Jono Rotman’s Mongrelism examines the power unique to groups of men. By presenting a violent gang in a dignified manner, Rotman aims to reveal its similarities with “normal” groups of powerful men. How do men use the group to wield power and what draws them to join?
The Mongrel Mob of New Zealand is notorious for extreme violence, and they have long been regarded as the nation’s monsters. In layers of apparent contradictions, their icon is the British bulldog wearing a Nazi helmet, while their members are largely indigenous Maoris. The Mongrel Mob’s symbols arose as both a goading response to a history of colonial subjugation of Maori, and a proclamation of war against the (white) state.
‘Mongrelism’ offers a communion with this impenetrable fraternity. Monumental portraits illustrate Mob members’ assertion of membership and pride in their identity. Artefact studies and brutal first person narratives are drawn from the Mob corpus, mirroring the landscapes that bare the brooding environments where Mob members live. ‘Mongrelism’ examines how the gang brands itself to itself to uphold its hierarchy and history, and find core values usually lauded by society: perseverance, resilience, and loyalty.
The publication takes the form of a gang handbook. The order and grouping of images is the result of consultation with members and hews to their geographic, familial and hierarchical relationships. An unedited Mob voice dominates the written section.
Rotman’s images have become a part of Mob history and their visual mythology. Ongoing consultation and engagement has been integral.
Rotman is a fourth generation white New Zealander, his forebears were among the first to settle in the region that became the epicentre of the Mob genesis. The process of colonisation and the atomisation of indigenous communities can be argued to have resulted in the Mongrel Mob. In Mongrelism, as in the history of the nation, our narratives intertwine.
‘Mongrelism’ is the recipient of the Prix du Livre Images Vevey 2017/2018
Available from Here Press.