Through reimagined narratives based in factual research and primary source material, Lisa Reihana examines the culture and history of Māori and South Pacific Islander peoples. She employs performance, photography and installation as well as video and animation, which are often combined in works to create rich cinematic tableaus. Her recent projects have depicted historical narratives of colonial encounters in the South Pacific as a continuum of entanglements between European and indigenous peoples that continue to this day.
Reihana’s immersive 3D installation Nomads of the Sea (2018) weaves historical fact with fiction to explore the social tension between cultural leadership, spiritual custom and egotistical desire in the face of foreign political challenge in 1800’s New Zealand. Through Storyteller, a mythical figure who slips between masculine and feminine voices, the viewer learns of Charlotte Badger, a pakeha (Western) female mutineer, and Puhi, a proud woman of Ngā Puhi descent who becomes jealous of Charlotte’s rising status. In the early days of colonisation, when intermarriage, trading and the procurement of muskets were seen as essential to Māori survival, Māori Chief Huri Waka welcomes the fugitive Charlotte into his tribal homelands under his protection, thereby upsetting the traditional role of women in Aotearoa as the matriarchs, owners of property and spiritual custodians. Charlotte’s presence not only introduces the concept of material wealth and the spoils of England but also draws parallels between the worth of foreign women and the musket. As a Pakeha Māori—Europeans adopted and co-opted by the Māori—she is used to increase prowess, gain strategic ability and ultimately counteract the spread of Western power. He wai ngunguru, the installation’s centerpiece, explores these cultural circumstances for women, contrasting European law with Māori culture and morality.
Nomads of the Sea, 2019
4-channel 3D UHD Video 19 mins: 5-channel audio, dimensions variable
Co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation
Creative New Zealand
Nga Aho Whakaari
Te Taura Whiri Maori Language Commission
Jan Warburton Charitable Trust
Co-produced by Artprojects and Reihanamations Ltd