Hinemihi is the incarnation of a female ancestor and a ceremonial meeting house; an access to and rite of honouring the many-threaded tendrils of history. For Copper Promises, dancer Victoria Hunt rediscovered her family’s Hinemihi, assumed abandoned after a volcanic eruption of 1886 displaced her forefathers from the land. It now sits in Surrey, England … and will be resurrected in Sydney, Australia, via movement, sound, and nourishment.
What inspired you to reach back to your Maori roots and resurrect Hinemihi? As carriers of our inheritance and of time, I am in awe of how the spirit of our genetic make-up can speak to us. In my experience it makes the concept of linear time seem outdated. There is no past, present, future when I think of the spirit of Hinemihi.
In what ways have you collaborated with your extended family on this project? We have shared the journey from the beginning. There is a proverb in Maori which says, “If a seed falls in the right place it will germinate and a new seedling will sprout”. My extended family are gardeners, literally and symbolically.
Copper Promises became the pivot for the wider season of Dimension Crossing … There are uncanny echoes in the work I’ve seen by the other artists. It might seem like a broad theme, but to negotiate the threshold of the crossings is what connects us.
It has been a whopping nine years in the making. What were a few of the low and highpoints of that journey? It’s been a slow gestation because of the identity and cultural unfolding which was necessary, to understand how I to position myself within the work. Low points were losing people to accidents, old age and sickness. Sometimes I had only just reconnected with someone before they passed away. Strangely, it was their tangi funerals and the tremendous gatherings afterwards which are among my most profound memories.
What is meant by the accompanying phrase “I am the house and the house is me. I dance the history of the house and the house reveals my history”? It means I am a direct descendant of Hinemihi which traces back to the Ngatoroirangi line. Maori ancestral meeting houses are rich with cosmological explanations of where we come from and who we are as a people, our whakapapa (genealogy) and tribal history. She represents an ancestral spirit house. She is the architectural representation of a body. She is named after a female ancestor, so the spirit is female. It’s a spirit of survival, non-survival, resilience and renewal. I am the living spirit of Hinemihi. I am her mokopuna grandchild.
After the performance the audience are welcome to join the company for a Hangi food basket. What’s the significance of this ceremony? As hosts we offer food, and lots of it!
May 4-12, CarriageWorks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh, $15-30, performancespace.com.au