This project is about an active engagement with thread. Threading fragments of a colonial story together, through intra-action with the material world, we created an arpillera (Chilean tapestry) to speak with our ghosts. In New Zealand we are described as Pākehā, descendants of white European colonial ancestors. Involved in critical family history, our data comprised of old photographs, maps, letters, diaries, and landmarks that remain. We propose that arts-based methods provide the potential to speak with the ghost, to engage with archival data, and to embody the experience. Threaded through the essay are poetic responses, stories generated, and descriptions and images from the arpillera.
If [we] love… justice at least, the “scholar” of the future, the “intellectual” of tomorrow should learn it and from the ghost. [We] should learn to live by learning not how to make conversation with the ghost but how to talk with him, with her, how to let them speak or how to give them back speech.1
[N]either space nor time exist as determinate givens outside of phenomena. As a result of the iterative nature of intra-active practices that constitute phenomena, the “past” and the “future” are iteratively reconfigured and enfolded through one another…. Neither the past nor the future is ever closed.2
My fingers have holes in them. I, Esther, have been working with needle and thread to sew a story of early Auckland, New Zealand. I have turned to the “material” to immerse myself in an embodied practice with questions of becoming Pākehā; a problematic identity, fraught with a settler colonial heritage. In New Zealand I am described as Pākehā, a descendant of white European colonial ancestors. I want to disrupt the notion of a homogenous Pākehā identity and provide counter stories to those standard stories that dominate our becoming.3 Sewing an arpillera, a traditional Chilean tapestry, provided me with a method to bring together different stories of becoming Pākehā and to illustrate Pākehā entanglement with a Māori world, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Further, the act of sewing provided me with a method to engage creatively with new materialist ideas, and specifically with Karen Barad's theory of the entanglement of matter and meaning, past and future.4 In addition, I follow David Gauntlett and Peter Hozwarth's argument that researchers should be developing visual creative methods. They are convinced these are a “good way of building sociological knowledge, and offer a positive challenge to the taken-for-granted idea that you can explore the social world just by asking people questions, in language.”5 Creative methods, they insist, provide a way for participants to express what they feel about the issue or question, and to express their embodied experiences within a study. Crucially, the act of creation takes time and allows for reflection and a different form of learning through experience. This essay uses and reports on a range of arts-based methods I used—found poetry, factionalisation, script–writing, and the making of an arpillera—to talk with the ghosts and give them back speech.
In this article, the two authors' different stories of becoming Pākehā are brought together and juxtaposed. We are both Pākehā educators who have academic and personal interests in interrogating what it means to be Pākehā. In Avril's earlier work, she has often spoken of the importance of Pākehā knowing their histories rather than avoiding confronting their entanglement in colonialism by romanticizing their pasts or ignoring their histories.6 This duoethnographic study, primarily Esther's project and part of a larger exploration of diverse stories of Pākehā identity she is undertaking with a range of research partners,7 provided us with an opportunity to interrogate our personal histories of becoming Pākehā. Much like Christine Sleeter's critical family history work,8 we delved beneath those standard stories that dominate our history to think more critically and specifically about those who are defined as Pākehā. Exploring our becoming Pākehā, we discovered that we both had ancestors who had lived in Auckland—the city where we now also both live and work—in the early decades of colonial settlement. This historical fact became the basis from which to interrogate the diverse stories of these ancestors. Our looking back involved delving into a range of historical artifacts: old photographs, census records, maps, letters, documentation, dairies, and landmarks that remain. These historical fragments were stitched together through a range of arts-based strategies to connect/“converse” in experiential ways with these ancestral figures. By presenting these methods/data in this essay, we aim to illustrate the place of arts-based methods to creatively engage in a conversation with our ghosts and to “re-materialize” and “reconfigure” the past to disrupt the narrative of a homogenous Pākehā identity.
Significantly, the methods used here are both textual (found poetry, factionalisation, script-writing) and material (sewing an arpillera), literally bringing together matter and meaning. In saying this, we realize that the textual is material (paper, ink, screen, pixels, electrical current) as well as meaning and the material is meaning as well as matter. Following Barad, we understand “spacetimematter” and meaning as forever enmeshed in processes of intra-action. So too, our actions are intra-actions, not the result of our individual sovereign agency, but the outcome of our “actions” and the “actions” of others—human and non-human beings and materials. These intra-actions bring some things into being and exclude others.9 Our becoming, then, is always already entwined and entangled, partial fragmented evidence of past/present/future intra-action is cut into the fabric of the world, written in our flesh.10 In this article, we describe the evolution of Esther's arts-based methods for speaking with the archives of our Pākehā past, and relate the power of these methods to the insights of new materialism. The use of found poetry here is the author's response to theory and literature. The writer draws out the essence of what is being said, paying attention to particular words/phrases in the key texts, and recreates these words into a poem to analyze, evoke a sense of the idea, and represent in a condensed form.11 And so we begin with one story of Auckland, and using the method of found poetry, link it to our reading of new materialism and quantum entanglement.
I always said I would live in Auckland. A place heaving with life, in constant flux with the dynamic intra-action between matter and the human, a place of emerging inbetween identities becoming, not becoming, past, present, and future. I just never knew how my becoming was so entangled with this place. It's like I came back, like this is the place where my becoming Pākehā began. ~Esther
What's the Matter with Auckland?
FINDING THE THREADS
At the outset of this study, through our conversations we soon recognized that for both of us, our ancestors had been at Kororareka, Bay of Islands, and possibly at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. They were also among the very first Pākehā to settle in Auckland. Our families had travelled out from England. However, Avril's family were part of the British colonial regiment, while Esther's were Jewish traders. This difference was significant in our already known understandings of these ancestors and their places in our family histories. For Esther, her Jewish ancestors had long been ghostly and silenced figures in her family story. In her absence, Kate represented the greatest gap in Esther's family story, a silent dark hole, yet through the silence, she was the loudest. This entanglement of our ancestors gave Esther an opportunity to interrogate Kate's story in more depth and to retrace the Jewish story in early Auckland that in many ways has been assimilated into the idea of one, homogenous Pākehā origin. For Avril, George Graham and his family were, in contrast, the ancestors her family most frequently told (improbable) stories of and looked back to. As a minor public figure in the military and political establishment of early colonial Auckland, George was an ancestor to be “proud” of (as long as the dispossession and violence of colonial history remained “forgotten”). Even so, this project gave Avril the opportunity to delve more deeply into George's story.
As two researchers we employed the method of duoethnography in our conversations to explore these diverse personal historical narratives. Duoethnography is a collaborative, potentially transformative, method of inquiry in which two (or more) researchers share and consider differences and understandings about themselves in relation to a particular topic of concern. It involves juxtaposing life experiences in order to reveal various social and cultural formations of oneself, exploring the layered, contradictory, and intersubjective nature of personal and group identity.9 The combination of intimate personal storytelling and theorizing takes the reader beyond the personal to considerations of the social and political. Our shared conversations provided space to summon up our ghosts and deliberate what, for us, it means to be Pākehā. We offer two narratives, derived from archival fragments, to introduce our ancestors Kate and George.
A Letter to a Ghost
It is July and summertime in Amsterdam. I am sitting upstairs in the Sephardic synagogue looking down through the dust-filtered light to the ghostly patterns on the sandy floor below. Giant stone pillars rise to the ceiling where our ancestors' prayers have echoed and become embedded in the soul of the building. I have just received a text message that confirms you were Ada's mother; you are my great-great-grandmother. It has taken us 140 years to find you.
I only know fragments of your story, found after searching through the historical archives; it was the DNA test that confirmed your name: Kate Keesing, born 1856, Auckland, New Zealand.
Stitching Together Fragments of Mr. Graham
I grew up aware that my great-great-grandfather, George Graham, was my earliest New Zealand ancestor, arriving in 1840. There is a family story that he was at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi but I can find no evidence to support this. I wonder what this story meant to my mother's and grandmother's generations, being repeated through the twentieth century during the time when the Treaty was supposedly “forgotten” and a “nullity.”12 He was in the Royal Engineers and arrived at the founding of Auckland to play his role in the building of a new city, bringing with him his wife, Jane, and three young children, all under five. In 1841 a fourth was born, William Australia, one of the early Pākehā children born in the new city. When Esther's ancestor Kate was born, George may have been absent. At some point he was sent to China during the “second China war.” I wonder if Jane was still in Auckland with their now eight children. It seems more likely than them all going to China. I wonder about Jane and her life, what it took to follow her husband and raise a family in often challenging and risky conditions—the life of the colonial woman. ~Avril
ENGAGING WITH THE MATERIAL
At the outset of this study I (Esther) was working with Jacques Derrida's notion of hauntology wherein he states “[i]n learning to live—between life and death—one must talk with or about some ghost.”13 Hauntology is described as a methodology of deconstruction that works to problematize dominant narratives of the present, although it is important to note that ghostliness and haunting can serve, as well as disrupt, dominant narratives and relations.14 In settler colonial contexts, it is often indigenous ghosts who are deemed to haunt the settler, and these ghosts can both disrupt and support the settler colonial project.15 However, here the focus is on our own Pākehā/settler ancestors, how to “speak” to them, and what we might learn from doing so. Reading through the transcripts of my conversations with Avril, I wondered how best to make sense of our stories. Derrida gives no clear direction to how I might speak with the ghost, but argues that to do so serves “justice-to-come.”16 As the researcher, how do I live with, talk with, and accommodate a ghost? Emilie Cameron suggests paying attention to singular, specific historical experiences and events as a means to engage with our ghosts, to focus in on specific moments in time, be alert, and ready to respond emotionally—enchanted, surprised, charmed, and disturbed.17 This meshes with Kate Coddington's recommendation that we should focus on those mundane activities that make up the lived experiences of our ancestors, exploring these through an embodied lens wherein “power is experienced close to the skin.”18
As already noted, my arts-based practice in this project included textual and material forms. Using text I was able to speak creatively and directly with my/our ghosts, but the material practice of making an arpillera provided a completely different form of engagement and learning. There are three aspects to this that I want to briefly explain—the pictorial, representational nature of the arpillera (I was producing a picture in cloth); the materiality of the arpillera itself; and the practice of making.
Firstly, in sewing the arpillera I was creating a picture—a visual image of a factionalized scene from early Auckland (more on the content below). My creating this visual image fits well with Sandra Weber's description of a postmodern perspective wherein visual images are understood as existing in a dialectic relationship with the creator or seer, “as a dynamic product of our interaction with the world.”19 Weber moves on to describe why visual images should be used in research. Many of these resonate with why and how I am using the arts. The visual image “can be used to capture the ineffable, the hard-to-put-into words…. [giving] breadth and depth” to the idea. Images work by engaging us and provoking us to “pay attention” and notice what we had not seen before, “discover what we didn't know we knew.” Images encourage embodied knowledge. Also, images are likely to be memorable.20 I captured images I have noticed in this study with the camera, through a rough sketch, and ultimately in the making of an arpillera.
The relationship between photographic images and the ghostly is also relevant to my image-making. Gina Wall describes the medium of photography as “ghost writing,” making explicit links to Derrida's notion of hauntology and différance.21 The visual image of the photograph conjures up questions of “what is” that are haunted by questions of “what is not.” “Between the [visual] image and its subject is a gap, and in this in-between is the play of the spatial and the temporal.”22 The visual work creates an opening between the real and the image, a distance that disrupts temporality and provides a place for the ghost to speak. Are not all art works haunted by the trace of otherness? As Derrida suggested, the essence of photography is the spectral.23 Does not all art work like a “medium,” providing space for the spectre to return? I propose that the arts in this study are like ghost writing, “a medium which writes the present into an archive enabling it to repeat and repeat again,”24 each time with a difference.
Secondly, in sewing the arpillera I was also involved in the production of a material artifact, a three-dimensional cloth-and-thread “thing.” To say “thing” rather than “object” is to refer to the new materialist understanding of the “liveliness” and vitality of things against the subject–object binary thinking of the Cartesian (and dominant post-Enlightenment view). Things or matter have their own power that call a response from us. Further, in making an arpillera I create something that exceeds my own agency and intent. From the new materialist perspective, agency is shared between humans and non-humans, all of which come into being via processes of “intra-action” rather than being pre-existing entities. Barad draws on the work of quantum physicist Niels Bohr, who argues that things do not have inherently determinate boundaries or properties, and that the assumed distinction between subject and object, knower and known should then also be called into question.25 In sewing the arpillera, then, I am engaged in a mutual becoming, transforming myself as I transform the cloth and thread into an imagined colonial scene.
This embodied experience of arts-based research has resonance with new materialism and provides a way of speaking with the ghost. Barad argues for “diffraction” as a method of “reading texts intra-actively through one another, enacting new patterns of engagement, attending to how exclusions matter”26 and as “a material practice for making a difference, for topologically reconfiguring connections,”27 including those among past, present, and future. Diffraction allows the opening up, crossing over, cutting across, and entangling of diverse paradigms and forms—disrupting those traditional academic boundaries, disrupting bifurcation.
Finally, in sewing the arpillera I was immersed in a practice, a “doing.” As stipulated by Gauntlett and Holzwarth, there is potential to engage thoughtfully and reflectively with our identities and experiences when we are methodologically involved in creatively making things.28 Beyond this, as Tim Ingold argues, there is a difference between such “knowing from the inside” and learning about something from text. For Ingold, in “making” something we are employed in “transformational” rather than “documenting” learning.29 Arts-based research, then, provides a critically reflective way for me as researcher to engage in a material and creative activity, to interrogate and imagine future possibilities, through reimagining our histories. Dwelling in inbetween spaces I used the arts to explore multiple identities, complexity, difference, and similarity.30
Throughout this study stories were generated as I responded to the historical archives I was investigating. I took photographs, drew sketches, told stories, wrote poems, painted ancestors (or illusions of them), created a wire Pākehā, wrote more poems, and began to sew an arpillera. Through threading fragments of story into the cloth, I was engaged with the material whilst also materializing the coexistence of Avril's and my ancestors in early Auckland. I was involved in a performance with our stories. Playing with the historical stories, by immersing myself in art-making, enabled me to “interrogate the self, within the social and political,”29 and to engage in intra-action with the material world. Through the art-making, I had to consider the positioning of our particular stories within the wider political, social story that was occurring. While retelling a “mundane” story, the roles our ancestors played in the making of early Auckland are highlighted. The playful and imaginative approach of art-making also provided a more sophisticated way of responding to complex issues and questions of identity.31
PRACTICES OF RE-MEMBERING
Through investigating and retelling stories, it is useful to consider why some stories are deliberately remembered and others are forgotten. Paul Connerton writes about how societies remember and forget.32 When interrogating what it means to be Pākehā, several forgetting strategies described by Connerton become relevant to understanding our different becomings: prescriptive forgetting, repressive erasure, forgetting integral to forming a new identity, and humiliated silence. These are highlighted in the poem below. To remember Kate's story I needed to both interrogate the “practices of inscription” (archival memory) and “incorporating practice” (embodied memory) to restore cultural memory.33 To better understand the complicated assimilation processes that have occurred, I also needed to consider the different strategies employed over time to forget. For example, where the early Jewish settlers, initially ridiculed for their funny accents and different cultural practices, eventually became part of the collective group known as Pākehā. In response to my reading on forgetting and re-membering, I created a “found poem,”34 to highlight how these concepts are relevant to my Jewish ancestors and the story of becoming Pākehā.
… And on Remembering
Anne M. Harris asks, “How do you perform an identity you have never known?”35 In sewing the arpillera I was engaged in a method that involved exploring historical artifacts and recreating the story of early Auckland. I was restoring the “small stories” that had been consigned to the shadow world, evoking the senses through the arts and re-creating cultural memory. I was performing identity through the re-telling.
THREADING STORIES OF ENTANGLEMENT: ARPILLERA
It is no surprise that when mulling over how I was going to represent the early story of Auckland, my mind went back to arpilleras. The arpillera is a method of tapestry that originates in Chile, where breaking from the tradition of creating a tapestry of idyllic life, the peasant women of Chile gathered together to create works of art to story the horrors of their life during the revolution (1974–1990). The story I wanted to tell was rather mundane, the daily struggles, the complexity and tension of different cultures thrust together at the birth of a city. Through my art-making, I wanted to interrogate two stories in particular, the story of the British colonial army and the story of the Jewish traders, and the arpillera provided a way to juxtapose the stories Avril and I had shared of our early ancestors. Creating the arpillera was a way to show our shared beginning in Auckland, our being haunted by the same landscape, yet from different perspectives. Over time I had gathered fragments of Avril and my ancestors' stories, of people's daily lives and their interactions through a moment of this history.
The simplicity of the arpillera provided me with a method that was easy to follow. As stated by Roberta Bacic, it “allow[s] anyone willing to take the time and pick up a needle and thread to relate their own stories through cloth and stitches.”36 I was drawn to this method because, as a novice with needle and thread, making an arpillera did not demand great skill, just a willingness to engage with the material and learn in the process. Further, arpillera as a method to juxtapose and uncover silenced stories had been used by several women's groups throughout the world, often facilitated by Bacic. To utilize the method to explore, reveal, and juxtapose the stories of early Auckland, to highlight our entangled beginning, seemed highly relevant.
Creating an arpillera also fits with hauntology as a way to summon up the past “as an art form wanting to make contact,”37 which enables the artist to recreate history and allow the story to “live again” that we might discover “the truth of their lives.”38 As Marjorie Agosín stipulates, the arpillerista “will continue to sew arpilleras to dispel oblivion, to make the dead speak, and to regenerate collective memory.”39 The arpillera also provides space for alternative stories to be shared; alternative often to the “official” or standard story reproduced by dominant populations. The stories told in the arpillera are particular to certain individuals yet have the capacity to resonate with descendants of other families and cultural groups who are part of Auckland today, where they act as a trace to carry the story across the generations.40
The arpillera method fitted well with my role as a bricoleur “using the tools at hand,” where I needed to source material that was available and learn as I went. Historically, the making of arpillera was out of a need to tell a story; hence the artist would use whatever material she could lay her hands on.41 Arpilleras were, therefore, made out of fragments and scraps of material (both fabric and knowledge) that have been “combined and juxtaposed to depict scenes ranging from the most simple and basic to the most elaborate and complex.”42 These fragments and scraps were often highly personal and therefore emotionally resonant. For example, the women would sew into the tapestry the cloth from the shirt of a husband who had been “disappeared.” The act of making the arpillera also involves the artist in a “deeply human activity” wherein the making brings the creator into bodily connection with the experience being expressed. Citing James E. Young, Bacic states:
“every movement of the hand that pushed the needle in and pulled it out” is reflected in each stitch, and each shows “memory as a physical activity, a material process whereby artists make sense of events inwardly and outwardly in the same act.”43
For my arpillera I hunted around to find scraps of cloth that would best represent the people in the story I was telling. Since the clothes of Avril's and my ghosts had disappeared long ago, I researched historical archives to establish the types of cloth, the colors, and the styles that best fit what I was trying to depict. Different also to the Chilean arpillera makers I began with the dolls, not the background. In the recent history of arpillera (1974–1990) the role of the arpillera evolved as a mechanism for the peasant women to give voice to their untold stories. The artists decided therefore to create three dimensional dolls that would make the work “active, lively, [and] versatile.”44 These cloth dolls were created to represent significant characters/people in the stories they wanted to tell, and were sewn onto the landscape of the tapestry. In my arpillera the use of cloth dolls enabled me to highlight specific characters who were important to Avril's and my story. I researched family photographs and other historical artifacts, and sketched the characters I thought were needed to tell the story. Next began the slow process of making the dolls. As Agosín says, the process of creating the arpillera should not be rushed, it requires time learning how to look, to notice, and to translate what you see and feel into a visual representation.45 When it came to creating a doll for Kate I returned to a delightful photograph of Kate with her younger sister Rose as children. This represented for me the importance of Rose to Kate's story. Without Rose and her descendants I would never have found Kate. So I sewed them close together, as one unit, as they were in the photograph.
Creating the Kate doll was like remembering someone I never knew. I examined the photographs of Kate closely and re-read her letters. How was I to make her hair? How did I understand her hair? These were the sorts of questions with which I struggled. In the photograph Kate's hair was ordered with a tidy parting, so I manipulated the needle and thread to make it so. Her sister Rose, on the other hand, had curly, unruly hair, so I tangled the thread and knotted it in place. I imagined them standing together watching their mother chase the goat, as described in Kate's letter to her niece.
Artistic license was also used in the making of the “pink” pigs. In all probability the pigs were black, but I wanted them to stand out in this work; the story of a Jewish boy cuddling a pig had tickled my imagination. According to a family story, one of the small boys was gifted a small piglet on arrival, with which he immediately fell in love. However, the relationship was cut short when his mother demanded he give it back. The story of the pigs and the boy works as a metaphor of the struggle the Jewish colonists had in retaining their culture. As some of the families eventually resorted to eating pork, they were often referred to as the non-Kosher Jews.
To represent Avril's family and the story of the barracks, I examined several historical sketches and paintings in the archives of the library and museum. I then sketched and colored in two soldiers that best represented what I had understood from the illustrations; the colors and the types of uniform worn. I positioned them by the stone wall. The Auckland University campus is high on a hill in the heart of the city's central business district. I have always loved the remains of the old barracks walls, haunting the campus, a landmark that remains.
SUMMONING UP THE GHOST
Julian Holloway and James Kneale describe the method of speaking to the ghost as a process of being alert and looking for sites where we may be “enchanted, surprised, charmed and disturbed.”46 Thus, using stories from the historical archives, I employed the arts-based strategy of factionalization. Toni Bruce argues that
[f]actionalization is a blend of fact and fiction, of observation and imagination. It is a form of representation that must be methodologically rigorous, theoretically informed, ethically reflexive and interesting to read, see or hear. Its aim is to dissolve the arguably artificial line between fact and fiction, and create the conditions for “deep emotional understanding.”47
The act of creative writing “transformed and stretched” my memory, enabling a “balance between the need to respond to the reality” of fragmentary data and the need to create a coherent story.48 The imagination is applied to the gaps, drawing on plausible scenarios through considering the wider political, social, and environmental factors known of the time. Factionalizing the scene enabled me to draw on partial happenings, fragmented memories, [and] echoes of conversations,49 to illuminate the message and connect the reader to the story in order to evoke an emotional intellectual response.50 Further, writing faction allowed me “the freedom to explore a familiar set of ideas in a new way, taking [me] to places within… that had previously been silent and remote.”51
Together Avril and I gathered acorns from the trees on our city campus planted at least 150 years ago from acorns George Graham had brought to New Zealand. We walked through the arch in the wall Graham had designed for the barracks. We walked by Government House where Governor Grey resided, which we knew from the archives had sat opposite my ancestor Hartog's home. From letters we read about Hartog tutoring Grey in Hebrew and being a familiar visitor in the home. From census records, photographs, and other historical stories we knew the ages, whereabouts, friendships, and occupations of the various characters in our stories. From Governor Grey's letters we learned that Grey was an important friend to Kate, someone in whom she confided, and that she shared his love of books. Sewing together the fragments of story Avril and I had gathered, I imagined a moment in our shared histories. I imagined colonial Auckland, I imagined a large wooden house opposite Government House. I then drew on the facts to create this fictive scene.
It is early evening and two men in uniform are approaching the door of a large wooden house. I see an old man sitting inside his living room. The uniformed men knock on the door and one enters.
hartog: Welcome my dear student and friend—so Governor, have you come for another lesson?
grey: Shalom my friend… not today… I come to…
There is a shuffle in the corner of the room and Grey turns.
… ah and here is my favorite Jewish princess. And how are you Kate?
A small girl clambers out of a reader's daze, walks toward Grey, and curtsies.
kate: Shalom Governor Grey.
At the door a young, gangly man stands waiting.
hartog: Who's your friend Grey?
grey: George Graham's boy. May I introduce you to William Australia—recently arrived back to Auckland from his studies in England. He's helping us out with the troubles in the Waikato—speaks fluent Māori and has his father's desire for peaceful negotiations.
Hartog beckons the young man inside.
hartog: Shalom William Graham, welcome, haere mai, barukh ha-ba. Kate, go and get the kettle on.
Kate leaves the room.
grey: I came to see if I could help. I see you've taken Kate under your wing. How are Esther and the girls getting on since Abraham's passing?
hartog: Kate comes over and keeps me company. She was very close to her father, a serious girl—always tucked away with her nose in a book.
grey: She must come and visit my library; I need more friends to share my books with.
hartog:Turns to William. And how is your father William? One day this city will thank him for his foresight when planning the barracks, imagine—a beautiful park in the middle of a chaotic city… a man of vision.
william: He is well, thank you.
He coughs nervously.
But I would like to talk to you about the goat!
Kate has entered into the room. She starts to giggle. The three men turn to look at her.
kate: But he was so funny Poppa, Amah dressed him up in Hannah's old baby clothes.
hartog: Yes Kate, but it wasn't very funny for the people coming out of the church on Sunday morning!
Hartog turns to William.
I trust the young soldier has now built an enclosure to ensure Mr. Goat keeps out of my daughter-in-law's garden?
grey:Laughs. Now come here Kate and tell me about what you have been reading.
A MOMENT OF REFLECTION
I have been engaged with thread for several months now. Fragments of cloth spill out of their basket onto my floor. The carpet and couch have discarded thread caught in their creases and corners, nagging at my son to vacuum again. My fingers have been pricked as I fight with the thread to enter the needle. And so our story has been summoned to life. It has grown in unexpected ways. As I threaded our historic stories into the fabric, another story emerged, would not/could not stay silent in the background. The arpillera demanded more. The ancestors of the land could not be silenced. “Māori need to be represented here. There would have been a lot of Māori here,” argued Avril. “Tane needs feet to push up the Sky,” suggested my Māori advisor Melinda. For Avril, the entanglement of Māori with Pākehā becoming has always been in the foreground of her work.52 Although for me, Esther, this was a reality I “knew” cognitively, making the arpillera gave me the opportunity to re-learn this in an embodied and transformational way. I had been concerned primarily with re-materializing my Jewish family ghosts, with de-homogenizing the Pākehā story, and less attentive of the Māori–Pākehā story. But, whatever our origins, our becoming Pākehā is always already haunted by and entangled with the Māori world, a world in ongoing intra-action with the material, the spiritual, and our ancestors. And so again I picked up the thread. Colonial Auckland emerged inside/entangled with a Māori world. In the early era of colonial settlement Pākehā were the minority.
Importantly in the arpillera I needed to give voice to Māori. Our ancestors learned to engage with the land, with the place, through intra-action with Māori. Hence, I threaded into the arpillera those stories of the Māori world that are significant in my own becoming. The Māori world was always already entangled, entwined with this place, Auckland. This is the meeting place, Auckland, the place Avril and my ancestors came to, this is the place they threaded themselves into, and intra-acted with, a place of an always already multilayered entanglement of material and meaning.
THE ARPILLERA IS NOT FINISHED
For this study I chose to zoom in on two families at one time and place in colonial Auckland. Like many cities, Auckland is elastic in its forever always becoming. Auckland's dynamic identity is a significant player in Avril and my own becoming Pākehā. As wayfarers journeying through the world, our ancestors' paths became entwined in this place. Ingold describes these threads of multiple entanglements that bind and knot people and places:
[L]ives are led not inside places but through, around, to and from them, from and to places elsewhere…. wayfaring… describe[s] the embodied experience of this perambulatory movement. It is as wayfarers, then, that human beings inhabit the earth…. human existence is… place-binding. It unfolds not in places but along paths. Proceeding along a path, every inhabitant lays a trail. Where inhabitants meet, trails are entwined, as the life of each becomes bound up with other. Every entwining is a knot, and the more that life-lines are entwined, the greater the density of the knot.53
Are these knots the remains, the traces of thread where intra-action occurred, where our lives have become entangled? I understand Avril and my ancestors as wayfarers through Auckland; the soldier and the trader. The uncanny thing is Avril and I found ourselves back here in this place. 170 years later we pick up the acorns together under the trees George Graham planted. Their roots knotted into the soil. These same trees Kate played beside and watched grow. Our roots too are knotted into the soil of this place. The stories we tell follow the threads of these early wayfarers and trace the entanglement over time. In following the thread we remember the different beginnings, the cultural stories, and begin to disrupt the homogenous hue.
EARLY AUCKLAND AND A STORY OF BECOMING
As a researcher using arts-based methods I use thread to explore the intra-action between Auckland and the emerging Pākehā, an intra-action between matter and meaning, an intra-action between ourselves and our ghosts. By following the traces left behind, we encounter the binding of threads into knots, “a tangled mesh of interwoven and complexly knotted strands.”54 And at every place on the arpillera, where there is “a gathering of things, [there] is a knot of stories.”55 Our stories are woven into the fabric. Our ancestors meet again along a path, in intra-action with a place, carving into the land and building places through knots and threads. Governor Grey once again learns Hebrew from Hartog. George Graham designs the barracks with a future Albert Park already haunting his pencil. The Jewish trader sells tomahawks to a Māori warrior. Kate writes a letter about her mother, Esther Isaacs, who dresses a goat in a baby's gown and disrupts the English band's parade early on a Sunday morning. And all the while Tane pushes up the sky, Maui fishes up the land, and Auckland continues in its becoming.
Arpillera of Early Colonial Auckland
In engaging with the arpillera, I threaded into the fabric fragments of story of our early ancestors. Those Jewish ancestors whose stories were silent are made visible, the significance of the Māori world is made evident, and a material thing has been made for others to interact with. However, this particular story can never be finished.
The creation of an arpillera is a material reminder of our long entangled world. As Auckland continues to evolve, as others also arrive to sew their stories into our landscape, our becoming continues through a process of intra-action and entanglement. This process is a cyclical to-ing and fro-ing between the powerfully still-present past and our relations with, and responsibilities towards, ancestors and historical events in our present. Our future is therefore always already entangled with the past, is mutually layered and enmeshed in a mutual becoming.