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The Drowned World virtual exhibition

Too young to be out with the men fishing in the open waters exposed to the elements. They say you begged them to go. Holding on for as long as you could before being swept away. No lifejacket, a boy in a mans world.

A daily ritual, your mother waited for you where the ocean kisses the shoreline. Denial is the first process of grief.

Steal Away. Stolen. Nina Oberg Humphries’ work hits me hard. Paralysed by memory. Haunted by the presence of death.

The Drowned World. Past tense. We are offered no false sense of hope. Victims of the future. They say a lot can be learnt from hindsight.

A virtual exhibition featuring the work of seven New Zealand based artists of Pacific heritage, The Drowned World explores the intimate connection between human life and water.

Unable to escape the reality of rising sea levels and the catastrophic impact climate change is beginning to have on our region, perhaps unsurprisingly, the show is framed by a sense of loss, a contemplation of grief and a recognition of not only our own vulnerability but that of our whenua.

This show features the work of seven female artists. A fact which at first has little significance, yet I am reminded of Papatūānuku, mother of this land, who first emerged from the ocean, to give birth to all life. BirthwatersIt is no coincidence that the Maori word for land is also the word for placenta. The cultural significance of the traditional role of women cannot be overlooked. Those who give life.

As I spend time with the works I can’t help but recognise a subtle thread of defeat. A mourning. An observation of the fragility of life. There is a beautiful honesty present in these works. An uneasy acknowledgement. It is a narrative we are less acquainted with, worlds away from the battle cry “We are not drowning, we are fighting;” a phrase that echoes throughout the Pacific region, looking for a place to land. As I sit with this, I come to realise that perhaps what I am overlooking is just how necessary this acknowledgement is. In vulnerability we are offered strength. It is a powerful thing to hold grief, to let yourself sit with emotion in order to move beyond it. In many ways the show acts as a warning, highlighting the bitter reality of inaction. Now is not the time to turn a blind eye.

Children of the land, we seem to have lost our way. The Drowned World offers no forgiveness. In search of solace I find myself holding the pounamu that sits heavy against my heart and am reminded of the day it was first lowered over my head, still dripping with the water from with which it had been blessed.

Sarah Murphy

The Drowned World is virtual exhibition curated by Daniel Michael Satele. This can be viewed on

Foreground Lost Content, Jasmine Te Hira, Background Na qio! Na qio! (A shark! A shark!) Luisa Tora with Joana Monolagi

Foreground Lost Content, Jasmine Te Hira, Background Na qio! Na qio! (A shark! A shark!) Luisa Tora with Joana Monolagi

This entry was posted in: Reviews

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