• Chantel Matthews

Collecting Wa (Whakapapa)

Updated: Mar 18

Collecting Wa

14th March, Raglan Whaingaroa

On the last day of the writing retreat and just before leaving I wanted to collect some wai however I did not have my usual jars that are specifically for collecting. I mentioned to Angeline that I wanted to collect wai but I didn't have any jars, she offered to go get some. I said it was ok but she insisted and off she went, returning moments later with a box that were neatly packed surrounded by newspaper and cardboard boxes. Off I went performing the usual ritual but with an urgency given we were about to leave.

Heading home, I realised the kaupapa had changed. From the start, the wai has been collected using jars that have been brought specifically and with the purpose of collecting and storing wai moana. Each jar would be labelled and either used to glaze cups or stored. A process I have done independently. Initially I was concerned that the changing of jars would impact the kaupapa of the project, then Erich gave his thoughts. These jars have come from the local whanau, up until now I have been doing this alone and now that I have reconnected and engaged with my whenua and whanau, they are part of the project. I am no longer alone in this process.

That was a key moment for me, the work was no longer something I was doing alone and with jars that had no connection, the inclusion of these jars from Angeline meant there was a whanau connection, whakapapa. The jars were so tenderly wrapped with care.

Collecting Wa

15th Feb, Raglan Whaingaroa


Met my great grandmother Turuhira Kereopa nee Rapana Hamutana. She passed away in a car accident in 1947 along with 3 other whanau members. The taxi driver and my great grandfather were the only survivors. The taxi driver was drunk. After my great grandmothers passing, my Koro Kawharu Kereopa was later known as Jack the ghost as he was never the same. With nine children, to prevent them from going into state care they were removed and whangai to whanau members which stories of mistreatment have been heard, hence my whanau moving to Auckland. After visiting my nana Rangi Kereopa, Koro Kawharu, Nan Turuhira, Aunty Tina and Aunty Myra I headed back to the camp ground where my boys were.

The next morning was spent with Angeline in her Whare right on the beach of whaingaroa. Homemade muesli, preserved plums and tea leaves in all was the menu followed by mahi. The only upsetting part was my little one being bitten on the face by her dog chewy which left our boy shaken but not stirred. Overall an emotionally draining weekend but a much needed one as I continue to bridge the gaps and heal the mamae of our whānau.

A post I wrote around 3am in the morning, a post I believe was my tūpuna telling me to tell everyone why I was coming home.

" Why some of us are being called home by our tūpuna. Wanting to come home is not as important as needing to come home and for some of us we stand here to mend generational trauma that stems as far back as the 1940s. Where unfortunate circumstances saw our tūpuna removed and subjected to abuse, the following generation inherited not only the abuse but the loss of place and ultimately identity. To grow up in state housing and systematic poverty, where your awa is replaced by alcohol and the maunga you climb is a suicidal one, the burden is a heavy one to bare. This is especially hard knowing you come from a long bloodline of fighting warrior chiefs and strong wāhine toa making this all seem avoidable. So when you see us coming home, know it is hard, our backs are tired and that some are here to simply mend the mamae for our tamariki so that the generational trauma stops with us, freeing the next generation, our babies so they can reconnect with their tūpuna, those strong fighting chiefs and wāhine toa and so they can swim in their awa and climb their maunga in the light once again"

2 December 2020

Cups glazed using the moana collected by my friend's Dad. These were made after my friend Toni asked if I could make some for her whanau who live in Australia, specifically her sister who is always homesick. My friend asked during a tangi in Pawarenga, we were both apart of, assisting as kai mahi. Her dad collected it which, Toni picked it up on her way home. When asked what colour she thinks her sister might like them glazed in, she said a royal blue given that was the colour theme of her wedding. I chose a raku blue which turned out to look like a pounamu colour.

Sat 5 September 2020, Raglan, Whaingaroa

This weekend was an intense one as I continue to connect and get closer to whakapapa. We arrived early Saturday as the whanau had a plant sale to raise funds to correctly dispose of the many tyres that occupy the Whenua along Whaingaroa. A few hours spent over beautiful yet straightforward table spreads where Angeline helped me through my whakapapa, and in exchange, I gave a set of cups for her and her daughters. I then left with a 292-page document to read overnight that included the whakapapa of Tainui.

Sun 6 September 2020

Sunday, attended hui followed by a quick kai before heading back to where my whanau and I were staying. Heading down to the beach around 1pm, the tide was full. Taking my little one and husband was a very different experience to doing this alone. It was freezing cold, not a good day for swimming. Upon learning about Te Ātaiorongo, the spiritual guardian taniwha of Tainui, I included him in my karakia and permission to take wai moana from Whaingaroa. I admit as I was saying the karakia, I could see a sizeable swell move but maybe because I was looking for him.

Hautai Greensill is feeling grateful.

6 September

I am so grateful for this thoughtful and beautiful koha from my talented whanaunga Chantel Matthews-Perawiti. I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to receive part of your beautiful mahi . These were glazed by the salt water back home in Whāingaroa which makes me treasure them even more so. Kāore ngā mihi ki a koe e mimiti. Thank you for bringing such a highlight into my day. Arohanui ki a koe .

After our collection and given the weeks leading to this point, a cleansing felt necessary, so I stripped down and jumped in. It was like ice. Shortly after, my little one joined me, and as much as It was far too cold for either of us to be in the sea, we both obviously needed it.

The kowhai flower happened to be float by during my collection which I see as a tāonga much like the rock that accompanied the last collection, I wander if this is a gesture of some sort as I take from Tangaroa, I too take from Tane or that they go together and how that folds into my using of uku.

Angeline told me a story of the pīngao being Tane's eyebrows and how he plucked them as a gesture of peace to Tangaroa so now they continue this gesture by continuing to plant pīngao for Tangaroa.

Collecting Wa (Whakapapa) 1

11th August, Raglan Whaingaroa

Adding the Wai in Wa

Work in progress exploring methods of holding space as "Wa Hine" through whakapapa and our relationship with objects that also hold space and offer pause.

Whakapapa can mean:

- geneology

- to layer (in a physical sense).

Taken as two of its components, the term can evoke:

- to become ("Whaka") earth ("papa")/be embraced towards Papa (mother earth)

- to cause to become ("whaka") earth ("papa").

Carl Mika, The enknowning of thought and whakapapa: Heidegger's Fourfold, Review of contemporary philosophy, vol 13, 2014, p53, ISSN 1841-5261, University of Waikato

Wā-hine as sculptural moments.

Reflecting on the experience of collecting wai moana from my own whenua with ideas of finding my way home, reclaiming disconnection and in-between space. When collecting, I was filled with emotion, a moment of connection with my tupuna was taking place spiritually and physically.

The process of capturing wai moana then bringing it back to Auckland and using it within the cups has created this sculptural moment. Both experience/moments are beginning to inform my creative practice that are leading me to now question how these vessels contribute towards wahine


The finished cups are expected to be used in a "help yourself" cuppa tea station that is to be set up at AUT. An invitation to make a cup of tea and enjoy some homemade baking. A minute to take pause and allow these cups to hold space for the holder. During observation I am interested in the cups themselves holding their own space by just being.

Carl Mika explains "Things that are revealed are only disclosed because of Being's withdrawal. To that extent, more important than man's present state of visibility is how man's being is highlighted by what is absent. It is the absence that highlights for an entity its present being''.

There is consideration of the vessels also bridging the two worlds I walk in as Māori/Pakeha.

The vessels literally and conceptually being coated with Te āo Māori aspects, ie, asking permission through karakia from my tupuna, acknowledging the atua, tangaroa, hine moana, papatūānuku and evoking their essence.

The wai moana then being brought back two Auckland, infused in the uku vessels with the plan to fill them with tea, a custom introduced to New Zealand by British missionaries in the 19th Century, also an ancestor. What does this do to the essence of the vessels?

Mike continues " This view of a thing's essence being determined by what is anticipated is opposition to a reliance on the presently visible as independently possessed of its own essence. A thing is cleared as visible within world, for instance - and one must here retain an "openness for things to emerge" (Joronen, 2013, p.629) - but this occurs in the context of a world as a whole, in which the thing is not a thing in it's own right".

Collecting 'WA' whakapapa

On my way to collect water, I small rock presented itself to me, I picked it up and took it to collect water.


Nau Mai e ngā hua welcome the gifts

o te wao of food

o te ngakina from the sacred

o te wai tai forests

o te wai Māori From the cultivated

Nā Tane gardens

Nā Rongo from the sea

Nā Tangaroa from the fresh

Nā Maru waters

Ko Ranginui e tū The food of Tane

iho nei of Rongo

Ko Papatūānuku e of Tangaroa

takoto nei of Maru

Tuturu I acknowledge

Whakamaua Ranginui who is

Kia Tina! TINA! Hui e! TĀIKI E! above me, papatuanuku who lies beneath me, let this be my commitment to all

In English I asked permission from Tangaroa, from my Tupuna if I could collect water from whaingaroa and taonga that presents itself to me.

I then walked into the sea, collected tangaroa fully acknowledging my tupuna, submerged myself into the water up to my neck and jogged out as it was very cold. As I sat the jar of wai and the rock next to each other, a feather appeared, broken, It came too. Part of me thinks these taonga represented Papatūānuku and wanted to accompany Tangaroa during this hikoi.

It was an emotional experience as I thought about wanting to connect with my whakapapa and the idea of collecting my whakapapa through this creative practice knowing it was my tupuna made me a little teary.

I then sang the only waiata that came to my mind which was HE AHA TE HAU which I learnt at Unitec when I was doing traditional and contemporary Māori weaving which is a Ngāti Whātua waiata that doesn't make sense here but maybe it does if I am currently living in Ngāti Whātua? but no, it made me realise I need to find waiata relevant to my iwi.

Sitting next to Angeline Greensill during the hui, at lunch, I told Angeline what I had done and asked if it was ok. She said to me "did you do a karakia and ask permission from Tangaroa and your Tupuna Kawharu?" I said yes. She said then it's ok. I told her my concept of collecting tangaroa over the next 12 months, 12 visits as I connect and come home and it being around the discussion of wahine (time and space) whakapapa etc. I also told her I was researching wahine as a philosophy of well-being. pondering... "you did collect the day before full moon" she said.

I asked her if the wai would last that long stored in a jar, she wasn't sure but said something I found really interested, " in a jar, it's not moving" I then said, no it would just be an object...

I then came home and googled how to store sea water, it says that sea water has microorganism's so over time it will become smelly and cloudy as the microorganism's will continue to grow. You need to boil the sea water to kill the microorganisms.


During discussions the next day with Harriet in the wet lab we decided to try testing the wai Moana in the glazing of the cups or while throwing cups, this way it conceptually works with the Moana still moving, staying alive, existing and to consider what that adds to time and space. My time and space in collecting, in being, in experiencing then sharing that experience with others.

Points to note

  • The idea of the Moana continuing to 'move' through making, through the vessels, through the sharing, through kōrero.

  • questions on sharing whakapapa through this method, what does it mean to share whakapapa in this way with anyone opposed to giving specifically to certain wāhine?

  • During talk week, what is the purpose? the tone? - The tone is to help yourself to a cup of tea, to offer a space to pause, to share, but what does that mean though when it now holds wai Moana from my whenua? is it sharing whakapapa? my whakapapa?