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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following content may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Letters to Cook

A miniseries from the Deadly Voices from the House podcast

Sydney Opera House

Wednesday 29th April this year marks 250 years since the first Australians saw Lieutenant James Cook’s HMS Endeavour arriving to lay claim to their land.

On the occasion of this anniversary Rhoda Roberts, Head of First Nations Programming, is working with a diverse array of artists to create the Indigenous World Art Orchestra, bringing the perspectives and practices of First Peoples to the fore. The traditional music of Australia and the Pacific, the use of first instruments and performance art will combine to create Cook’s story, retold like never before.

In two new episodes of Deadly Voices, recorded during creative development of the Orchestra, participating artists Lisa Reihana, Moana Maniapoto and Nayuka Gorrie wrestle with the lingering legacy of one man and his colonialist mission. Some of this discourse forms searing letters from these women, dubbed Letters to Cook, which are interwoven with interviews, conversations and poetry to create haunting and vital additions to Deadly Voices.

Episode One

Lisa Reihana & Nayuka Gorrie

"I see him as a navigator, not as a hero."

In the first episode of our Letters to Cook miniseries, Rhoda Roberts introduces the Indigenous World Art Orchestra, a new First Nations gaze at Cook's journey told through fine music and first instruments.

Participating artists Lisa Reihana and Nayuka Gorrie read their two searing Letters, and chat with Rhoda about language, land, white mythmaking, the scar of colonialism and their experiences as First Nations women.

In this episode:

  • 00:00 - Rhoda Roberts introduces the Indigenous World Art Orchestra and Letters to Cook
  • 02:00 - Lisa's letter
  • 06:15 - Rhoda and Lisa have a conversation about her participation in the 2020 commemoration of Cook's landing
  • 14:10 - Lisa's letter (continued)
  • 15:30 - Rhoda introduces Nayuka Gorrie
  • 17:40 - Nayuka's letter
  • 26.10 - Rhoda and Nayuka discuss the future, and how writing can shape it
  • 27.50 - Nayuka's letter (continued)

Further reading:

  • The Guardian - 'Why I made Captain Cook lose his breeches: Lisa Reihana on her colonial video epic'
  • ABC - 'It is a 'damaging myth' that Captain Cook discovered Australia'
  • SBS - Endeavour discovery: What is Captain Cook's legacy?
  • The Guardian - 'Captain Cook's legacy is complex, but whether white Australia likes it or not he is emblematic of violence and oppression'

Episode Two

Moana Maniapoto

“I have no emotions towards Cook whatsoever. I see him as a symbol of a change, and the impact of that change we are still dealing with.”

The musician and current affairs presenter Moana Maniapoto delivers a bold address not only to Cook, but to Australia as a nation. In this episode, she talks about passing identity through language, the shield of white privilege in New Zealand and Australia, and challenges the myths that our nations choose to uphold.

In this episode:

  • 00:00 - Rhoda introduces Moana Maniapoto
  • 02:45 - Moana's letter
  • 09.05 - Rhoda and Moana critically discuss the commemoration
  • 09:55 - Moana's letter (continued)
  • 17:05 - Moana discusses her music
  • 18:45: Rhoda on some New Zealand history 19:30: Moana's letter (continued)

Further reading:

  • ABC - 'Waitangi Day is a very different national celebration to Australia Day'
  • The Spinoff - 'The wonderful world of Moana Maniapoto'

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A podcast that takes intimate interviews with First Nations artists and leaders to the world. Hosted by Rhoda Roberts AO.