A Warm Welcoming Feeling is the result of a residency project about land use at Waitawa Regional Park; an isolated coastal area on the edge of Auckland, New Zealand.
The parkland is studded with evidence of early Māori occupation, colonial settlement, commercial use as a liquid explosives manufacturer and subsequent transformation into regional park.
The invasive gorse plant growing on north-facing slopes throughout the park is thought to have arrived in New Zealand with early British missionaries during the 1830s for agricultural use as a living fence. It also served nostalgic purposes, transplanting a familiar piece of British countryside and farming practice to an otherwise unfamiliar terrain. As gorse began to rapidly spread in New Zealand's temperate climate and the distinction between valuable gorse and stray gorse became blurred, a living monument to colonisation was born. It now covers 5% of all arable land in the country.
Weeds are ubiquitous, yet both the weed itself and the concept of the word are european introductions to New Zealand – to the land and its people. In pre-european times, an equivalent of the word hardly existed in the native Māori language; there were too few fast-growing annual plants to warrant it.
Visible from almost every coastal outlook in the park is Kāramuramu Island – a rare, red island that is host to one of the longest running quarries in the Auckland region. The unique red chert or ‘McCallum chip’ that is excavated from this site is destined for paving or exposed aggregate driveways, traffic islands, bus lanes, footpaths and walkways throughout Auckland and beyond, especially in heritage areas. Much like the early introduction of gorse into New Zealand, this red aggregate is thought to give a warm welcoming feeling to one's home or business.
Because of the finite nature of this island resource, quarrying is now restricted to a large pool in the centre of the island; currently 70 metres below sea level, digging will continue to a depth of 200 metres before moving to neighbouring Pakihi Island. I visited the island on December 6th, 2015, and after removing my boots I stepped into this deep blue seawater pool; the water turned red as the earth rose quickly around my ankles.
The resulting tightly-framed, black and white photographs of human endeavour – although immense – struggle to truly convey sublime experience. The limits of a medium so descriptive and finite won’t allow it.
Silver gelatin fibre based prints, 41 x 51cm, edition of 3.
This project was made possible thanks to the generous support from Auckland Council, Creative New Zealand and Two Rooms Gallery