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Poutokomanawa: The Carmen Rupe Generation - interviews

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride and [00:00:05] Hi, I'm Tyler Langley. I'm the registrar at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery and we're in the portico Manoa exhibition that is opening this evening [00:00:17] and told me about the exhibition. [00:00:19] The gallery acquired a portrait of Carmen rupee from an artist by the name of Nicolette page. And we thought we needed to have an exhibition to celebrate receiving this portrait. So we got in touch with the transgender community to find out what kind of exhibition they wanted. And we ended up with Chanel, hottie and Ricky bright well helping us out with the exhibition. And they came up with this concept of Potok or Manoa so they wanted the exhibition to be a celebration of transgender Korea who were kind of the foundation, the family nation of there. [00:01:03] And so what were your roles? [00:01:06] And I came on after the kind of the concept had been decided on in tile I had met with Chanel and I kind of dnn started helping outside of just being support and yeah, hoping things happen. [00:01:19] research as well. [00:01:20] Yeah, I've done quite a bit of research. So listening to a lot of the interviews with Donna and digging into stuff about common and Chrissy and Georgina, as well as some of the contemporary stuff that's going on. Yeah. [00:01:33] Yeah, so I guess we've considered that Chanel and Ricky has been leading the direction of the exhibition. And we've been doing the research and the work to support it to happen. So [00:01:47] can you describe some of the objects and items in the exhibition? [00:01:51] So [00:01:53] this is our wall of Carmen. And in this Carmen section, we have a number of things that came to From tipa tipa has really interesting collection of Carmen's memorabilia, I guess it would be. So we have, this is really interesting here, which is my it, we've titled it my last male photograph. And because that's what Carmen had titled it, and when she donated her stuff to the museum, she wrote stories on the backs of them of what they were. So everything that type hapa has from Carmen is covered in her writing, which is kind of amazing. And we really liked this object originally, when we first started talking about it. We talked about displaying it, face in words. So with just the back and the story from Carmen showing. But then we had more discussions with various people in the community and they said, No, she's given it to the museum and wanted it to be told as part of her story, so we have it displayed face out, but also we've got image of the back there, which is kind of a an interesting kind of almost like a proper kind of a statement on the back. Yeah. [00:03:10] And then this very large portrait. Why is this portrait so significant? [00:03:15] Well, we acquired the portrait because Carmen is significant. She's a bold and colorful local character, with lots of great stories to tell. And for us that's really key is that we can use this portrait to tell all sorts of stories. [00:03:30] Yeah. And this portrait is going into the permanent collections. Yeah, [00:03:33] that's right. She's the first transgender portrait in our collection. And so she gives us some important diversity. Our collection is we don't have a budget to collect. So it's very opportunistic. So it's really nice to have something so exciting coming into the collection. [00:03:52] And it's interesting you say, transgender, because I've heard infuse we common identifies as transsexual, and I'm interested in How language has changed over time? How have you navigated that an exhibition? [00:04:06] That's something that I've noticed a lot. And during this exhibition being of the younger generation, and the way that some of the older generation talk is completely different to what I'm used to. So there is a bit of navigating what is correct and what isn't. When I'm writing the labels, everything went through Chanel, she looked over everything, she actually wrote a great deal of the labels that are in the exhibition. So that meant that she was making sure that things were okay according to her and she is close to that generation. So that's one of the ways that we tried to make sure that it was all good been that way. [00:04:41] It's definitely something that we noticed, working on the exhibition that there's really big differences and how the older generation talk about themselves and think about themselves as well think about their identity to somebody younger like I Ricky, who came in saying identify as a woman, you know, at right at the Start. Yeah, it's a little more hazy I think with some of the older generation. [00:05:06] Can you talk about the community response to the so far so weird hasn't opened yet. But I mean, in doing the research and and getting the objects and talent and what's the community response been like? [00:05:18] It's been very positive and very supportive. [00:05:21] Kind of almost too much. Yeah, everybody wants to get involved, which is wonderful, actually, for us, because that's also part of the attraction of this particular portrait and during this show was making connections with a new community. [00:05:36] I think everybody that we've talked to is really leaned into being part of it as well. Chanel especially has been phenomenal. You know, this is so far out of what she usually does, and she's really leaned into doing it. [00:05:48] For the support she's had even from her employer, his the prostitutes collective, has been amazing as well. They've allowed her time to come and work on this and be part of things helped her out with. Yeah, just everything that they could so [00:06:05] and I'm really pleased with how much of her input has come through in the final product as well. I think that's really great to say. [00:06:12] Tell me about these Tommy here from common. [00:06:17] Okay, this one this one's a little bit contentious actually. So tape hapa didn't have a lot of information about what this particular thing is. It's a bust of common to papa have two of these and I know from photographs that Carmen had more than two of them, she had quite a number of kind of Egyptian themed things. And so this one, I spoke to a few people and I spoke to Jackie gratitude and she said to me that this one actually came from her cafe originally, which was two common themes and that she had used this bus to paint a mural of TechCrunch Coming in her cafe, but we also know that Carmen herself had several Egyptian themed cafes. So it could also have come from one of those. Yeah. [00:07:10] And above that we have a pedestrian crossing White was coming on. [00:07:15] Yeah, borrowed from the Council, which was quite fun talking to them about that their traffic guy. And they also commented to us that they've sent one of these off to a museum in UK just recently for some sort of display, which is kind of interesting. [00:07:35] And the wall is just full of portraits and photographs. We did they all come from. [00:07:41] There's quite a few of them have come from Scotty and mouse cocktail bar. And then Karen Tims who had a lot of Diana's photos, so she's lent us a great deal of stuff to stick up there as well. And then some of its to pop. This is really just a collection from a lot of places. Yeah, yeah, we kind of put a call out And we're live. If anyone's got anything, let us know. [00:08:03] Yeah, we also tried to pick things that we could see in in our portrait. So the portrait that we've got here shows Carmen in her apartment in Sydney with all of her photographs and artifacts kind of around her in her kind of eclectic, aesthetic. And so we wanted to kind of have that coming out of the painting and onto the wall. And also, we've tried to track down some of the items that are actually in the painting and have them here in person. [00:08:33] So this exhibition is way more than common. It's it's a whole generation you. [00:08:38] Yeah, absolutely. It's way more than Carmen. The The concept was that Carmen is one of the kind of elders of the community who has allowed things to progress to where they are now who held up the community. And so we picked other individuals who also had a similarly influential role and support The community in activism or in providing employment and safe places for people. [00:09:06] What about these amazing photo montages from Chrissy we talking? [00:09:11] So tip hapa has a big collection of these, I think there's somewhere around, there's got to be at least 20 of them, we went over to tipa and had a look through all of them. And we've selected just a tiny handful of them, which should cover a number of areas. And we tried to pick ones that were representative of various areas, and also ones that showed the individuals that were profiling in the show and but they're kind of amazing artifacts of their time. They're kind of a Where's Where's Waldo of, of all the people in the community at the time and events at the time and also a lot of the locations the coffee bars and and the clubs [00:09:59] and stuff Speaking of artifacts is that pink policeman's have it. [00:10:04] Yeah, that's going to be one of the favorite items of the exhibition. So that was the helmet that was gifted to come in on her was that our 70th birthday by two policemen that have previously arrested her. So they came, I believe I came out from Christchurch, to go to her party and present her with this beautifully decorated helmet as kind of a district reconciliation. And it's also got a really interesting inscription in the inside. [00:10:30] Yeah, I guess also in that case, is a Carmen quantum packet with her port tread on it. That was given out I gather at this 70th party, and it has a sort of a quote on the inside saying that Carmen credits her long and happy life to safe sex, which is kind of wonderful. [00:10:54] So far, we've talked about some of the historic Tanner but but also this contemporary work. here as well. Yeah. [00:11:00] Yeah. So we've got words from Sam orchard, Jetro, love and other key bright Well, he created a piece especially for the exhibition, she was part of coming up with a theme and her work represents that thing. And Sam talks about sort of 10 years of his experience working with the trans community, and what's changes still need to happen and what needs to go forward. And I think that's a nice touch to the show is saying, Look how far things have come. But look how far we still need to go. And there's a there's a positive note to the what's happened, but in a nice, a nice sort of cold reaction, I guess. Yeah. [00:11:37] in putting this exhibition together, what personally have you got out of it? [00:11:42] Um, it's been a really interesting and different exhibition for me to work on, in terms of working with some of the artifacts and working with the community and a really nice and supportive community to work with. Everyone's been so lovely, and, you know, had never had so many X's at the end of ticks from people that I've never Very neat as wonderful. It's been really nice. Yeah. [00:12:03] Yeah, I agree. I've met I've met some amazing people and I do I now consider to be good friends actually. So it's been really great and great for the gallery to connect with a new community. And yeah, bring more people and [00:12:21] right as we walking in, as we will get into this, I'm very excited. [00:12:25] I love common from what I've researched and read about her. I really like how the wall is decorated that looks kind of like common space and that it's all like, cool. All the photos are so lovely. Oh, they really I love that this collages like crispy tacos, collages, and little newspaper clippings. [00:12:51] So can you recognize anyone? [00:12:53] Yeah. Georgina by Donna de Milo, Jennifer woods, Jackie grant. See, Chrissy Vito Did I say her already? Lots of familiar faces. I want to try and find Dion and Chanel, I'm sure that they're in his somewhere. I don't know if I'd recognize a younger photo of them. But lots of lots of Donner in common and Chrissy, that's cool. And what do you think about Commons new portrait? unfortunate, it's amazing. I love how they've included all have background like all of the stuff that she had in the background. That's really cool. I love the the portrait of Marilyn Monroe. So I think the this may be the same postcard that is archived at the lizard EK archives. And it's the best thing I comments that I saw. And I opened the box and it's my first time in the archives, I open the box and there's this little postcard of Marilyn Monroe and she's written over it and then I turned it over. And on the back she had lipstick, France on it. So it was really quite special. So that's really cool. It's amazing. It's really cool. [00:13:50] So we'll as an historian, when you see all this these historic town are on the walls, the gallery what what does that make you feel [00:14:01] I feel real impressed and touch that it's an a gallery because it's such important and fantastic history that's not ever really, it was just not often enough for all celebrated and it's so it's such a vital piece of history and especially given that like trans people so often deprived of their history and that that's such a big part of our oppression, I think is the denial of our history. So to like see it being celebrated and in such like, in such a detailed way as well, I really feel it, they've captured a whole lot of facets of it that wouldn't have been captured if they just had like the paintings and a few professional photos, but they've got all the photos of them partying and stuff as well. It's just so lovely, and like snippets of the news and stuff. Yeah, I really feel like it is all in all Christie's collages over there, too. Yeah, I think it's just amazing to see all the friendships laid out as well. Like the people in the photographs clearly love each other a lot and they're having a lot of fun. And I think that's a really huge part of the story is that sense of community and and friendship and They're all living together and, you know, working together and it's such a tight knit group and the fact that they're all still friends today, right as evidence of that, too. So, yeah, I think it's really lovely. That's cool. And amazing to see comments so big as, right like she's a big personality, so she should be painted big as well. [00:15:16] And what about with some fear remarks? [00:15:18] I didn't even know. This was one of her. I was in her coffee lounge. That's really cool. It's cool to see pieces that would have actually been in a coffee lounge because I've not there's not much footage or anything of it that I've seen. So that's cool to think that there's a physical object that was in her place. [00:15:38] And you would have seen these Chrissy we took the panelists before you [00:15:41] Yeah, yeah, I've looked at them a lot on top of this beautiful, this beautiful, I think the way that Chrissy put them together is so lovely, is that I think there's like a real like artistry to them. And I also think that it's like, really, if she was preserving history and in a way that it wouldn't have been present perhaps if it was justified. A photograph sitting in a stack, and like tells to put them together. And college tells its own story that the photograph alone doesn't do as well. Right? So that's really lovely. [00:16:11] Now what is it like seeing these photographic colleges from the 60s and 70s of of our communities and knowing that there are a whole lot of diverse people coming before us, [00:16:23] I just think it's so important. I just feel like for me, this kind of trans history is really what informs my identity, I don't think but I can't imagine being trans and not knowing about these things. I think it's so important because it makes me feel less isolated. And it makes me feel like I have a sense of importance because I've had a sense of history. And even though I'm not related to any of these people, I'm related to them, I suppose in the broadest sense of I stand on their shoulders and they're the ones who paved the path for me and so to see them looking also beautiful and and just so happy and joyful is like a really a feminine, especially with There's that whole stereotype that back in the day, if you were trans, you were, you know, locked up or you were sick and perverted and sad all the time and just crying all the time. I'm like, oh, easily. That's so not true from these photos. Right? So that's a really cool affirming thing to see. I think. [00:17:15] Now, one of the things over here, who's a pink policeman's hit, which was given us a common from the police officers who used to arrest who [00:17:24] has seen this as a father. It's really interesting especially it's really interesting given the obviously the dynamic with the police. I don't know I have such conflicts, feelings about our history with the police. And I think that a lot of like, obviously, while there was a lot of friendliness and like even like for like deep friendship between women like common in the place I do still, I am still super critical of the prison industrial complex that it represents, regardless of how can come pretty it looks in this but it's definitely something that I don't know. It's something that I need to think about more a thing and something that I don't quite understand, but that I want to try and understand because it's an important part of, of the history. [00:18:05] What I find really interesting is that you had two groups of people that will comment on the police officers almost like completely different ends of the spectrum. And yet at the end of their lives or close to the end of their lives, they actually came together. [00:18:20] That's a lovely kind of human story. I yeah, I think that it's nice that they're able to look past differences, and maybe that the police realized that actually, what they were doing, like, imprisoning all these queens for doing nothing, you know, criminal, I mean, obviously, it was criminalized, but it's not. It's not they weren't doing anything bad. They weren't hurting anyone, as I'm trying to say. So hopefully, I guess I like to think of that as a gesture of someone who realized that actually, maybe any of that animosity wasn't was misguided. Yeah. [00:18:51] What do you think people will will take away from this exhibition? [00:18:55] I feel so overwhelmed. I've only stood in here for like, five minutes. I hope that People's takeaway, that we have a really important history that just like that our history is just as profound as anyone else's history. And that, like our history is really fun. And actually, the fun in itself is profound and important, you know, like, history doesn't have to necessarily be serious and tragic for it to be something that's important and worth remembering. So I hope that people come away with a sense that they see the light, especially younger people that may come away the sense that they see how vibrant and awesome and wonderful our past really is. And it's important. It's just so important. And it's so important for us younger generations to see our history and recognize that we have a place in our history, that we're not some kind of crazy new phenomenon and that we still continue to fight today for what they fought for us and all the incredible things they did for us like they [00:19:54] are it's not we down at the Newseum Portrait Gallery, and we're here for the opening of poetical Manoa which is the Common, more common rupee generation, fantastic exhibition, it's going to be amazing. looked around what I've seen on the boards outstanding. That's a good way to remember the old days last but not forgotten. It's fantastic. [00:20:12] And so you would have known a lot of those people on the wall the Oh yeah, I think [00:20:16] they're the ones that made a streetwise I mean, they rallied is when you look back in the day, Carmen was absolutely fantastic. And cam, the old Cameron's coffee lounge, a great place that we used or frequent on many, many occasions. And of course, when she had not the balcony, and we all sort of shut up there as well. Great place to be great place to be [00:20:32] for younger generations who who maybe don't have a sense of what it was like back in the 60s and 70s. Can you paint a picture of what it was like for rainbow communities? [00:20:41] It was a lot tougher than I think, you know, in the in the in the old days we didn't have the relaxed and and legal lifestyle that we certainly have now. And it was certainly a an era where you had to watch your back, so to speak. And I think that when we look back on those days, the community back then was a lot closer there was more brother and sister They everybody looked after each other. I think we've lost that today. And I really believe that a lot of the younger generation perhaps needs to come and have a look at this exhibition and and go back in time and learn about the and learn about the history and the culture, because it's where we all started. And if it wasn't for Carmen, we wouldn't be where we are today. [00:21:18] One of the things one of the lovely things I saw just looking at the exhibition was people making connections between all the people on the wall and just that interconnectedness. [00:21:28] Oh, it's fantastic it's amazing just looking at the myself and people saying oh my god, the DU are over there. And that's the sort of thing that was and and and for people like Chrissy and Carmen put these montages together is absolutely fantastic. It's it's captured our history, and it's something we should never ever lose sight of is our history. [00:21:48] I'm Chanel Chanel hottie and we're here at the Portrait Gallery. And we're here to on a common and other trans woman who have contributed to our country. Unity. And we're going to remember all those good things that they did the safe spaces they provided. [00:22:10] The hell they paved the way for, for for the future generation. [00:22:16] Now, you were very influential in creating this space in this exhibition. Can you describe it for me? [00:22:24] It's sort of, to me it's a, it's a, it's a kind of a, like a time capsule. You know, it captures the community over the last 40 years as snapshot in time. That's what that's basically what it is. [00:22:40] And so both Kayla and Chanel, I mean, you know, a lot of these people in the images that are being seen tonight, how does it make you feel when you when you see these people on the wall, [00:22:51] nostalgic? [00:22:54] Yeah, has played a lot. Even our recap a little bit here. We were actually part of that kind of generation change either. And now spin out age interrupt back at all earth as Yeah, looking at a patch you guys, remember when we used to you know, that's how the faces cut about, you know? [00:23:17] Well we we live in a generation that saw those changes that common common only dreamed of at a time when things were very conservative views was the restrictive laws. She rekindled the debates and those shows, even at the risk of her getting into trouble. And but she was she was what she was these issues needed to be brought to the forefront and she raised them. And because she raised them, it brought it to the attention of the public a very conservative public view. But as the years went by, a conservative, the conservative stance on, on issues like gay rights and six week became more liberal view. And and it is you can see that today with the homosexual Law Reform marriage equality and the decriminalization of sex work. [00:24:13] So if Carmen was to look down on us tonight What do you think she would be thinking? [00:24:20] how society is that what a lady Carmen sure sure a quiet place in United see how the generation followed her hair for Gareth and continue what she started [00:24:35] she would be she would be very happy I think she would be she would be crying because, you know, she saw some changes in her time and I think she would very, very pleased and she's not here. So we need to keep telling those stories to keep the community alive. And she's very important part of that story. [00:25:00] Can you tell me a little bit about the title of the exhibition? [00:25:03] OK, so the exhibition, the concept for the session is Potok or Manoa and Potok. Amanda, of course as the is rich power in the middle of that that supports the house. in Mali, we use metaphors. Like you can say, when when, when a elder dies, a Toyota has fallen in the forest. So with Potok or Manoa, we use that because we used we saw Carmen, Chrissy and all these ones that contributed to our community as the power or if you translate into English, the pillars of our community, so and the Potok, Amanda, as basically Carmen and Chrissy provided safe spaces, and these are spaces where we gather like they do on MRI, because we were family. So I thought, the pOH takoma know would be appropriate for as the as the title for for this exhibition. Yeah. [00:25:58] So common features very heavily in the exhibition, but also, there are a whole range of other Wellington icons. Can you can you just name them for Jackie grant [00:26:07] for instance, she was around when Carmen Carmen was was first starting her business and Jackie, Jackie was around the end and she still continues to to do her work. She's been a member of the Human Rights Committee and she's also a founding member of the Chrissy retook or Memorial Trust we have Georgina bear and we don't know his story so she's she's she's very important Christy we taco she provided a safe space when Cameron leave New Zealand so that followed on so so so they kind of took over from one another in common pave the way for for for the next generation to enter political spaces. And all these good things they did Diana de Mello, Diana to me like she was lovely. They will contribute it in their own way. And for me, particularly with Dan or is sometimes it's Not so much what you do. It's your presence that speaks for itself. [00:27:05] You're talking about safe spaces and I wonder where are the safe spaces today? [00:27:11] Well, life home we come along inside, we've now got like the gap say for those so it's the safe zone, but a majority the places around Wellington like certain clubs net that says for us we [00:27:29] we have to acknowledge that there are people like melon Scotty who have been who need to be acknowledged because they've been around just as long as Christy and they've had several safe spaces they've had the bandwidth the pound and they still providing a safe space with the username so they need to be acknowledged because they carrying on with with Christine lift up, you know, and you know, and I'm very very proud of mountain Scotty and they speak they speak for hours. community as well, you know, and they're there. They were loved by all these girls these articles now, because he could he, you know he, he goes back to So, but he's still providing a safe space even today. [00:28:15] One of the things I love about this exhibition is not only the historic tongue and photographs, but also the contemporary there's there's some contemporary artists as well. Can you tell me about that? Yeah, [00:28:27] well, these are lucky bright Well, she's she, she, she's done a pace. The object Trello he's, he's done a piece as well. And, and it's all to do with the exhibition, Ricky, are the keys pOH that she paid, it speaks about the, the journey, the journey from, from the times, that the girls were restricted to, to kind of like the freedom that people will experience today. Thanks to change us and no more [00:29:00] Chanel just find me What would you want people to take away from this exhibition? What? How would you want them to feel at the end of us? [00:29:07] Well, I want them to feel that, that, that this community, these people that are featured in this community are people that stood out for, for the men's and spoke for them and paved the way paved the way for, for for pave the way for for a better world for the for the next generation to know. You know, all the good things that we that we enjoy. our freedoms we enjoy today are because of those that have gone before us. And they should be and they should be honored and continue to be honored.

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