At the moment I am in Aotearoa New Zealand in the Taranaki region, participating in the SCANZ2015 artist residency. This is my second residency with SCANZ and this time I come back as one of the board members of Intercreate, which has brought with it a different insight and a larger sense of responsibility and commitment to the program.

The residency and the work of Intercreate focuses on a range of topics and their intersections: art and science, hybrid arts, working with First Peoples and an emphasis on environmental and sustainability issues. In 2015, the theme is Water*Peace, giving the residents an opportunity to explore the social, spiritual and environmental aspects of these topics.

Tracey Benson with Maata Wharehoka at Parihaka
Tracey Benson with Maata Wharehoka at Parihaka

SCANZ2015 started this year with an overnight stay at Parihaka, which is a place of great significance. The Parihaka website says:

Parihaka is a small Taranaki coastal Māori settlement, located 55km south west of New Plymouth. Set in a landscape of volcanic lahar, this unassuming village is a site of immense historical, cultural and political importance.

The events that took place in and around Parihaka particularly from about 1860 to 1900 have affected the political, cultural and spiritual dynamics of the entire country.

We were there on the 18th and the 19th days of the month, which are known as the Days of Observance. The 18th and 19th are the days of Te Whiti o Rongomai (18th) and Tohu Kākahi (19th), the two leaders that led the passive resistance that now symbolises the spirit of Parihaka. The Parihaka website says:

Founded during the punitive years of mass confiscation and dispossession of Māori from their lands, by 1870 it had become the largest Māori village in the country. Two figures, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi led the Parihaka movement. Both men were committed to non-violent action in order to resist the invasion of their estates and to protect Māori independence.

Te Whiti and Tohu established monthly meetings at Parihaka on the 18th and 19th day of every month to which Māori and Pākehā leaders were invited to participate in discussions about the injustices and to strategise resistance to land grabbing and assimilation. The ‘18th’ became a consistent institution for the Parihaka movement, as it recalled the date of the start of the first war in nearby Waitara, which began on March 18, 1860.

While we were there we learnt from many elders, hearing many stories that related to our themes of Water and Peace. As part of the process, we were invited to speak, and I talked a little about Words for Water, inviting people to contribute to the project. For new readers, my project is an ever-expanding work that incorporates augmented reality technology, video, still image and audio. People are invited to add their water stories, making the work an ever evolving collaboration on the theme of water, place and culture. So far there have been two videos produced (Stage I and Stage II are embedded below) and a number of augmented reality works. You can read more at Words for Water 4.2

Since the two days at Parihaka, we have been in full swing with many meetings, social get togethers and some fantastic outings organised by Jo Tito to Koru Pa and Waitara. We were also very lucky to go back to Parihaka to learn from Maata Wharehoka, which was a wonderful day full of learnings.

In terms of my projects, Jo Tito and Julianna Preston have generously donated some material for my Words for Water project and as we speak, I am working on “Words for Water: Aotearoa Wai”. I have some lovely still and moving imagery as well as some great audio – so watch this space.

For a bit of background, see my SCANZ2013 blog for some more detail on my past experience of Parihaka and SCANZ.

I have also found some time to decompress at The Yoga Space, doing some Yin, Restorative and Hot Yoga classes – bliss!

More later 🙂

Stage I

Stage II

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