One Question Quiz
Karl shapeshifts (Image design: Archi Banal)
Karl shapeshifts (Image design: Archi Banal)

PoliticsSeptember 19, 2023

Who is Karl Mokaraka?

Karl shapeshifts (Image design: Archi Banal)
Karl shapeshifts (Image design: Archi Banal)

Angry Fence Man is everywhere and nowhere. Who is he?

A dim figure from a barely recalled childhood nightmare, a fear from the edges of awareness. The candidate of Vision NZ, of course, because his movements follow only the logic of a dream.

A man mountain who slips through the world unnoticed until he is suddenly there.

He is Springheel Jack, a demon with glowing coal eyes who bounds away over hedgerows and fences, sometimes coming to rest overhanging an outdoor National Party stand-up. His bulky shape looms in the background over tiny foregrounded figures like Christophers Hipkins and Luxon, like Simeon Brown, confusing any sense of perspective or distance. How far away is Karl Mokaraka, ever, really?

There he is and then he is gone

He is a shapeshifter, a master of disguise. He could be anywhere – or anybody. The enormous infant, playing mere feet away. The huge, broad-shouldered pensioner shuffling towards you. The comically oversized NZ Post Box, trembling and yelling about Ōtara. 

Or he could be number 72 on your party list, raving about the HPV vaccine, or your candidate in Taieri reciting vulgar doggerel about Jacinda Ardern. When Winston Peters goes to his car to retrieve a letter from Helen Clark in the boot, who turns to greet him from the darkness of the driver’s seat? Karl Mokaraka’s shadow hangs over all. The campaign trail winds on, and it follows.

And there he is again, with moustache

He is the return of the repressed. Five ACT candidates can be shuffled off from the infernal reaches of the bottom of the party list, wordlessly, silently, but they howl as one through Karl Mokaraka, resounding off the acoustically engineered walls of the Civic Theatre, as he rises from the narrow rows of the Moorish stalls like a Colossus standing over the ocean.

He is the nagging sense of encountering someone deep within a dream and knowing for certain they are someone else. An uncanny feeling, a slip of the moustache as his eyebrow adhesive loses currency. Under his stage costume facial hair, his own new whiskers, grown in since he was first banned from venues. When you glimpse a mirror mid-hallucination and see your face looking back at you as if a mask, it is Karl Mokaraka whispering “everything is a mask”.

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