Mana Rakau | Whau Community Art Project

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

(Image: Digital weavings Raranga Rerenga Rauropi)

Over the last month, I have been working on the community art project Raranga Rerenga Rauropi: Weaving Biodiversity. I filmed natural and wild elements within the Whau a west Auckland district. Dividing the elements into 3 Te Ao Māori concepts Māramatanga enlightenment, Kaitiakitanga guardianship, and Manākitanga respect each pertaining to the regeneration of nga whenua, the land. They are represented by video footage of water, (the whau river), trees/plants (the whau plant) & soil earth in the forest. The aim is to share the work with the whau community through community and private gardens, community centres, and libraries. These visits are documented by image & video and uploaded to an open Facebook group here, where people will be able to share information and images about biodiversity in their own backyards.

(Image: Hope Garden)

Today I went to visit the shared garden in the Avondale community centre, which also happens to be an open art studio too. It is beautiful and inspiring to learn and see how art, community, growing food and environmental kaitiakitanga go hand in hand for many local artists. The first community garden I visited was the home of Charles & Grace of Open Homes NZ they have built an abundant garden that is open to their neighbourhood and the kindness has spread, his neighbours have opened their gardens to grow shared food too. Charles is also an artist creating work within the space and you can view Charles past work here. I'll be sharing more about our collaboration later.

(Image: Hope Garden)

Early this week I visited Hope Garden, a community garden that had been closed but is reopening and run by Amanda who is a part of the Urban Farmers Alliance and Ecomatters. It is their hope to regenerate this small patch of land using natural methods, surrounded by industrial buildings to show as an example of what is possible. Amanda is currently running tests on the soil to establish if there are poisons in the earth. Drains run into the Whau river from the bottom of the garden, into a forest of mangrove trees. While I was there we spoke about the possibilities of workshops that represent the 3 Te Ao Māori concepts. I will also share more about this as and when it evolves.

(Image: Hope Garden)

While visiting the Avondale Shared Community Garden today I spoke to Silvia who told me about their fight to save the local trees. 'Save Canal Road Native Trees group' started when a plot of land was sold with a stand of very old native trees. The developers who purchased the land want to build 32 houses there. This, unfortunately, is happening across Auckland as developers buy land, remove every living tree and shrub in order to squeeze as many houses as possible on to very small lots. The aim is to create a medium density city, modeled after Singapore or Hong Kong. This does not account for climate or environment, in a time when environmental issues are increasing globally viral diseases, to lay the land bare makes absolutely no sense. We see wildlife pushed closer to housing projects and motorways, the death toll along roads of our wild birds paints a sad picture. Science points to this very issue as a propellant of further disease.

If we want to maintain climate, environmental and social health and wellbeing this activity needs to be checked. The Canal Road Trees are a small plot in a suburb in a relatively small city by global standards but it is a prime example of our global environmental issues. This affects our health, wellbeing, and climate.

(Image: Canal Road Trees)

(Image: Canal Road)

The community of Canal Road are well organised, every day they have supporters on-site and they are prepared to keep fighting, you can read the complete history on their website and please do support their cause and sign the petition here.

I haven't even started to document these conversations within the community yet, I will be uploading to the Facebook group here .

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