In celebration of Indigenous community & the Indigenous future-pasts we are remembering, living, conjuring.
I am documenting the living whakapapa of my own Sovereign elders, friends, whānau, mentors & loves as they intersect with and are reflected by me. To see ourselves, Mana-ful(l).
An archive of the guides, visionaries, pioneers, protectors, nurturers and healers in this community, the messengers among us - people I spend time with, who I learn from & grow with, who I know & love.
These are our affirmations. This is our love. These are my//our Kaitiaki. This is our Sovereign Reflection.
When I sit with Whaea Irene and I ask her what it would be like;
a day-in-the-life in the world she dreams of for her mokopuna; she tells me, ‘we have many of them.’
And the resonance of her words melt down my chest, from the base of my throat to my lower back.
‘It’s a feeling. Where everything feels green.’
She calls this future-past world back into my body from somewhere else. Yes, I know the feeling well Whaea, I just needed to listen.
This is where it happens/ed. Nga mihi x
ID1: A portrait of Whaea Irene in front of a harakeke/flax bush. Her face is in profile and her silver hair falls in waves over her shoulder. A slight smile passes her lips. She wears a black top.
ID2: Whaea Irene appears amongst the harakeke, in the right third of the image, peering through the leafy lengths, leaning over to harvest from them. Her arms reach down and her Tā moko/traditional Māori tattoo is visible down her front arm. She wears a black top.
ID3: Whaea Irene stands side on to the camera carrying a bundle of harakeke over her shoulder, her tattooed arm in front, grasping the bundle. The harakeke covers her face but she looks over it towards us. In the left of the image is a tree trunk with amber and white bark peeling away, and in the background, bush. She wears a black top.
ID4: A portrait of Whaea Irene carrying a bundle of harakeke over her shoulder. In the background is bush and to the right slightly, a harakeke bush. Whaea’s face is determined, lips pursed and staring into the camera. Her hair is plaited back and slung over the other shoulder. She wears a black top.
Over weeks, Nimikii and I sat across from each other - her at night and me in the morning, or me at night and her in the morning - smiling at each other across the ocean of the internet, me usually in a robe, still half asleep. In summer and in winter, halfway across the world - Kulin and (please insert the lands you were on when we were calling each other) Countries, respectively. It’s mid-lockdown so most interactions are happening this way, but for Nimikii and I, this is our main way of staying connected regardless. We agree, zoom sucks and the lack of energy exchange is draining, but it’s so good to see each other’s faces and hear each other laugh that it’s overlooked.
We joke about the ‘risk taking’ nature of loving spicy foods, read poetry, talk about the importance of intergenerational connections, the beauty of community arts and hold space for each other's anxieties.
When it came time to capture my beautiful friend in portrait, I sat in my room and watched her through the screen, trudge into the snow outside her cabin at the crack of dawn. The internet connection was failing and the image was grainy but laughter and beauty are things we can find together, anywhere. Nimikii gets so enthusiastic in her moving, finding interesting things for me to capture, that she starts scooping and throwing snow into the air. She dances in the snow, she laughs, she smiles, she moves - freely. I watch her be free, and it makes me smile. This is the playful essence in her that humbles and enlivens me. From one young Sovereign to another - It is such an honour, privilege and joy - to know her joy, her mana, her radiance. Miigwetch, sister. Your ‘being’ is precious. xXx
ID1: A landscape shot of Nimikii, in the centre of the frame, who crouches in the snow, a row of trees with naked branches in silhouette behind her. One arm is raised behind her with a clawed hand and the other hand pressed to her chest and elbow pointing out. Her chest is open and head tilted back as though she is looking skyward. She wears black pants and a blue and black puffer jacket.
ID2: A landscape shot of Nimikii, in the left of the image, crouching in the snow with a row of trees with naked branches in silhouette behind her. She stares into the camera with a centred, knowing expression on her face, elbows rested on her knees. She wears black pants and a blue and black puffer jacket.
ID3: A closeup (head and torso) landscape shot of Nimikii, lying in profile to the camera. Behind her is a row of trees with naked branches in silhouette. She looks up, her top arm crossing her body and disappearing out of shot.
ID4: A landscape shot of Nimikii, standing right of centre and balanced on one leg. Her raised leg extends out in front of her and her arms stretch to either side as she leans back, head facing to the sky. A row of trees with naked branches appear in silhouette behind her.
S. she/they. Sāmoa - Vailele, Solosolo. Tonga - Taoa, Neiafu, Pea,Talafo’ou. Scotland - Leamnachd, An t-Eilean Muileach
K. he/they. Ireland - Tipperary. Kuki Airani - Rarotonga, Mitiaro. Tahiti. Sāmoa. Ukraine (stepfather)
Amidst lockdown, I receive the news that relatively new, yet very dear friends of mine are making their return to the islands. They are heading to Aotearoa at first opportunity, on their way back to their respective islands of Tonga, Samoa and Mitiaro, Rarotonga. We now sit before each other, in Footscray, in the summer. One of few times we’ll see each other before they leave for home.
These two hold the space between them like their ancestors inhabit the particles. I watch and listen as they navigate each other, me and the questions I bring forward with grace, intention, sensitivity and love.
Relationality is a dance; this I notice in the paces, formations and proximities when we walk, the palpable awareness of a shared presence in our bodies as we sit, the tonal shifts and acknowledgements in our voices and the subtle observation and consideration in our eyes. This awareness extends out into the environment we are held by in that moment and beyond.
A deep consideration underpins the essence of these two, in every word and exchange they offer. As I write this piece, I wonder how to do justice to their wairua with my words. The best way I can articulate what I feel is by acknowledging - beautiful friends, thank you for finding me. Thank you for following your call and in doing so, reminding me of mine. Before you return to your lands, know that your lands have already returned to you. I can feel it.
ID1: A landscape image in which Sibylla and Kyle stand knee deep in the Ocean looking out to sea. Sibylla, dressed in a cream linen jumpsuit with hair out and flowing in the breeze, stands arms outstretched. Kyle, a little forward and to the left of her is partially obscured by her arms but it appears he has his hands in his pockets, body slightly turned toward her. He is dressed in a light, white button up, with sleeves rolled to mid forearm, and jean shorts. The water ripples all around them, rocks poking out of the ocean mainly to their left.
ID2: A landscape image of Sibylla and Kyle positioned around large orange and black rocks and beachfront shrubbery. Sibylla, dressed in a cream linen jumpsuit, leans back to sit on a lower rock, body angled to the left of the camera but gazing directly to the camera. Her hair is caught in a breeze, suspended to her left. Kyle, dressed in a light, white button up, with sleeves rolled to mid forearm, and jean shorts, sits on a higher rock to Sibylla’s right, mirroring Sibylla’s positioning. The blue sky is expansive behind them.
ID3: A landscape image of Sibylla and Kyle standing in front of the Ocean. Sibylla, dressed in a cream linen jumpsuit with hair out and flowing in the breeze, is in the foreground to the right and Kyle, dressed in a light, white button up, with sleeves rolled to mid forearm, and jean shorts, is at her left shoulder, slightly more backgrounded. They both stare into the camera intently. Rocks, sand and ocean lie behind them.
ID4: A landscape image of Sibylla and Kyle positioned around large orange and black rocks and beachfront shrubbery. Sibylla, dressed in a cream linen jumpsuit, leans back to sit on a rock, body angled to the left of the camera but gazing to the right. Her hair is caught in a breeze, suspended to her left. Kyle, dressed in a light, white button up, with sleeves rolled to mid forearm, and jean shorts, sits to Sibylla’s left, arms rested on his thighs and mirroring Sibylla’s eyeline. The blue sky is expansive behind them.
Sound description: Opens with a high pitched, slow, wooden, percussive jingling, as though someone were passing wooden chips through their hands. A low drone emerges followed by a tide-like chorus of voices flowing in and out singing something that sounds like ‘eah-eah’ on repeat. This drops out for a brief while and then returns, higher in pitch. Everything drops out except the jingling which slowly fades to the end.
Copyright 2019 - Isabella Wháwhai Waru
All content, images and footage on this site are Copyrighted to Isabella Wháwhai Waru or have otherwise been attributed or permission of use has been granted.
Graphic Design Katie Coogan-Mason © 2019