Breaking the glass ceiling

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A collaborative work by:

Jamie Berry (Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi)
Pikihuia Haenga (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Ngātoi Porou)
Leala Faleseuga (Samoan/Salelologa, Dutch)



“This work is guided by the frame of past/present/ future, the rope that reaches back to the ancestors gone before but ever potent, through our present – the here and now, as vast as the whole world or as macro as each passing breath, synapse fire, pulsing vein, and projecting beyond ourselves into the future, the potentiality of generations yet to be, but sure to come. Underpinning this framework is the acknowledgment of Mana Wāhine, its inextinguishable presence throughout the times, even in the face of a great
threat from forces that seek to undermine it, in the past and still today.

In speaking to the past, the work first pays respect to the ancestors that paved the way for us to come forth into this life. It remembers the power of Mana Wāhine from pre-colonial times and grieves the erosion of it that occurred through colonisation. It remembers those Māori women who fought as part of the women’s suffrage movement of the late 1890s, as well as those who wielded their own political power and agency in other arenas too, both small and large. These wāhine operated even in the face of a new hierarchies founded on western patriarchal ideals, that did not value them. It honours the hardship and necessity of having to operate within colonial structures to affect change, even if these structures are not for you, do not see you, nor understand you.

Representations of the present can be found in the video portraits of the participants, Māori and Pasifika women who have come from the legacy of Mana Wāhine who have been affected by colonisation, inequalities, yet have endured still. Together, staring out of the frame, as if staring down the coloniser, challenging the status quo and the inequalities that still exist to this day, for women of colour in Aotearoa. Wage inequality, the glass ceiling, invisible structural barriers, colonised spaces. Struggle still endures,
though so does the resilience.

The audioscape for this work was created using the DNA of Jamie Berry, Leala Faleseuga and Pikihuia Haenga translating the 23rd chromosome (female chromosome) into a musical score. The instruments used include taonga puoro, global indigenous instruments, natural elements - water, birds, forest.” - Artist Statement