“The Savage Club was founded in 1857 in London “to provide rational entertainment and good fellowship”. The name is a joke, named after a poet of poor reputation, Richard Savage… The Wanganui Savage Club is in a hall that is done as a crudely presented marae. Visiting another club is called a raid. And the members are, almost to a person, Pākehā.
The Wanganui Savage Club is our very own Tikitiki Bar, an Orientalist fantasy that provided a testosterone filled chance for men (and latterly women) to dress up as savages, to play act with their projection of the freedom of Māori society. In one sense it feels like a harmless chance to play. On the other hand, it is a crude appropriation of an entire people.
I was overwhelmed, amused and offended. And I really believe it is something that we shouldn’t let fade into nothingness. It is another strand in the development of our relationships as Māori and Pākehā.”
For my wife’s birthday, we were gifted tickets to Trinity Roots, who were playing at the Wanganui Savage Club in Whanganui. Suffice to say, they were outstanding, and the atmosphere was suitably eclectic and friendly, alcohol flowed freely and clouds of marijuana smoke wafted outside, across the front of the hall.
But it was the venue that really caught my attention. Essentially a large tin shed, it is a remarkable record of New Zealand Pākehā history that is calling out to be shared with a wider audience. If a picture paints a thousand words, then here’s five thousand to start us off:
The Savage Club was…
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