Te Teko (2009- ) is part of an on-going work referencing my whanau (family) and our tangata whenua (people of the land), in the small, predominantly Maori populated town of the same name in Aotearoa New Zealand. A personal series, which began soon after the death of my father some 12 years ago, is rooted in my exploration of our tipuna, (ancestors) whakapapa (genealogy) and the takaoraoratanga (conflict) my father and the generations before us faced.
Continuing this korero (conversation) through my photographs has become essential to my work. It’s important for these stories to be shared and understood.
Te Teko is a powerful community and symbolic of indigenous cultures universally who continue to struggle with loss and hope from the aftermath of historic land theft.
This project draws strongly on the complexity of colonialism in Aotearoa New Zealand, The Raupatu, (land theft) consequences of dislocation and assumes norms that are referenced from history, memory, whenua (land) and my own relationship with whanau (family) and Te Teko today.
I continue to learn about my tupuna (ancestors) as I reflect the life around me and the world I grew up in as a Pakeha Maori, wahine (woman).
The whenua (land) is the life force of the Ngati Awa People. For a people whose land is both spiritual and functional, the lingering impact and consequences of colonial land confiscation are still so visible and felt today, over 150 years later.
By understanding the past we can understand the present and look towards a future with progressive ideals.
She Once Said
Herstory, although widely used now, was prompted by one of my feminist slogan stickers positioned loudly on my diary in 1985. I was also in the first intake of feminist studies at Canterbury university, Aotearoa New Zealand. We were sick of History. He was everywhere. The he's who were given a voice for many a thought and many an action.
Herstory gives voice to those of us in between. Those of us who would like to be heard, even if quietly, as we move through uncharted territory.
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Redemption (2012) is an exploration of the historic idea centred around female sin but was first a response to an environment I stumbled across, while on a solo road trip, in New Zealand. Quite by accident I came across a convent house, rich with history, and founded by Sister Aubert who housed illegitimate children. I’m not a religious person but there was something powerful about this very ‘female’ environment that has been untouched for decades.
Through both feminism and femininity Redemption explores the historic idea of female energy, sin, temptation and the desire to not deny one’s own limitations which was once considered outgrowths of ‘feminine character.’ Historically many religions believe that women ‘apparently’ did not face the same temptations as men.
Free from others for one’s own self-definition; Self-centredness, and self-identity can be considered the very essence of one’s soul, power and liberation. Themes I am perpetually drawn to.
This is Not The Red Carpet
I observed this phenomenon during the Cannes Film Festival in 1992 in disbelief. The unequal power relationship between men and women on full display in broad daylight was a microcosm of the wider world. The dominant culture was still clearly deaf to the cries of Feminism.
I returned in 1993, a pregnant young mother, determined to turn my lens on the male gaze and reclaim some power.
The resulting series captured the predatory photographers before, during and after their hunt. Their brazen sense of entitlement on exhibition marks a time and culture that gave rise to the Weinsteins of the world and eventually the Me Too movement.
Ironically, this pioneering project, a response to my immersion in third wave feminism, was quietly sidelined by a society that couldn’t equate motherhood with a career in documentary photography.
I lost all confidence and put this work in the bottom draw for almost 30 years..
Looking at it today I see it as a historical document of how things were and a reminder of how far we’ve come. It demands I shake off the equalities of the past, value my worth and fight to give it the life it deserves.
I Really Do Feel Free
Some of us never consider what it would be like to not drive, be able to get our own shopping, pick up our own kids or even have a car. I Really Do Feel Free is just one story of refugee women who arrive in New Zealand, often with no family to support them and often with children to raise but with a determination to improve their lives.
II Really Do Feel Freeshares stories of triumph and liberation when women learn and now have the power to drive. Driving is freedom and life changing.
"Responding to the life around her, Orme’s most recent project, Stroke (2019) gives light to her seventy nine year old mother, with so much vitality and intelligence, grappling new life after her stroke. Orme’s days were spent at her bedside both wanting the same thing. A good recovery. While a very personal project It sheds light on an often ignored generation and the profound effects of illness as we age".