Te ao hou

KURA: Embodied Mana Wahine – Donna Campbell at RAMP Gallery, Hamilton 20 Feb – 1 March


Seasons turn and tides change, rearrange the strange fictions and retell the stories… burn away the deadening to make way for new growth.

I haven’t written in ages, you’ll already know that.

But what you won’t know is that everything has changed.

I’ve been sheltering storms in a cocoon, under the fullest moon making myself anew. I can speak fluently in my native tongue now, i te reo Māori. It is something I have yearned for my whole life, and now that my language has infiltrated my whole body I feel that I am reborn.

I am a different person to the person I was and as I sit in my office looking at the many images and memories of my past, it is easy to see the long-held aspiration for mana motuhake. I am a different person. I am not broken anymore.

Sway, like the trees in the breeze, like throngs in the midst of a song long loved by all, the fall came, I cracked, I died and was buried. In the soil our mother encrusted me in salt and the weight of her heavy heaving heart crushed my soul into a river of the dead. I intermingled with the multitudes of dearly departed divas, dapper dandy’s, daddies, daughters, devils, demons, decrepit degenerates all. We eddied and pooled in the push and pull of sorrow until our well-worn worries disintegrated into dreams of desires unheard of.

Yes, I have my own office. I have pinned collected colours to the wall, surrounding myself with the work already done. It all signals the journey, ka hīkoi au ki te tino moemoeā nui, ko te whainga nui o tōku nohonga i te ao nei. Māku e aroā nei i tōku tino aronga, ka uru atu au ki korā, hei whangai, hei āki, ōtira, hei mahi. Kei te ora tonu ahau.

This is day 5 of my new job. I completed my year long immersion reo Māori program the week before last, and then after a few days rest during which I celebrated by 43rd birthday and my nephew Taumauri’s 21st, I have turned to the rest of my life. Mā tāku mahi hou, ka riro māku e kimi nei i ngā huarahi pai mō nga tauira takatāpui nāna rātou ka haere mai ako ai i te Whare Wānanga o Waikato. The University of Waikato had created a new permanent position for someone to develop and implement diversity strategies that can enhance the wellness of all students and staff, in particular supporting those who live gender and sexuality diverse lives. I have a blank canvas on which to begin painting my vision of hope. Because it is a new position, it is for me to apply my expertise. It is for me to decide the best ways forward. The past week has been amazing, people are very eager to meet me and discuss their ideas and I realise that I have never been alone in my thoughts and hopes for peace. I can do this work, it was created for me to fulfill

I have begun to upload as much of my past artwork that I can find to this space. Over the past year I invested all of my creative energy into te akonga o te reo Māori nei. I will write in the future about the positive aspects of learning to reo Māori, to debunk the myth that it has little value in today’s world. Ki tāku nei whakaaro, it is a language that can help heal people today so that we may work together to heal our mother Papatūānuku. The language is so embodied, when I speak now my whole body vibrates with positive energy. It has been good to look at the memories and acknowledge how much work I have done. Now that I have filled my empty heart, I have the energy to make again and in the coming months I will create works for exhibitions which have been funded. In the 15 years of my creative practice these are the first instances where I have received public funding to make art. I have never needed money to make powerful and beautiful art, but I am excited to see what can happen with a budget.

The work I have been doing is wholly spiritual, although it manifests i te whai ao, the physical world. I am going somewhere that I cannot perceive, but it is a warm place filled with aroha.

Peace be the journey xxx