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Homefires and Hearth

One’s  Place in this World and How Art Can Make a Difference

Delivered to The Third International Conference for Art and Peace
Gernika, Basque Spain

28 Sept. 2007

Published in - Te Kaharoa: the e-Journal on Indigenous Pacific Issues, vol. 2, 2008, ISSN 1178-6035, AUT, Auckland, NZ.

With research partially funded by
The Carnegie Trust for Scottish Universities


I have been working for the past several months with Maori Studies scholars in New Zealand as an artist-in-residence. During this time, I have been fortunate enough to investigate their connections with land.

In traditional Maori belief their descent is traced from spirit ancestors, and their identity is linked intrinsically with the land. With the coming of white European settlers, Maori spiritual kinship and oral traditions were in conflict with those of westerners. Maori proved their stake in traditional land occupation through ahi ka, the homefires which burned as a symbol of their presence. The settlers understood this concept from their own experiences of hearth and home, but their philosophical intention was quite opposite.  Specifically imperialism, the ‘divine’ right to appropriate land, and their need for expansion baffled Maori understanding. At the root of this conflict is a universal human condition; the need for a place to call home and an identity secure enough to live in harmony with the environment.

This presentation reflects on this need, examined from the perspective of contemporary art, and suggests how art and philosophy suggest a hope for contested lands...

Download document Download full paper (Word file 12pp 82k)

Download document Download full paper
(Word file 12pp 82k)