In pursuit of the voice of Venus: Listening for empathy in the history classroom

Samantha Owen


The focus of this article is on perspectives and empathy[HS1]  to consider how they operate in the leading New Zealand Māori video and installation artist, Lisa Reihana’s, exhibition Lisa Reihana: Emissaries and specifically her piece, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] [hereafter: iPOVi] which animates Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique to reimagine the voyages of exploration and the death of James Cook. In this article I consider how the ways of viewing indicated by Reihana raise possible questions of how we teach exploration and the methodologies we employ to investigate perspectives. I specifically engage with the (re)imagining of the death – murder? – of James Cook as I ask how do we shift our perspective from being determined by the ‘view from the boat’ and widen it to include the ‘view from the shore.’ Reihana does so by employing the perspective of language – by listening and hearing and thereby obtaining understanding – to know the stories of those we could perhaps see but do not give voice to as they do speak in the language of the “world navigator, explorer or trader” (ACARA, n.d., ACHASSK084). I conclude with a discussion of how using this empathic device how it might help build pluricultural History or Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) learning spaces in which all can listen and all can speak to be heard. 


Empathy; Perspective; Exploration; Contested Histories; Captain James Cook

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