1996 - 2018
New Zealand’s Whanganui River is the lifeblood of the Māori. The tribes of Whanganui take their name, their spirit and their strength from this great river, which flows from the mountains of central North Island through to the Tasman Sea. In 1996 I spent 6 months in the middle and upper reaches of the Whanganui River in an area known as the King Country. Here I met Māori who were in the process of reversing the colonisation of their people and returning home to their ancestral land, Mangapapapa on the steep banks of the river inside Whanganui National Park. At the end of my journey I was given a Māori name Pouma Pokai-Whenua. Returning 20 years later to rekindle our spiritual kinship Te Ahi Kā explores the physical and metaphysical relationship between a river and its ancestors, between Māori and myself. Published as a book in November 2018 the narrative is situated within the context of the current Whanganui River Deed of Settlement, Ruruku Whakatupua and the projects led by local iwi to settle historical grievances with the government dating back to the 1870s. At the heart of all this is the Whanganui iwi claim to the river, which is seen as both an ancestor and a source of material and spiritual sustenance. The settlement recognises Te Awa Tupua, Ancestral River as a living being – a person with its own legal rights. It is the first waterway in the world to gain this status.