What are some of the symbols of resistance in Aotearoa?

Effective protests have a unifying message and a shared set of symbols or images. Many protests will also involve chanting, songs, and speeches to make sure that people understand what the protest is about.

Activity: Guess Who?

Interpret symbols, text, and visual imagery for meaning.

Te Papa collects many items to help keep a record of our history as a country. Protest signs and protest art give us great insights into the motivations behind the protestors of the day.

  • Take a look at the protest signs and badges below with a friend or group. If you are in a group, print them out large and put them up around your space so it is easy to gather around each image and discuss them.

  • Look at each of the protest items in turn and see if you can figure out what you think the protestor was upset about. What are the symbols, text or imagery that helped you to work that out?

  • Click again on any of the collection items to read about each protest cause. (The slideshow is best viewed full-screen.)

Click through to reveal details.

Name: ‘Boycott’ badge

Overview: This badge was made for protestors to wear during the proposed All Black rugby tour of South Africa in 1985. HART (Halt All Racist Tours) called for a boycott of companies supporting the All Blacks, such as the companies who outfitted the players.

Design: The badge features a rugby ball captured by the prohibition symbol.


‘Boycott’ badge, 1985, New Zealand, by HART (Halt All Racist Tours), tin. Gift of Annette Anderson, 2009. Te Papa (GH012533)

‘Stop French testing’ badge, early 1980s, New Zealand, by Greenpeace, metal. Gift of Tim Walker, 1996. Te Papa (GH004669)

Name: Stop French Testing badge

Overview: This badge was made to be worn in protest against French nuclear testing in the Pacific. Between 1966 and 1996, the French carried out about 190 nuclear tests at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia. These caused reef damage, landslides, subsidence, radioactive emissions, and fish poisoning.

The badge's image rewards close inspection – it combines the French flag, and its patriotic colours of blue, white and red, with a mushroom cloud blasting the palm trees of a Pacific atoll – usually an alluring holiday scene of paradise.

New Zealand versus France

By the 1970s, New Zealand was a leading voice against nuclear testing in the Pacific. In 1973, the government sent navy frigates in support of a protest fleet and took France to the International Court of Justice. France stopped atmospheric nuclear testing in 1974, but resumed testing underground until 1996.

Wearing protest

The visual culture of anti-nuclear protest often took form in a range of popular media, including banners, T-shirts, and badges. Badges were accessible, mass-produced objects, cheap to make and purchase, easily disseminated, and effective in conveying political messages.


‘Stop French testing’ badge, early 1980s, New Zealand, by Greenpeace, metal. Gift of Tim Walker, 1996. Te Papa (GH004669)

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Name: ‘We are everywhere’ badge

Overview: This badge was designed by Ian Scott within a pink triangle, one of the key symbols of the modern gay rights movement. The pink triangle was used as a badge in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War (1939-45) to identify men convicted for what was considered sexual deviance, including homosexuality. It was reclaimed by the gay rights movement after the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969 as a symbol of empowerment, and for some, a symbol of remembrance for those who suffered during the war.

In this localised version, a map of New Zealand has been added to the triangle with the slogan ‘We are everywhere’. This badge was part of a late 1970s campaign to normalise being gay in New Zealand – badges, T-shirts and letterhead were all printed with the logo. It aligned with the National Gay Rights Coalition’s 1978 election advertising which stated that one in eight New Zealand adults was homosexual.*

Political badges were popular in the 1970s and 1980s when the gay liberation movement was strong. They capture important moments in LGBTQI+ social and political life. Badges like this ‘once lived over someone's beating heart, proudly proclaiming a point of view, an identity, an alliance with a cause.’**

*Guy, L., 2002, Worlds in Collision: The Gay Debate in New Zealand, 1960-1986, Victoria University Press, Wellington, p. 106.

**Hermes, K.A., 2019, Political Buttons, in Queer Objects, ed. Brickell, C. and Collard, J., Otago University Press, Dunedin, p. 314


‘We are everywhere’ badge, about 1979, New Zealand, by Dr Ian Scott, plastic. Gift of Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand, 2017. Te Papa (GH025206)

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Name: Feminist badge

Overview: This badge features the radical feminist symbol of the 1960s-1970s which combines two symbols: the clenched fist of solidarity within the symbol for the Roman Goddess Venus, commonly accepted as the female symbol.


Feminist badge, 1970s, maker and location unknown, metal. Gift of Ken Thomas, 2008. Te Papa (GH011840)

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Name: ‘Tino Rangatiratanga Maori Independence’ badge

Overview: In 1989, a competition was run by a group named Te Kawariki to design a national Māori flag. This chosen flag became associated with the tino rangatiratanga or Māori sovereignty movement which seeks Te Tiriti justice.


‘Tino Rangatiratanga Maori Independence’ badge, manufacture date unknown, by Te Kawariki Group, Wellington, metal. Te Papa (ME017416)

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Name: ‘HART 1973’ badge

Overview: This badge was worn in protest against the proposed Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand in 1973. Prime Minister Norman Kirk’s Labour Government ‘postponed’ the tour to avoid civil unrest.


Halt All Racist Tours (HART) was formed as a national body in Auckland in 1969 to halt the proposed tour of 1970. Its name was coined by activist Tama Poata.

HART’s split black and white heart motif became the most well-known symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. It neatly makes visual the double meaning of the movement’s acronym and philosophy – that black and white are together and part of the same human heart. It was designed to be easy for anyone to draw, paint, or print.

Rona Bailey

This particular badge belonged to activist Rona Bailey (1914-2005) who first became involved in protests against apartheid in South Africa from the late 1940s, and campaigned against the 1960 All Black tour of South Africa. For most of the 1970s Bailey worked full-time and voluntarily for the anti-apartheid movement. Te Papa holds her hard hat worn during Springbok rugby tour protests in 1981.


‘HART 1973’ badge, 1973, by HART (Halt All Racist Tours), tin. Gift of Meg Bailey, 2020. Te Papa (GH025624)

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Name: ‘Advance Pasifika’ flier

Overview: This flier advertised the Advance Pasifika: March For Our Future protest held in Auckland on Saturday 16 June 2012. Advance Pasifika called on local and national leaders to take notice of Pacific people's contribution to Auckland and New Zealand, demanding equality, affordable housing, better education, quality healthcare, fairness in the justice system, jobs, and a better future for Pasifika communities.

Inspiration for design

The raised clenched fist image was designed by Auckland-born Opeta Elika. The inspiration behind the design came from his family being ‘so passionate about our people, our culture and the strong belief of standing up for what’s right... The clenched fist itself is an iconic symbol of unity and strength. I adapted it by adding pasifika elements to it to depict the strength and unity of the Pacific people... The tatau is a strong symbol of Pacific culture and identity. I gathered inspiration from tatau patterns all over the Pacific and fused them together in conjunction with the clenched fist to create an embodiment [of] the Pacific people on a united front taking a stand against the various issues that plague their everyday lives’ (personal communication with the artist, 2014).

Power of design

Elika notes that ‘visual communication is very important and the first glance is critical. In this case I tried to sum up the main aspects of the march visually so that the viewer gets a sense of the mood and what it’s all about instantly.’ The design was widely seen on posters, fliers and T-shirts. ‘People recognised it easily and knew that it was related to the march. I think it empowered people [and] served its purpose as being a visual symbol of the march.’


‘Advance Pasifika’ flier, 2012, by Opeta Elika, paper. Gift of Sean Mallon, 2015. Te Papa (GH024414)

Activity: You can’t sink a rainbow

Design your own protest symbols, slogans and chants.

‘You can’t sink a rainbow’ badge, about 1985, New Zealand, metal. Gift of Ken Thomas, 2008. Te Papa (GH011822)

Have a look at this protest badge from Te Papa's collection and discuss together:

  • What are the symbols of peace that have been used in this message?
  • What does the slogan ‘You can’t sink a rainbow’ refer to? (To answer this, you might need to ask someone who can remember 1985, or do your own research into the Rainbow Warrior.)
  • Have a think about the issues that upset you at the moment. Try to think about social or environmental issues that affect a great deal of people in your community, rather than an individual issue that may be only your concern.

  • List these ideas and then choose the one that feels most important to you. Brainstorm symbols, shapes or elements that you could use to visually tell your story to an audience. Consider the colours that will best communicate your issues visually.

  • Draw a circle on a page that has a diameter of 10cm and begin to draw your protest badge design.

  • Consider a slogan or phrase. You may want to ask a friend before you add any text, if they can guess what the cause is. If the meaning is clear, you may not need to add anything extra to the badge at all.

  • If others in your group have completed badge designs, exhibit them for others to see. You may want to write an artist's statement to explain your visual choices.

Activity: The power of music for change

Curate an activist’s playlist.

Protests throughout time have inspired musicians to write music. Studying and celebrating the lyrics and poetry of protest music is a powerful way for us to understand the language of social change and the issues that stir up our heart and soul. We’ve put together a Spotify playlist of protest songs (or, with videos: Kia hiwa rā! on YouTube) from across time and around the world.

Take a listen to a couple of tracks on the playlist with the lyrics downloaded in front of you:

  • What are the lyrics that clearly show this is a song related to a protest movement and not just any old song? Highlight the lines of the song that show you this is about a protest issue. (You can look song lyrics up on Genius.com.)
  • Write out the protest lyrics that you have located and display them on the wall. What do the lyrics have in common with each other?
  • Now create your own playlist of protest music. You might like to focus on a broad concept like ‘ seeking justice’ or ‘ equality for all’ or you might want to choose a specific issue, such as Te Tiriti or feminism.

  • Research artists and songs that are related to your playlists theme, and select up to five songs that you like the most.

  • Write the liner notes or record voice notes explaining:

    • the way in which each song is related to the playlist theme

    • a lyric that clearly expresses that it is a protest song

    • what you specifically like about this song (the style, the rhythm, the bassline, the lyrics etc).

  • Share your playlist with an audience on youtube or Spotify. Make sure you add your liner notes to the description.

Extra links for the extra curious

Go down amazing wormholes with this curated suite of links.