Settler-Indigenous Relationships of Te Moananui a Kiwa
Moana Calling Me Home (2020) is a series of six moving-image artworks created through a Master of Visual Arts. Seeking stories in mountains, burial places, archives, museums, and waters, the works journey to three ancestral homelands: Tauranga Moana in Aotearoa, Upolu in the Sāmoan Islands, and Tongatapu and Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga. Whispers, traces, and stories of my tīpuna wāhine coalesce: in gathering and braiding these threads with my own, I honour their lives and strengthen our collective story through moving-image practice.
The Ocean is Calling Me Home: Settler-Indigenous Relationships of Te Moananui a Kiwa seeks to understand whose waters I come from, what my waka look like, and how I might come to know my stories. Through looking to specific settler-indigenous relationships I descend from, my moving-image research project considers the macrocosm — the web of relationships we are all a part of — and the microcosm — my own relationships with whakapapa, ancestral stories and homelands. Within a paradigm of relationality, my research is guided by whakapapa and storying methodologies emerging from indigenous worldviews. Whakapapa — the placing in layers — offers a filmic language through which to connect relational fragments, while storying is a framework through which to weave these layers together into living narratives.
The moving-image works traverse seven generations, from Europe to Moana Oceania, through layering video, sound, drawings, and narrative voiceover. The camera is relational, connecting my ancestors and I through time, as we are tethered by place. Each story links to another, threading loops through space and time, spinning the web of relationships. Against a backdrop of expanding empires, this research untangles questions: How have colonial logics of blood quantum become tools for the dispossession of identity? Who is missing from the archive, and how might I connect more deeply with my ancestors through ritual and ceremony? This transformational research project is a haerenga — a journey — of reconnection with whakapapa, with ancestral relationships, and with Te Moananui a Kiwa: the ocean and her islands from which these relationships emerged.