As with many things, you really had to be there. Once upon a time someone said to me about a work “It’s like the carnival squeezed through this corridor, and didn’t make it, and left a whole bunch of stuff stuck up in the ceiling, in the corners.” I paraphrase, but…. he also said “It’s like you’ve tried to heal the building, and it hasn’t worked, but the healing has become the work.” With ‘The way you have held things’, I did not aim to ‘heal’ people or land in Christchurch, but I did desperately want to make something real, to make something genuine. It has never mattered to me so much what people thought of my work. Because it was about building, structures, shelter. Everything which is most tender in this broken city. The hardest thing was to find the place to speak from. I realised after a good deal of frozen panic, that the place, the places, were my broken places. I may not know the devastation of an earthquake, but I know grief, rage, hope, love. These are the places I worked from. These are the places I spoke from. We watered the ground together.
Show the light and the dark
Bury fabric in the earth
Let it be beautiful and carry the earth in its pockets
I would like to make dark places
And sometimes they are not beautiful, they are real caves
Making open gaps to let the light through
Light through dark earth
How do I hold this?
I realised I was building a palace
I want to make you chandeliers
These are our darkest rooms
It will be shaped like now
My cracking lights
My rage comes from other places, but it is the same rage.
The indomitable spirit of tidying shit up
It is full of holes
Your skeleton sticks out
I want to reach in, I want to say, it is not hopeless
Your time, your words
PAINT ON THE BUILDINGS
We carry everywhere we have been in lumpy sacks
They dug and dug
Scrubbing and scrubbing and it never coming clean
One by one
Try to take out each piece, only as you can,
Only as you can stand it
Do not try to swallow it.
There is a kind of respect in the stacking, and another kind in the throwing
My grief comes from other places, but it is the same, grief.
How to make this?
How to make this.
Images by John Collie, Project part of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, Outer Spaces programme
I’m here, I have arrived.
The taxi driver asked me, so who is that body in your bag? I said, it’s 23kilos exactly, but I should have said, it’s exactly what I need.
I have a poetry book, two silk scarves, peanut butter and green tea. I have perfumed oil, and red thread. I have bread made by my mother, and a gold skirt folded for my sister. I have red books for writing, and pencils in a red box. I have medicines, and shoes, and one long, black, lucky necklace from Africa. I have things for my lips, for my skin, for my fear.
I have my whakapapa, all written down, with blessings. There are some people missing, but I know how to say she is married, she is married, she is married. Whangai koro.
And I have the last feijoas from my parents tree. I brought a plate, and they perfume my room.
I am in the rooftops. I am ready.