Swirling Currents Emerge at the Waiapu River Mouth: Lens-Based Witnessing, Documenting and Storytelling of Slow Catastrophes
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This article considers how Indigenous stories and chants can tell us about our ecologies in the time of environmental emergencies. For Ngāti Porou of the lower reaches of the Waiapu river catchment in Te Ika-a-Māui, the North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand), the slow catastrophes of twentieth-century colonial deforestation impacts, introduced pest-induced inland forest collapse and predicted twenty-first-century climate change sea level rise have converged as our most pressing environmental problems. Waiapu is home to Ngāti Porou Tūturu, coastal fishing people who value their relationships with fish species, notably kahawai. The mōteatea chant form acts as a guide to my photographic and moving image practice to visualize and voice the slow catastrophe of the river. In this article, I discuss how the Ngāti Porou mōteatea He Tangi mo Pāhoe, which reveals nineteenth-century ecological knowledge, particularly of fish species, is reimagined as a moving image visual mōteatea. Through reframing the threats as the current faces of our ancestors, this article proposes a shift in thinking from vulnerability into resilience.