Kōhatu Tipua (Supernatural Stones) is a new work by Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka (Ngati Pakau, Ngapuhi). Commissioned by CIRCUIT and Wellington City Council in celebration of Matariki, Kōhatu Tipua is exhibited from 1-29 July on Masons Screen, Wellington.
Shot at Otakamiro Point, Maukatia Bay, Motutara Island and Muriwai, the video combines images of seabird migration with digital weaving and mōteatea (song poetry, traditionally chanted). The work was created by Ruka as both an acknowledgement of ancestral migration and the recent global pandemic. "Matariki is a time of renewal, my ancestors would use this time in winter to take stock and plan pathways for the following seasons. ... This Matariki, coming out of our globally shared experience of a pandemic, we find ourselves in a strange communal space, taking stock and navigating new pathways forward to benefit a different future from the time before."
Ruka describes the work as a "3 verse visual mōteatea film." The focus of the piece is the gannet colony that spans from Motutara Island to Otakamiro Point. Images of native fauna, landscape and seascape are followed by digital weavings of the same scene, which Ruka says "represent the rich tapestry of hidden stories and histories of the past that lie within the landscape and seascape."
Kōhatu Tipua is an acknowledgement of the deep history of the local area. "Muriwai was the location of one of the biggest Pā sites on the West Coast, and is the reason why the work is titled Kōhatu Tipua (supernatural stones). The native forests and ocean were abundant with wild food, and the volcanic soil grew the biggest kumara and healthiest taro—the envy of other local tribes. (This meant continual skirmishes until Ngati Whātua won the land. Eventually it was turned into grazing land and today it is a small village of homes with increasing new divisions pushing ever closer from city suburbs, extensive pine forestry and some regenerating native forest patches that have grown over and hide the tapu (sacred sites) and artefacts of the original inhabitants."
Ruka began working on Kōhatu Tipua just before the level 4 lockdown announcement, and drew comfort from completing the work over the subsequent lockdown periods: "...I became increasingly aware of the comfort I felt connecting to the ancestral stories of the lives lived in this place, in observation of seasonal changes, listening closely to the land and the sea, and finding an increased awareness of the wild spirit that is held within this place."