• Ayesha Green, Ruth Ige, Rozana Lee, Nicole Lim, Jane Chang Mi, Talia Smith, Vaimaila Urale, Layne Waerea, and Yonel Watene

'Two Oceans at Once' is named from a phrase in a story by Uruguayan journalist and poet Eduardo Galeano. In the story ‘Americans’, from the book Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, Galeano retells the commonly known history of the world in 600 short episodes. Here it is:

"Official history has it that Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first man to see, from a summit in Panama, two oceans at once. Were the natives blind?

Who first gave names to corn and potatoes and tomatoes and chocolate and the mountains and rivers of America? Hernán Cortés? Francisco Pizarro? Were the natives mute?

The Pilgrims on the Mayflower heard Him: God said America was the promised land. Were the natives deaf?

Later on, the grandchildren of the Pilgrims seized the name and everything else. Now they are the Americans. And those of us who live in the other Americas, who are we?"

At face value, it is an account of discovery, naming and renaming as part of historic global exploration in search of ‘new’ territories and resources. The ‘two oceans’ in Galeano’s story are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. In the context of Aotearoa, 'Two Oceans at Once' takes on the impetus of retelling, where 2018 was the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and 2019 holds the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty and the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Captain James Cook—an arrival that, like Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s, involved naming.

In the retelling of past events as history, dominant sociocultural constructions privilege linear and chronological retelling in a single voice. But within Galeano’s account, as with the events of Cook’s arrival, there are multiple positions from which history can be told. In ‘Americans’, Galeano questions whose voice is heard and remembered in accounts of history. As an exhibition, 'Two Oceans at Once' holds multiple narratives. These are narratives of arrivals, departures, naming, giving voice, being heard, listening, co-habitation, time, place, memory, knowledge, language and love. Recognising that there is no singular past, present or future, the exhibition looks to reorient historical time within the real experiences of communities.

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday - Friday 10am - 5pm
  • Saturday 12 - 4pm

ST PAUL St Galleries One and Two

  • 40 St Paul Street
  • CBD
  • Auckland