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Queer history to be showcased with pride through July

8 July 2024

An all-day wānanga celebrating and discussing queer history will be the opening event for Queer History Month Aotearoa Pūmahara Ia Te Wâ at the National Library in Wellington on Tuesday, 9 July 2024.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Queer History Month will be the country’s first and the world’s 20th. Although there have been various events over the years, this is the first time an organisation, Kawe Mahara Queer Archives Aotearoa (Kawe Mahara), has taken the lead to run a history month in this country.

Inspired by the USA’s Black History Month, the world’s first LGBTQ+ History Month was held 30 years ago. Since its founding, 18 other History Months have emerged, including most recently in Italy, Cuba, and Uganda.

The National Library Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa has been a long-time supporter of queer history making, including holding the Kawe Mahara collections in the Alexander Turnbull Library. The wânanga event date was chosen to mark the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act on 9 July 1986.

The theme for Queer History Month Pûmahara Ia Te Wā is He kitenga kanohi, he hokinga mahara. He kawenga mahara, he hāpori kitea, which translates to ‘A familiar face stirs one's memories, a collection of memories is a community seen’.

“This theme emphasises how important collections are to ensure the visibility of different communities,” says the Chair of Kawe Mahara Queer Archives Aotearoa, Professor Elizabeth Kerekere.

Learning about our queer tīpuna and our taonga affirms queer lives and is a vital part of the whakapapa of takatāpui and tāngata Moana in Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. To be able to showcase our communities and these memories in our National Library is a rare privilege around the world.

An exciting lineup has been organised for the inaugural event. The day starts with a welcome from the Library and Kawe Mahara, poetry from Poet Laureate Chris Tse and online from the USA will be the founder of Queer History Month, Rodney C Wilson. The rest of the programme is split into the guiding values of Kawe Mahara: Toitū Te Tiriti (uphold Te Tiriti), Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and Whanaungatanga (relationships and connection).

In expressing Toitū Te Tiriti, we feature Tāwhanawhana Trust which was established in 2001 for takatāpui to “tell our stories, build our communities and leave a legacy.” Co-Chairs Professor Elizabeth Kerekere and Kevin Haunui (also former Chair of Kawe Mahara) will speak on the role of Tīwhanawhana in Wellington, Aotearoa and around the world. Renowned researcher Dr Clive Aspin will speak on takatâpui and HIV/AIDS histories.

As part of Kaitiakitanga, Kawe Mahara Board members will share a piece of Aotearoa’s queer history inspired by a particular taonga from Kawe Mahara or their own private collections. Our youngest Board member, Will Hansen, will speak on queer activism in Aotearoa, and how we collect data on what is happening now and in digital spaces.We will also feature speakers from across our Rainbow communities to celebrate Whanaungatanga. These include Dr Rebekah Galbraith, Rainbow Studies Now, Victoria University of Wellington; Dr Welby Ings on Ia: The Rainbow Collection; Dr Patrick Thomsen on The Manalagi Project and Repository, and Dr Ashwinee Pendharkar on the Alexander Turnbull Library Contemporary Voices and Archives and

Kawe Mahara has recently undergone a transformation, beginning with the name change from Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ). Its Trust Deed, values and collection strategy have been updated to be more overtly inclusive of all Rainbow communities, especially trans, non-binary and intersex whānau.

Kawe means ‘to carry, convey, bear’ and mahara means ‘memory, recollection, knowledge’.

Kawe Mahara stands for carrying the memories of all our takatāpui and queer communities in Aotearoa from the past, present and future, so that our communities can grow and thrive,” says Elizabeth.

“Having survived an arson attack in the 1980s, and kept alive by volunteers through decades of discrimination, Kawe Mahara is a testament to the power of community archives.

“‘Queer’ is an umbrella term for people who identify with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and innate variations of sex characteristics, in acknowledgement of the fluidity of identities and the multiple acts of identifying and finding ourselves through time and space. We welcome the many intersections with other identities, communities and politics that ‘queer’ holds.”

The event is from 9am to 4pm, Tuesday 9 July 2024 at the National Library, 70 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington.