Living Alongside Mauao: A Photographic Honouring of the Whenua

Douglas, Heidi
Amundsen, Fiona
Boberg, Ingrid
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Master of Visual Arts
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Auckland University of Technology

This research project is an ongoing photographic representation of my deepening relationship with whenua2 as a first-generation immigrant. Identifying as tauiwi, or non-Indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand, I acknowledge the decolonising process that must occur in my mindset to adapt to my adopted homeland. Using the lens as a witnessing device, I examine relationships between myself and the maunga, Mauao, near where I live in Te Moana-a-Toi (the Bay of Plenty). This friendship, of sorts, between myself and Mauao has lent a familiarity and given me immense comfort. Mauao was a stable, omnipresent hoa as I settled and raised a family in Aotearoa New Zealand. I search for and photographically capture the events I recognise as changes on the maunga. These changes either result from colonial interference and long-term damage or are brought about through acts of reparation. Through photographic reportage and written letters, I document the changing relationship I have with the country I have adopted as an immigrant. This project aims to honour Mauao for its friendship over the years by witnessing the process of repairing specific sites on the maunga. The letters and the photographic images represent significant beginnings towards taking care of and valuing the whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand. I privilege the value of healing the past while looking to care for the future and honour the relationship which has grown between me and the maunga; me and my adopted homeland.

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