duration: 9 days, 2 hours each day
"The Performance Arcade: Counter Narratives"; Wellington Waterfront; Wellington, New Zealand. 2018
When I was commissioned to make a new work for The Performance Arcade, the Harvey Weinstein scandal was just unfolding and women all over the world were breaking their silence on male violence and predation.
Where women have often been historically and systematically disbelieved – dismissed as hysterical, manipulative and dishonest – the #MeToo movement signaled the rise of an epic counter-narrative: Women's stories.
Amid the tsunami of #MeToo revelations, I came across this myth of the Tuhoe people of the Maori: Haumapuhia was betrayed and drowned in a spring by her own father. Face-down with her long black hair undulating in the foaming waters, the force of her thrashing formed the arms and inlets of the great Lake Waikaremoana.
Spurred by the writings of Lindy West and Tania De Rozario, I decided to create the archetypal image of a wrathful female spirit – wild-haired and white-gowned – floating face-down in the sea for the duration of the festival. And in the spirit of The Furies – the three goddesses of vengeance who hound the wicked to madness – voices of women* roar from the watery depths of Wellington Harbour.
Anchored by my torso to the seabed meant that I bobbed non-stop on the choppy surface (windy Wellington, indeed), often entangled in the wig/costume whilst engulfed in great gelatinous masses of salps for approximately twenty hours in total. The physical experience was so intense that it was I – ironically – who was driven nearly to distraction.
*The thrice-layered aural incantation comprised the spellbinding poems of Tania De Rozario, Nic Campeotto, Emily Blewitt, Malika Booker, Allie Kerr, Jodie Ashdown, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Francoise Harvey, and Devon-Miller Duggan.
Amelia Jones, writer in residence at Live Press, and Virginia Kennard reflect on Haumapuhia Rising.
Special thanks to freedivers Liv Philip, Chris Marshall, Shelley Gurney, Julia Cunneen, Bradley De Swardt, Ben Jeffares, and Sam Trubridge for keeping me safe and untangled.
Costume by the nonpareil Annika-N.
photos by: Amelia Jones, Rebecca Patrick, Sam Trubridge, and John Conly.