Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The coastline and I

My son brings me a heart stone.Bright green leaves and little black seeds. Does anyone know what this plant is?

Tide lines along the shore.
A wee picture drawn in the sand with flotsam.
A foreigner, this plastic green frog is washed up, smooth and worn by the sea.
A nest created by the tide of seaweed, driftwood and debri.
I love the formations of the rocks, the way the tide has created channels and small pockets for the sea to leave behind small offerings.
Like this button. (I now have a big stash of buttons found along my shore waiting for a project brainwave - any ideas?).Sunset from the south end of the beach.
The kids love clambering over the rocks. This is their playground. My quiet son reluctantly stands still for a photo.
As a textile girl, I love the textures I find along the beach and amongst the rocks. These sights and the feelings they evoke, are probably similar to what most people feel when they see their childhood home. This is what I remember of my turangawaewae -my homelands.

A giant heart stone lies nestled in the sand.
My kids are at home here.

At the south end of the beach, at certain tides, and if one is fortunate enough, a petrified forest emerges from the tides. This is the first time I have seen it. Here is a trunk of a what must have been a giant tree.
These two trunks look like partially submerged hippo's.
This trunk is up along the shore line. The colours and textures of it draw me in. It must be like Mother Nature's skirts, all mottled and worn by time and the elements reminding me of Mary Oliver's poem "Sleeping in the Forest" ...
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts,
her pockets full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before,
a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me,
the insects,and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom.
By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better.
And as the tide recedes more of the forest is revealed.
The boatsheds - Titahi Bay.
The view from the top of our street. I have always liked the drape of the power lines, because although intrusive to the spectacular vista of the ocean, they are also a pertinent reminder of man's relationship with his environment.
And now to my latest piece of work. This complex cloth is about 2m wide and 1m deep. It consists of fabrics made from silk, and cotton muslin, all dyed with plants from my environment here in Porirua and hand stitched together to form a type of Pacific cloth influenced by my love of Hiapo and other bark cloths of the Pacific. This is my first attempt at sewing and the hand stitching is taking HOURS. Still this is my second piece of serious work that evolves from my love of my country, my own personal relationship with the coastline and the feelings that evokes as I share that now with my sons.
For ease, I have attached it to a weaving frame that winds around, leaving me with 'a new page' each time to record something. I do love to make things that are evocative of places and memories that are precious to me. This is also the first in a series of works that will be taonga for our future generations, celebrating their unique heritage.

So I figured if I was gonna stitch, then I better learn some embroidery stitches. Self taught from a book at the library, this little sampler took me a night to muddle through.


Ever since I was a small child, I have lived near a coastline. The few times I didn't I felt it. Pined for it in fact. Much as I love nature, the forest, rivers, lakes and countryside just don't move me quite as much as being at the beach. It is my spiritual place. I feel close to God here. And recently I started to think a bit more deeply about why this is so, and about the shoreline itself.

The coastline calls to me, it beckons one down to investigate it's shoreline and see what treasures the latest tide has surrendered. Driftwood, shells, smooth worn bits of glass and plastic, a forgotten shoe, bits of nets, hooks, lines and other flotsam. Seaweed, jellyfish, crabshells all wait patiently for their ride back home when the tide turns.

Ever notice how the tide is constantly changing the coastline. Wild storms cleanse the beach, sweep it clean and change the direction of the streams that feed onto the beach. Stone banks will suddenly disappear only to appear again at the south end of the beach. Full moon low tides create a wide sand path, sand bars appear, while high tides leave a sliver of sand for the keen to tread.

I do not wish to be on the sea. Boat rides leave me queasy and unsettled as I sit upon the huge force of the ocean. But the relationship between the land and sea intrigues me. I like to observe the sea from the safety of land. See how the sea influences my beloved place, carving it out intricate patterns then replenishing it anew.

It reminds me of the push and pull of the cultures in this land where I live - Maori and Pakeha. Of how each is unique, strong in it's own way. Each needs the other, yet constantly fears being overwhelmed by the other. Like strong siblings. At times one will assert itself only to be reminded of it's place by the other. My own sense of being Maori has always been infringed upon by the superior culture in this country which feels it has a right to let me know my place - from denying me the right to study Te Reo Maori as a high school student, to even know feeling that I am being used as a political weapon in places where I currently walk.

People talk of equality but again even that is often defined by someone else. If you walk around my part of town, you will see that generations of oppression have taken their toll. My mothers generation were not taught their language and culture for fear of disadvantaging their children. So she didn't get it, and I had no chance as a kid. Then I put my kids into the state system because the Maori schools looked disorganised and were seen as the 'illigetimate' system. There, but not taken seriously.

Still at home, I speak every Maori word I know, I sing waiata and when they were little I taught my sons how to haka (war dance). My oldest has spent much time with his fathers' Pacific Island nanny and uncles, and so he sees himself as a Pacific Islander more than Maori. My youngest is keen on anything Maori. It will be interesting to see how number three turns out.
Culture is key for me. It is what makes us all interesting. It defines what we believe, value and live. It is not everything. I am not saying we should be exclusive because that's just ridiculous. I just love my country and my own unique flavour within it.
Porirua, this city I live in is wonderful. Everywhere I walk for the first time in my life, there are lots of people who look like me and talk like I do. We eat the same food, listen to the same music and live whakawhanaungatanga. That's about family, a 'we' not 'I' mentality. Where the good of the community is as vital as individuality. And that is important to me. I respect not everyone wants this, but I sure do.
Everytime I think of moving, I realise my sons don't feel 'different' here. Here they are normal. Not 'coons'. Not made to feel inferior. I do remember trying to put talcum powder on my face to make me paler when I was at high school. Making sure I didn't look different from the other girls who all had new things all the time.
My life is balanced here. We have a reasonable standard of living because the rent is low. The markets are a gathering place on Saturday mornings of sights and smells and sounds of Polynesia. Gang members come down to get their kai moana for breakfast hang overs, the mama's sell donuts, the fishmongers display the morning catch, the asian section with fruit and veg, the music stalls pump out the sounds of Pacific reggae.
I had the pleasure of taking a friend Trisha on a tour of my Porirua last Friday. She met the Vaine tini ladies in Cannons Creek and learned a new stitch as well. We then went to Trash Palace and down to Pataka, our local art gallery for a coffee. A quick stroll along the shore here in Titahi Bay ended a very long but wonderful day together.
I am proud of this place. It has a bad reputation elsewhere but you can only see it's beauty if you live here and live amongst the people. It's hidden, concealed and like the shoreline's treasures, will only reveal itself upon closer investigation..


mormar said...

That is a beautiful post.

ArtPropelled said...

Beautiful reflective post and I love the fibre artwork you are creating. I catch a glimpse of who you are in that piece.

india flint said...

hey Rachelle...haven't time to rummage through my books at the minute BUT i will bring them when I come in August (now have 4 books on various forms of plantlife in Aotearoa) so we can find that plant (if no-one else spots it in the meantime). looks a little like a form of coprosma (same family as rauriko) but the fruits seem a different colour
meanwhile your lovely post is helping to build excitement for my next hop across the ditch that separates us...

jude said...

thank you for leaving a comment on my blog, your son is beautiful and so are your photos, your words and your stitching...

carole brungar said...

Hi Rach! Great to see you back blogging! I think the plant you're looking for is a native hibiscus. If I'm right you'll find the little black seeds are great for dying, they stain like crazy!
:D carole

A bird in the hand said...

I don't know how I found you, but your "heart" has touched mine.
You write beautifully and soulfully, and being a stitcher myself, I really appreciate your gorgeous work.

Colette in Canada

Gabriela said...

Your blog is wonderful! It is a great joy to learn about where you are and your great culture!
Your work is fab!

juliaD said...

This post brought tears to my eyes...I am a Pakeha born in New Zealand( now living in Melbourne), but don't feel New Zealand is my home country as that sense of ownership and heritage (I feel) belongs to the Maori people.
My family ancestors ( I am a second generation NZer), came from England and Yugoslavia, but I don't feel connected to those countries either because I was not born there or grew up there...so I dont feel connected or feel I belong anywhere...I love what you say about how you live in community where you are and how that feels right for you. I don't have those feelings where I live now. So even though there is such a dichotomy from your veiw of who you are and how you are treated in your own country, you still seem to be having a better quality of life because of your sense of belonging.....Thank you for sharing such deep and wise words..xx...Julia