Parihaka Kuia Maata Wharehoka and Tracey Benson collaborated to create a body of work for the Puanga Kai Rau Festival in 2019. The festival celebrates the rise of the star Puanga (Rigel) which marks the beginning of the Māori new year on the west coast of Aotearoa. The working title of their ongoing collaboration is The Silence: Puanga.
Maata and Tracey first met in 2015, when SCANZ2015 participants visited Parihaka to learn about cultural contexts for water. Tracey was very drawn to Maata’s work – especially her incredible efforts in reinvigorating Māori cultural practices around death and burial. The process is known as Kahu Whakatere and is based on traditional Māori beliefs, uses a waka or transporter made of natural wood, rather than a coffin. The body is also wrapped in a kopaki (mat) which is made from harakeke (flax).
In The Silence: Puanga, the artists explore time, the universe, place and story. The narrative threads which connect to our respective ancestors which we explored:
- the Three ketes (baskets) of knowledge
- connections to the Norse universe through stories related to the Nine worlds and Yggdrasil (the world tree), and
- the Nine elements of the Druids
We used a range of media including weaving, photography/videography, blogging and bookmaking to develop a body of work for the festival in 2019.