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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, Aug 31-Sept 12 2021

Covid strikes again but gives me time to reflect on my journey towards becoming Pākehā and begin writing my thesis project

1. Poetry Nested Nows

This is a poetry/art book containing personal reflections of my artmaking practice and research over the last semester as I examine what it means to be Pākehā. It is inspired by the research of Jen Margaret, Sara Ahmed, Vincent O'Malley, Doreen Massey, Tim Ingold, Avril Bell and the principles of the Te Tiriti o Waitangi as described by the Waitangi Tribunal. Geoff Park's extraordinary book Ngā Uruora let me feel the ancient moist forests that have almost all gone from Aotearoa. The ontology of temporality and embodiment has helped me to make sense of my feelings along this journey and offered a way to understand my interaction with the world around me. The idea of enactive embodiment has been explored in this book. Finally, I have been deeply moved by those Māori artists who operate in the space of activism and as a voice for their people, thank you. You have been heard.

This is an excerpt from my thesis proposal which explains the process of writing the poetry and what it meant to me:

"Delving into readings by Geoff Park, Avril Bell, Vincent O’Malley, Jen Margaret, Honiara Love, the Waitangi Tribunal, and others, helped me understand the histories held within the texture of this land, but it was the emotional quality of Sara Ahmed’s writing in Collective Feelings, or, the Impressions Left by Others, that gave me licence to feel the complexity of this journey of becoming Pākehā:

Sara writes..."Through emotions, the past persists on the surface of bodies. Emotions show us how histories stay alive, even when they are not consciously remembered; how histories of colonialism, slavery, and violence shape lives and worlds in the present. However, emotions can also offer new paths forwards (…) open up futures, in the ways they involve different orientations to others”. She cautions us, “It takes time to know what we can do with emotion" (Ahmed, 2004, p. 202).

My feelings congealed into a collection of poems titled Nested ‘nows’, and it was in the very act of writing this poetry that I would understand how and why I belong in Aotearoa. Until this moment, I had not truly realised how deeply the need to belong here had lain hidden inside me.

Artists Matt Pine, Brett Graham and Robyn Kahukiwa were also pivotal in asking me to understand the impact of colonisation on the indigenous people of Aotearoa. Matt’s minimalist sculptures that “eliminate all non-essential features to find a subject’s very essence” speak eloquently “to the toll of human-induced crises on people, land and ecologies” (Auckland Art Gallery). Brett’s large sculptures of warfare, so exquisitely carved in the patterns of whakairo, ask me to reflect on why we privilege the histories that we do, “histories whose constructions rely on a resistance to remembering and rearticulating indigenous agency” (Art News Forum), and Robyn’s emotionally powerful work Placenta, Land, but Nowhere to Stand, leaves no ambiguity about how colonisation has disenfranchised Māori in their own land. "

2. Thesis Proposal

This is my draft so far for my thesis proposal for 2022 - to explore the agency between the trees and me.

thesis proposal A5 size 9 book fold
Download PDF • 1.01MB


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