Lisa Reihana & James Pinker
Nomads of the Sea
Nomads of the Sea, 2019. 4-channel 3D UHD video: multi-channel audio, steel, lighting installation with sculptural components, 19 minutes; dimensions variable. Installation view: Sharjah Biennial 14, Sharjah Art Foundation, 2019. Co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and Creative New Zealand, Nga Aho Whakaari, Te Taura Whiri Maori Language Commission and Jan Warburton Charitable Trust. Co-produced by Artprojects, Reihanamations Ltd, Fala Media. Courtesy of the artist and Artprojects. Photo: Sharjah Art Foundation
Nomads of the Sea weaves historical fact with fiction, connecting the tale of a pakeha (Western/English) female mutineer, Charlotte Badger; with Puhi, a proud woman of Ngā Puhi descent. Charlotte lives under the protection of the Māori Chief Huri Waka, however she is caught between Huri Waka and Puhi who is jealous of her rising status. Why would a Māori Chief welcome a fugitive, the first European woman, into his tribal homelands? Charlotte is a survivor and Puhi is ambitious, but they must both prove their value in the early days of colonization when intermarriage, trading and the procurement of muskets was seen as essential to the survival of Māori society. Between insults and blows, the story of these two women is revealed - it is an unborn child that becomes trade and payment for ultimate survival.
As I’m of mixed race, the circumstances of the very first child of both Māori and British descent, appeals to me. The story slips between a masculine and feminine voice, as experiences from 1800’s New Zealand are narrated. As a musket is raised, we learn about Pakeha Māori - Europeans who were adopted and co-opted by Māori to increase prowess, gain strategic ability and ultimately to counteract the spread of western dominance and power. He wai ngunguru, the centre-piece of this installation, explores the cultural circumstances for women during the early nineteenth century, contrasting European law with Māori culture and morality. Lisa Reihana
In ‘Nomads of the Sea’ the traditional role of women in Aotearoa as matriarch, owner of property and spiritual custodian is contested with the arrival of a favoured escaped convict and the material wealth of the colonizing junks of England. Reihana gives insight to the valuing of a musket as synonymous with a female body, revealing the social tension between cultural leadership, spiritual custom and egotistical desire in the face of foreign political challenge. This 3D immersive installation is narrated via ‘Storyteller’, a mythical figure that guides recall of the past via oral, performed and written histories. Zoe Butt