The Thread follows on from Joyce Campbell’s exhibition Te Taniwha, a project drawing on the mythology, history and ecology of Te Reinga, and is a further expression of her collaboration with Richard Niania, He Kaipupuri Korero o Ngai Kohatu – a holder of the stories of Ngai Kohatu.
Ngai Kohatu are kaitiaki of Whakapunake maunga, the sacred mountain that rises above Te Reinga to dominate the landscape of the Wairoa region and to which the tribal groups known as Te Tini-a-Maui affiliate. The mountain’s name is derived from the word pūnake meaning receptacle, and it describes the mountain as the metaphorical container for the fish hook of Maui, who is said to have foul-hooked and dragged Te Ika a Maui to the ocean surface at this site.
Eighty years ago the mountain burnt in a hunting accident from which the vegetation has never regenerated. During the first photoshoot the mountain was enveloped by dense cloud and Campbell struggled to orient herself in a field of skeletal trunks that are the remnants of the virgin forest destroyed in that disaster. When those images were developed Campbell discovered that her film had been damaged – by age, heat or radiation – so that the images already obscured by fog were further clouded by the disintegration of the material surface of the film.
The centre piece of the exhibition is The Thread, a sculpture cast in sterling silver from the roots of the Nikau Palm. Knotted and split, the thread embodies an analogy- between living systems, genealogies, and the entangled trajectories of conscious thought. Between this thread and the surrounding photographs, which are also rendered in silver, an idea emerges – to do with disorientation and reorientation, loss and connection – with the mountain as its locus.