Eco-HĪKOI – Walk About it

Invited by Drawing Open Research Collaborative + Kei Uta Collective, a trans-disciplinary drawing research community founded in 2016, and Massey University School of Art, Wellington, NZ, I participated in Te Waituhi ā Nuku: Drawing Ecologies 2020, Planning for Climate Change Impacts on Māori Coastal Ecosystems and Economies.

“drawing with” like “walking with” allows the plants to speak for themselves

We were introduced to the Maori walking practice, the hikoi as a method for embodied learning, geo-political solidarity, and spatial practice. This rich communal experience holds in the memory of the place, and links these ideas to the collective spirit of egalitarian, performative Zapatism. In this way, I continue to walk with my initial collaborators, the community of the Tukorehe Marae, the Kei Uta Collective, and the broader ecologies of Kuku, Horowhenua.

From these experiences, I have begun undertaking “eco hīkoi”, a more explicitly ecological and investigatory version of this Māori walking practice, reframing and producing GIS/GPS maps of these walks linking direct experience with remote sensing, a kind of tecno-eco-hīkoi. This data capture also serves as a geo-referenced record of the walk and location of specific elements to be revisited, a portrait of time, scale, participants, durationally.

Alongside the maps, I have begun a series of drawings of native New Zealand plants, drawn with pigment from the plants themselves. Blending botanical observation and direct encounter with the plants’ pigment and materiality, drawing with like walking with allows the plants to “speak for themselves”, in a multi-species, multi-epistemic approach. Experimental drawing using these new palettes and pigments, blends calligraphic traditions of hand and breath, western expressionistic styles, indigenous perspectives, and historical botanical art genres, creating an emergent vegetal expressionism, a phytocentric botanical genre, allowing plants to speak for themselves.

creating an emergent vegetal expressionism, a phytocentric botanical genre

The blending of the digital, spatial, and the hand-drawn reflects a broad artistic and integrative perspective–that drawing is fundamental to creative practice, including ecological practices,and serves asa visual and conceptual grammar, a set of languages.

This drawing forum was funded by the Deep South National Science Challenge, which researches Risk Management Planning for Climate Change Impacts on Māori Coastal Ecosystems and Economies, led by Professors Huhana Smith and Murray Patterson. This Māori-led climate change project is also supported by Māori researchers Aroha Spinks and Moira Poutama.