Whatu Aho Rua
Arielle Walker & Emily Parr


If you were to draw a line that echoes the west of Te-Ika-A-Māui
starting from where we stand here at 
Karekare and tracing south along the coast 
eventually you would reach Taranaki
I’m trying to reach that sense of being there 
and now kneeling in the sand with biting insects 
and being intermittently soaked by the incoming tide 
Eyes closed this could be anywhere.
(every waterway connects somewhere) 
Eyes closed this could be home.
I walk the long way, the dunes way 
turning small offerings in my fingertips 
one vessel for gratitude, another for reservations 
these dunes are made to shift 
enabled by their sand binder 
pīngao and dune in harmonious relationship 
wind through the native dune makers 
with leaves that catch wind-blown sand
and adorn wharenui
wind, too, through their greatest threat 
the invader grasses imposing stability 
on an ecosystem meant to be mobile 
I can’t reach the home shores now 
but Hinemoana can 
so I give my offerings to her
Coast-to-coast, east to west, the motu is all andesite and iron 
held together by fish-bones 
beneath the whenua. 
The sun rises over one fin in Tauranga and sets over the other in Taranaki 
and here in Tāmaki we are held in between 
we journey to the places our ancestors observed the sun 
to see the world as they did this part unchanged
though decades passed between their lifetimes and ours 
Tama-Nui-Te-Rā continues his passage every day 
as he did before them, as he will after us 
a rhythmic anchor mooring us across time and space 
Coast-to-coast, west to east, the winds sweep across the islandfish from one fin to the other 
and here we are held in between by the roots that bind the shifting dunes 
until we can follow their path again
As we learn to hold space for multiplicities, to unlearn thinking in absolutes, we’ve been looking to plants to teach us, just as we’ve been looking to our own roots — tending to them feels like a way towards something we need to find again. A reciprocity, a lost tenderness. 
I’ve been gathering plants, and gathering words - layering feels like a comfort, feels like falling into a chant to replace the lines I never learned. 
Here, I say where my bones feel at home, and there, I say it again, and again, 
and all the while I gather plants and sing to them and simmer them into colours that speak to the whenua
the whenua that I am learning to speak to
and in the gathering time           slips 
In a then that is also now 
Taranaki dragged himself towards the setting sun 
away from the centre of the island, carving 
Te Awa Tupua in his wake 
surface tension kept by fish-bones 
firm beneath the andesite
and came to rest against the edges of Te-Ika-a-Māui 
caressed by the hum and swell of the sea 
and in a now that is also then 
e haere ana hoki au ki te tōwenetanga o te rā 
to meet my tupuna again 
I’ve forgotten all the names for cloud 
so when I see that water haze hang low 
on the horizon I reach for other words 
like cloak, kākahu 
or korowai, the rain making hukahuka 
whatu into the fog fabric 
their distinctive plink pink tap in place of a 
silent swishing sway and 
when that korowai is settled on the shoulders
of a maunga who is ancestor 
that sway takes on a different 
weight, a different note 
as we climb up winding pathways
to meet the maunga 
the korowai of cloud disappears 
into a rain sheen on our skin
as we ascend, we are swallowed
by the bush, by time itself 
but our path is straightforward – 
follow the sound of the rush
e rere ana, it flows
we search for its feet
but this is not the place for mine 
so I press my hands against earth
offering something of myself in return 
e rere ana, it flows
a miromiro appears and I wonder what tohu it brings 
are you a scout, and we, the enemy 
or do you carry a love charm today?
Māui cannot be concerned with us


but I am learning to listen with my whole body 
and my whole body understands this pool is a witness 
and this waterfall is time
I sing quietly to the whenua as we resurface 
my voice falling in with the miromiro, the stream, our footsteps in the mud –
it is one thing to know of wāhi tapu, tikanga, tohu
it is another to know where and what they are
e rere, wairua e rere 
ki ngā ao, o te rangi…
I sing quietly to the whenua as we resurface
my voice falling in with the miromiro, the stream, our footsteps in the mud –
e rere, wairua e rere
ki ngā ao, o te rangi…
when we return home, the spume has followed 
marking where saltwater meets fresh
e rere ana, it flows
we learn that this boundary is only on the surface
it is simply a matter of suspended sediments 
and beneath is water 
carrying things unknown 
until the ebb lays them out for us to find
and that separating
past from future
living from spirit world
or one part of ourselves from another
 is like delineating saltwater from fresh
and so time      slips     again
The only remains of a farmhouse built here after raupatu are a pair of concrete stairs. The front room held dances and the garden held picnics, ‘the social centre of Ōtūmoetai’. The last man to live in the house requested it be demolished for an archaeological excavation. 
if we call it the past
if we study it from a distance 
if experts confirm a site was occupied
we can omit how it took less than 150 years 
between dispossessing a people of their whenua 
and wanting to dig their remnants back up
we layer, conceal, excavate, cover and uncover again
beneath the surface were 
cufflinks, a clay pipe, a cartridge 
a copper coin made in Taranaki
beneath the artefacts were
layers of midden, charcoal, fire-cracked rock
bone fish hooks and a carved māhē
a hook carved from a grandmother’s jawbone 
to raise her stories from the deep 
a stone māhē to anchor her net 
to cast it wide, to hold us here
I take my place in this cycle with no beginning or end 
sifting through layers an archaeologist doesn’t know to look for 
uncover and cover again 
come above ground now, take stock 
I journey here for the mauri, for the manu, for Mauao 
but this time I am here for the plants
I gather them from whenua that sustained my ancestors 
but I take only the manuhiri 
they have lived here freely long enough 
each time I leave this magic place 
the place of sleeping tides 
I leave with my wairua restored
at the feet of the pou — a gift of feathers, a set of two
and this time, just outside the pā 
we begin our hīkoi around Mauao 
with a mutual appreciation of the languid 
coming to know a place isn’t meant to be swift 
if it were, it would be easy to miss 
the dozen kāruhiruhi perched on the tangle of Pōhutukawa
resting, heads bowed into necks
if it were, it would be easy to miss 
within my reach 
a gift of feathers, a set of two
we pass through the rocks / a gap / a portal 
it seems right that I should go first 
the beach remains white, grey, turquoise on the other side 
but I’m peeling back layers, worlds, all the time 
maybe the magic is finding your story is bound to a place you thought you knew well 
and that time needn’t be travelled so much as dived into 
I sit where the ocean spills in 
keeping an eye on the stones incase their holes should reveal something 
I watch the shell floor rise with the water 
and fall again as it leaves
light passing between one medium and another 
is simply a matter of varying density
but it’s as though Papatūānuku breathes to the lilt of the sea 
or the ocean swells and recedes with the rise and fall of her ribs 
a little further and you can see the rock 
where the mauri stone o Takitimu was placed 
I learn their names but they are not mine to share 
a rock to hold on my tongue instead 
I learn this mauri stone anchors me, and all descendants 
to Mauao and to Hawaiki
and joy pours deep into my body 
on this shore, I find a shedding, 
a gift of feathers, a set of two
He slides up, sleek fur onto the rocks: we wait for him 
watch him slick-shake-showoff, flipper scratch, yawn 
curl up catlike in the sun, whiskertwitching. We followed
his lazy roll along the currents to find him here, floating 
the edges of the maunga where sea meets shore 
Being sun-caught has always turned some to stone 
patupaiarehe and their kin: maybe that’s why selkie-folk 
always come to dance in the moonlight 
but this one is firm in his skin, and sun-bathes instead 
We wonder at his name, kekeno, whakahao? 
Ko wai koe e hoa? Ko wai tō ingoa? 
Whakahao, to catch, as in a net: as in a weaving of the 
sun’s rays into fish-entangling filaments, as in 
squid-trawls that bycatch kekeno kin, as in 
a maunga caught on his way through sleeping tides
to stand, for now, seals sleeping at his feet
a grieving maunga called on the patupaiarehe in the night 
they braided ropes with their magic for this nameless one 
they chanted as he carved out a valley for his heartbreak
they almost, almost, made it out to sea before the sun rose 
the patupaiarehe had no choice but to return to the forest 
where the shadows would keep them safe 
but their final gift was a name for this maunga 
who was fixed in place by the dawn 
we share an understanding, Mauao and I 
I came here to heal long before I knew it was home 
before I knew he was my tīpuna maunga
here, I repair and reveal myself over and over again 
now as I wind my way around his paths, wrapped in his winds and his wairua 
I tell him I am glad we are both still here, that we were held at the shoreline 
that we have the chance to know each other 
and we have the time to know ourselves
I kneel at this takutai moana where 
a maunga received a name where 
I found my whakapapa 
I found I had a guardian all along 
I collect wai from this takutai moana where 
my tīpuna were nourished where 
two peoples were bound 
and my eyes became fixed on the past 
I will simmer gathered plants in this wai
to coax, shift, reveal their colour 
I will dye whenu with these colours
to weave myself into place
To whatu, pairs of aho threads are twined around the whenu, a constant exchange of fibres that weave together into a strong but supple cloth. 
Whenu, like whenua; and aho, like the threads that connect us to all tūpuna before us and still to come. 
When we whatu, we are weaving ourselves into place. 
across the whenu we whatu the aho 
the weft, the umbilical cord 
the thread connecting us to all of our tīpuna 
to Papatūānuku and Ranginui 
the aho are not singular, a set of two
and the woven piece relies on their relationship 
we, too, are woven from many pairs 
becoming whole is in the weaving 
If you were to draw a line that echoes the east of Te-Ika-A-Māui 
starting from Mauao and tracing north along the coast 
Eventually you would reach Tāmaki Makaurau 
where we stand, again, here
at a distance from things, but also together 
together with each other, 
together with the plants that grow here 
and the waters that flow to here 
and the winds that reach here 
with every breath 
connecting everything beneath and through them 
eyes closed, ankle deep, in the ocean we call home 
(every shoreline is connected, here)
eyes closed, ankle deep, we are everywhere at once


Arielle Walker (Taranaki, Ngāruahine, Ngāpuhi, Pākehā) is a Tāmaki Makaurau-based contemporary artist, writer and maker. Her practice seeks pathways towards reciprocal belonging through the intersections and connections between land, language, and craft, focusing on tactile storytelling and ancestral narratives. 
Emily Parr (Ngāi Te Rangi, Moana, Pākehā) is an artist living in Tāmaki Makaurau. Weaving stories with moving-image, her practice explores relationships between people, political frameworks, whenua and moana. She is also a member of Accompany, an artists’ collective who walk and work alongside community organisations and social movements.
©Lieu Journal 2020