Richard Orjis’ film brings together a range of short clips from the artist’s phone, filmed at Hiruhārama / Jerusalem on the Whanganui River. The footage is overlaid with a spoken narration of site-specific histories and reflections on intimacy, pleasure and control. Grounded in queer ecological thought, the work acknowledges the world’s complex interconnectedness with a persistent desire to challenge, resist and disrupt dominant norms and expectations.
The film weaves the story of the French Catholic nun—Mother Aubert to the Ngāti Hau river settlement of Hiruhārama in 1883. Aubert was a nurse, herbalist and educator who is thought to have cultivated the first cannabis crop in Aotearoa. As the twentieth century progressed, the river bore witness to the formation of a commune in the late 1960s and the legal and attitudinal shifts towards bodily autonomy and personal freedoms. In 2017 the Whanganui River gained human legal status over its own body at the signing of Te Awa Tupua.