Essays, Articles & other Longform Texts

Excerpt from untangling the aho

written as part of tupuranga journal's mentorship programme by Objectspace with the support of essa may ranapiri  

published in Tupuranga journal issue lua: a whole New World, 2020

Have you ever stood on a prickle patch in midsummer, caught

halfway between burning hot asphalt and burning hot sand? You know, like, a full sole-down

flat-foot fall into the grass so that all the tiny thorns dig in why are there always so many and grab

your skin? And you have to do that awkward swearing fuck-shit-fuck hop to remove them.

Did you blame the plant for its sting, or your foot for falling there?

It’s hard to grow a different skin, one that doesn’t catch the spikes and spines so easily. It stays

so new and tender for so long. Better to look before stepping better not to step at all instead.

Stumbling on the reo feels like a midsummer prickle-fall but the sea is right there waiting

at the edges of the grass.

 

 

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Potawatomi botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer recounts time as the sea itself, “its tides that appear and disappear, the fog that rises to become rain in a different river.” She reminds us that “all things that were will come again.” Are we all just trying to return to the sea? The sea that is time, the sea that is itself and only itself, the sea that holds the memory of our scattered tongues on the swell and pull of every wave

 

like how my name comes from the Hebrew ארי for lion, or gatherer of food, and found me by way of a sprite in a Shakespeare play about a colonised island

     and yet when I learned more of my whakapapa recently I saw the fragments of my name stretch

    back and back in time, Te Ari, Te Ari, Te Ari, to be clear, visible, evident, the eleventh night of the

                                                                 moon, a name I never knew had been passed on to me.

 

These things happen even when we aren’t looking the sea is right there waiting

at the edges of what we know.

[...]

Excerpt from thread box 

commissioned by Objectspace for The Single Object At Home series 

published on Objectspace journal 2020

All through my childhood, this box of threads sat close at hand. Its designated shelf space was next to the tartan-print biscuit tin filled with buttons, on top of piles of cotton muslin, wool felt, and the rare silvery scrap or two of silk. I don’t remember the exact moment the box became “mine” instead of my mother’s. I never thought about where it came from because it was always there. As I grew older I dipped into it at will, experimenting with stitches, mending rips and tears, reattaching buttons to old shirts; finally taking the box with me when I moved away from home (where it found it a new place on a new shelf).

 

I only learned recently that before it belonged to me, or to my mother, it belonged to my grandmama, Faith Walker (née Muldoon: she grew up in the prairie of Saskatchewan, Canada, but was very proud of her Irish roots). The threads were a gift from Grandmama’s dressmaker sister Bonnie, via Bonnie’s Scottish mother-in-law. It must have been sometime in the 40s or 50s, after Grandmama’s ocean-crossing between Canada and the UK – the oldest threads inside still all come from Scotland. 

[...]

[...] "That’s such an incredible experience, meeting your tupuna through Te Whare Pora, in dream space. I keep coming across these words or works or stories that talk to how museums, archives so rarely hold the voices of our tuupuna waahine. We have to turn to other forms of memory to speak with them. I’m reminded of all the times I’ve stumbled only to find myself guided. Working with threads, there feels like... similar to muscle memory but deeper, my fingers seem to know how the fibres should move and twist and knot even when I’ve never done this mahi before. And it’s so humbling, as soon as my brain or ego get in the way I lose it again, because it isn’t just me working. It feels like the lines of tuupuna, generational memory working through me, histories of weaving all layered up in now. And it might last only a moment, that certainty, but it’s a moment across time."

[...]

On a residency last September, artist and artisan Arielle Walker explored the historic colours and textures of northern Iceland.

I’m in the hum of late afternoon sun, standing in fields of golden grass as rivers of sheep pour down around me from the surrounding hills. The light is surreal, almost too perfect, and I can’t help but feel as though someone has crafted this moment to look exactly like Iceland is supposed to look – as though I’ve stepped into a photograph. For many, Iceland exists on the border of reality and dream, history and myth, but actually standing here now it’s impossible to be anything but present.

September–October is the time of the réttir (sheep round-up) in northern Iceland. Our small group of residents at Textílsetur Íslands – the Icelandic Textile Center – has been invited to join in this annual gathering. It’s a huge part of why I decided to come to Iceland in September, even though the dye plants are starting to fade and harsh winds already picking up in anticipation of the long winter ahead.

Although the concept of the réttir is simple, its complicated execution has been perfected over centuries of tradition. After spending the summer wandering free in the highlands, 20,000 sheep and lambs are gathered in a community effort by local farmers on horseback. The sheep are slowly, slowly brought back down from the mountains, the riders setting pace to ensure the animals don’t become stressed or exhausted. When they finally reach the lowlands, the sheep are herded into rétts (enormous round pens) where the farming families begin the days-long process of sorting out which sheep belong to which farm. I notice many are wearing hand-knit lopapeysur (iconic yoked Icelandic wool sweaters) despite the sunshine – I’ve brought my own partially finished lopapeysa along, still tucked away on cable needles, and wish I’d finished it in time to wear it too. Not that there is much time for knitting during a réttir: my fellow residents and I are attempting to help Jóhanna Pálmadóttir, director of Textílsetur, find her family’s sheep. We are welcomed with laughter and good cheer, even though our clumsy attempts are surely more hindrance than help. 

[...]