being from Gisbourne, in some ways we’re proud of Gisbourne being the first place that was settled to New Zealand I suppose. But we were given the name Poverty Bay, which was– which is something that the local people are still coming to terms with because the real name was Turanganui-a-Kiwa. So these petitions to try and get the name change back to our original name.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds So that’s created an identity on our area. Now he represents a very big– an empire a view of the colonies of this idea of structure that has been set up to subjugate loads and loads of people across the world. Because of Cook and his followers in the Pacific, in Oceania, people like native Hawaiians become the discovered. We are objects of discovery, already passive, already emptied of our histories. And we are expected to dangle in the future as either pre-contact or post-contact creatures. We are oriented around he who discovered. James Cook represents a thorn in my side who never wants to go away. He represents how outsiders constantly define the Pacific by their terms and their wants and their desires.

Skip to 2 minutes and 34 seconds And he also represents disease.

Skip to 2 minutes and 39 seconds I don’t really like him. I don’t really like what happened to our people. But everybody has different opinions. Some say he was just a man of his time. But I don’t really appreciate what– I don’t appreciate what happened to my people and them just coming over and giving everybody diseases and then cleaning the place like it belongs to them because it doesn’t. And, yeah, so I don’t know. I don’t really have the greatest feelings for anybody like that.

Some Pacific Perspectives on Cook

In this video artwork, Aotearoa/New Zealand artist Ahilapalapa Rands engages with people from the Pacific about their perspectives on James Cook. You will meet some of these speakers again later in the course.

The video was commissioned by Invisible Dust and was shown in Whitby Library as part of the Cook 250 Whitby Festival in 2018.

Visitors to the Whitby Library were asked after viewing the video whether it had made them think differently about James Cook and the voyages.

Below is a selection of their comments:

I’ve learned about how Pacific peoples regard Western Cook-centric history and generally dislike it.

I shall use the word ‘discovered’ with greater consideration.

83.1% of people either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement ‘I’ve thought about James Cook’s voyage from some other points of view’.

What are your reflections on the history and legacy of James Cook after watching this video?

This video was commissioned by Invisible Dust. Visit their website to see another video featuring Ahilapalapa and fellow artist Fiona MacDonald exploring the scientific and artistic impacts of the voyages of James Cook’s. You can also view the website through the link in See Also below.

We’ll be talking more about artists’ responses to the legacies of James Cook in Week 4.

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This video is from the free online course:

Confronting Captain Cook: Memorialisation in museums and public spaces

National Maritime Museum