An open letter to the Waitangi Dildo

Today at midday the first two episodes of Get It to Te Papa, a Lightbox Original made by The Spinoff, are released. But first, journalist and presenter Hayden Donnell has a few words for the infamous subject of episode one.

STOP PRESS: All 6 episodes of Get It to Te Papa are streaming here, now!

Dear Waitangi Dildo,

It feels like only yesterday. You flew through the air like a homing missile, striking Steven Joyce’s cheek base-first, flipping across his face, hitting the ground, and exploding into the pages of history. Journalists asked questions. Police rushed to the scene. Joyce hurried away, smiling ruefully as his colleague Nathan Guy said, “I thought it was an egg”. The thrower, Josie Butler, walked backward, hands aloft, saying “I know.” And somewhere in an Auckland office, in ways unknown to me then, my life changed course. It feels like yesterday, but it’s been more than two years.

The fable goes that when Archimedes discovered his famous principle, he rose up out of the bath and ran naked through the streets of ancient Syracuse shouting “Eureka” – or “I’ve found it”. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to have an idea so profound, where the world clicks like a key in a lock, and you realise something so clear and brilliant that temporal concerns just fall away.

My career has mostly been a series of stilted attempts at coherent ideas. The closest I’ve ever come to knowing how Archimedes felt in that moment of epiphany was in the months after you first struck Joyce, erasing his legacy and replacing it with a video of you. An idea rose out of some primordial place, as if delivered to me from another world; more memory than invention. I thought: “[You] should be in Te Papa”.

It was so obvious. Almost. preordained. Like if I didn’t do this, some physical law would drag you to our national museum. Archimedes didn’t say “I’ve worked it out”. He said “I’ve found it”. His discovery was buried treasure, waiting to be uncovered. This idea was my buried treasure.

I set to work immediately. Calling the dildo thrower. Tracking down every person who had ever known you. In a way, the work never ended, and never truly began. Every road I ran down lead me to a dead end, and then a new road would reveal itself, and I would run down that one too.

You gradually took over my life. I burned through opportunities. Potential respectability. The patience of my peers. Probably the love of my family. As I failed, my passion started to eat away at the people around me. At one point, with a Sunday Star Times journalist present in the office, Spinoff editor Duncan Greive turned and delivered an admonishment: “It’s time to stop pitching things that should be in Te Papa,” he said. Eleven months later a weary and broken Greive sold Lightbox on a TV show solely devoted to me trying to get things into Te Papa.

He couldn’t stop my search. But maybe he was right. I rode roughshod over a lot of things in an effort to get to you. I should have thought more about your place in the long tradition of protest at Waitangi. Were you a distraction from other, more important, issues that are raised there every year? Were you a counterproductive protest or an innovative and memorable one?

And anyway, did the people who had handled you all those months ago really deserve my constant harassment? Did Steven Joyce deserve to be remembered for the moment he was struck by a dildo, rather than his horrible career? If he deserved a chance to move on, did I?

The truth is I was a fool. A fool in love.

This is my way of saying goodbye. It’s the epitaph on the story of you and me. I hope anyone watching it can understand why. I went to some dark places in this, my final and most exhaustive search for you: the Kerikeri police station, a rubbish dump, even Wellington. I upset too many people. My director José. Our whole production team. The Kerikeri police. Kiwi comedian Guy Williams. God.

Maybe I’ll feel rudderless for a while without you in my life. Maybe I’ll miss you from time to time. But I will no longer let a dildo dictate my future. I finally feel ready to move onward into a New Zealand where you’re preserved in memory and on film, rather than alongside Te Papa’s other exhibits.

Though that may feel like a failure, in some ways it has been my greatest success. I’m ready to spread my wings. To take that original germ of an idea from all those months ago and apply it to other New Zealand treasures. To give them the same respect I have given you. To find out about them, track them down, and bring them the reverence they deserve inside Te Papa.

So yes, this is an ending. An ending to our story. But for me, it’s only the end of the beginning.

No longer yours truly

 

Hayden

Read more about Get It to Te Papa and its genesis in Hayden Donnell’s brain right here.

Get It to Te Papa is a Lightbox Original, made by The Spinoff. Episodes 1 and 2 premiere on October 16th at midday on Lightbox.


This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.

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