MAHITAHI

Audiovisual work in development during 2019.

mahitahi_map.jpg
[...] where rimu rainforest meets the sea. The beach was previously the highway for the first Maori inhabitants in New Zealand. The area is significant for its Maori history. Maui, the great Polynesian explorer, first landed at Mahitahi (Bruce Bay). Hence the local Marae is named Te Tauraka Waka a Maui (the landing place of Maui’s waka).

(also known as) Bruce Bay is named after the PS Bruce, a paddle steamer that travelled the coast bringing the early goldminers and explorers to these shores.
— Wikipedia 'Bruce Bay'

Mahitahi beach has a striking dualism between the tall rimu rainforest trees standing tall and the crashing waves reaching across towards them. The stillness on the right and the movement of the left - from left to right a motion, that is halted. When I first photographed this section of beach, I had no idea of its significance.

The overlapping Māori history and the more recent Pākehā one (as renaming), both include vessels carrying different visitors however;
”In 1840, Lieutenant William Hobson, following instructions of the British government, pronounced the southern island of New Zealand to be uninhabited by civilized peoples, which qualified the land to be terra nullius, and therefore fit for the Crown's political occupation.”
Being of strong cultural significance of Makaawhio, the local Māori iwi, the renaming of place by gold-seeking colonisers is awkward, clumsy and embarrassing which underlines the common and recurrent white-colonial concept of terra-nullius (‘nobody’s land’), the place was already named and occupied, but was no of interest to the next wave of visitors.

Maui (a ‘second wave’ explorer, the ‘first wave’ being Aotearoa’s inhabitants before Māori, decendents of Lapita) had landed here while exploring the southern oceans ~ 100AD. It is said that the first human occupants of Aotearoa also landed at this same shoreline (Oceanic Migration, Pearce). This same landing place would occured due to global ocean currents (in this case the Australian Eastern current) that drew vessels to the same points, making this section of shoreline one of the longest inhabited areas of Aotearoa. Maui never claimed to have discovered the South Island and that he claimed no land rights to it.

The beach has a powerful energy present not only in the proof of the cyclic process of the trees and the ocean interacting, wood, earth/sand and water. The waves crashing against the shoreline echo the waves of migration to Aotearoa. The cycle is slow, and of many factors. The Pākeha wave however, was more ignorant, destructive and exploitative than others.

Between is a strip of beach littered with rocks and previously fallen trees that have been taken by the ocean and left back there by the high tide. The pile is added to by other trees washing down from the deeper rainforest via the Mahitahi river whose mouth opens to the sea to the right of frame.

The native bush is right up the ocean shore. It looks like a stand-off in some sort of gentle battle. The eeriness of this beach comes from the contrast in motion and stillness, and the composition heavier on the right than the left.

While researching the history of this significant piece of shoreline, I am wanting to interrogate my language and knowledge around discussing waves of migration compared to Pākehā colonisation.

To develop and complete this work I will be re-shooting with a wider lens from a tripod (no movement) - the original video was shot very spontaneously with very little gear at hand, the sound recorded became corrupted so I was left with camera only audio, so I will also be recording new audio from multiple locations along the shore line. The output should be a 2 channel video work, a diptych accompanied by a 4 channel (stereo option) soundscape comprised of field recordings and sonic transmutations (sound responses) from the site along with accompanying photo book and text.