Waka Huia contributes towards my personal investigation of ‘Jewellery as Pepeha’, this makers search for a craft methodology unique to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Contemporary jewellery is an international applied art genre that self-consciously investigates the wearable object with the body as site and related contexts. My personal practice has developed as an exploration of tūrangawaewae and sense of place, an ongoing response to lived experience in Te Waipounamu/Aotearoa New Zealand.
Pepeha are Māori customary forms of expression that embody cultural perspectives by locating individuals within the landscape and within whakapapa, the genealogical context of eponymous ancestors. Pepeha speak about specific iwi (tribe), hapū (subtribe) and whānau (family) histories, thus they are statements of culture and collective identity from a Māori world view. Whilst far-ranging in form, these phrases may be short but pithy, with the kōrero (narrative) revealing simple wisdoms offering insights into the lives of our ancestors, treasured, carried and retold by us. The potency of pepeha was highlighted thanks to the 2004 Ngai Tahu & Christchurch Arts Festival hui He kōrerorero, a wānanga on Ngāi Tahu pepeha. A focus was born of contemporary jewellery objects functioning like pepeha, that is an unlocking device to a deeper narrative and an identity marker representing ‘we’, not just an ‘I’.
Waka Huia is a treasure trove of precious jewellery objects and narrative, all mementos of lived reality enriched by kōrero. Valued adornments in the waka huia (casket) respond and contribute to diverse dialogues, and an audio CD accompanies each work like an oral history with related spoken accounts (family, friends and colleagues), including my own. Multiple voices and perspectives co-join the treasures of Waka Huia and practice is invigorated with communal insight.