Wild creations artists’ residency: trip report

I recently spent a few weeks on Rakiura/Stewart Island as part of a  six week residency which will be spent researching southern Maori musical instrument possibilities, gathering materials, making instruments and then recording them on location around Rakiura. I will also be making reconstructions of Maori musical instruments found in museum collections that have providence from Murihiku (Otago), Ruaumogo (Fiordland) and Rakiura.

My first day on Stewart Island was spent at Oban where I took a trip out to Ulva Island bird sanctuary. I found some seaweed pods that can be played as karanga manu (bird callers) and found that the local fantails were pretty interested in the sounds produced.

Next day I flew by helicopter (!) to Hill Homestead at Mason Bay where I was to spend the next 11 days, gathering materials, making instruments and recording.

First on my list of things to do was to make a tuwiri (traditional Maori drill). I found a straight manuka stick and built four cross bars from inanga wood. I used a piece of vine to create a hoop that lies on the cross bar and provides momentum and balance to the tuwiri. I bound these parts together with twine. At first I experimented making pakohe (argillite) drill bits using a grossularite garnet hammer stone, with average success. I had better luck using quartz that I found on a granite outcrop behind Hill Homestead.

I kept on experimenting, drilling some soapstone using the tuwiri, with the aim of making a replica of a karanga manu (bird caller) in Otago Museums’ collection found at Glenorchy near Queenstown. I got some pretty good holes fairly quickly and then shaped the outside of the karanga manu using a flat granite grind stone.

alba-koauau1a
I also made quite a few instruments from found objects, mostly found on the beach. I was lucky enough to find a Mollymawk Albatross from which I made this koauau (flute).

shell-koauau1bAnd these shells play rather well as koauau too.

flax-flower-stem1So does this flax flower stem.

I visited Mason Bay Beach every second day or so to see what had been washed up, and the variety from day to day was note worthy. One day it was mostly wood, the next kelp, another it was birds.

drying-kelp-stipes2aI did some preliminary experiments making instruments with kelp. I have left some koauau and a trumpet experiment to dry over the next month. Hopefully they will give me some results when I return.
I’m off back to Rakiura the first two weeks of April so I will keep you posted what I make next!
Alistair

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