RACHEL SHEARER: RARAUNGA, 2020
means ‘data’ in the Māori language.
explores sonifying the data of recorded interactions with the environment of Aotearoa New Zealand over hundreds of years. It is a field recording of sorts, reflecting the changing patterns of a physical landscape, that in turn highlights a cultural landscape. It is also a story, recounted by graphs and maps and then translated into audio, of a period of time in these South Pacific islands.
The location of this ‘field recording' comprises the largest islands of Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Ika a Māui,
The great fish of Māui
, renamed by the British imperialists as ‘The North Island’. The ‘South Island’, known variously as Te Waka a Māui
The canoe of Māui
or Te Waipounamu. Finally, Rakiura or Te Punga o te Waka a Maui
The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe
, aka Stewart Island. In oral histories, Māui pulled up this great fish of a North Island. The fish hook he used was the jawbone of his grandmother. If you consider the jawbone symbolises knowledge, you get some idea of how this story performs on many levels, codified to encompass important histories and information.
Adding to this narrative, scientist Dan Hikuroa (Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto) explains that the constellation of stars, Te Matau a Māui,
The Fishhook of Māui,
also known as the constellation Scorpius, was a guide for seafarers for reaching Aotearoa New Zealand. If you approached Te Ika a Māui from the sea, the land rose up, a visual trick of the horizon, seemingly pulled up out of the ocean by the fishhook-like constellation of stars.
The data for this work was mostly drawn from the 1997 book,
New Zealand Historical Atlas: Ko Papatūānuku e Takoto Nei
. It details a history of Aotearoa NZ through maps, graphs and text. It draws from historians, cartographers, geographers, geologists and archaeologists from both te ao Māori (the Māori world) and te ao Pākeha (the NZ European world). The sonified data in Raraunga
begins long after Aotearoa NZ has broken away, over 80 million years ago, from Gondwanaland – the ancient continent we shared with Antarctica and Australia. There is a shift in the tone of the land after Māori arrive. It appears on a graph depicting charcoal radiocarbon evidence from Aotearoa NZ in the last 10,000 years. This data has been interpreted as indicating a degree of deforestation between 800 and 400 years ago. Extreme deforestation and a dramatic shift in flora and fauna species accelerates between 1870 and 1910, once most of the land has been wrested out of Māori ownership, aided by the Native Lands Acts and the NZ Wars. Further technological changes add a host of new aural frequencies to the landscape, with electrification, rail, telegraph, cable, growing populations of humans, cars and the increasing noise of the now ubiquitous technologies that inhabit the electromagnetic and microwave spectrum.
The sounds used to re-tell the patterns of this data are a combination of field recordings and the digital manipulation of them. These are placed along a linear time line during which the the historical data unfolds. Eras and events unfold in layers, some continue to resonate, others are drowned out by larger/louder events.
Raraunga is a ‘field recording’, a story through which my dna is intimately entwined. I am in the charcoal radiocarbon readings from 800 - 400 years ago through my east coast iwi bloodlines. I am there in the conquest and adaptation of the land through Pākehā settlers. I am a point in this data and the data resonates through me.
Ko au te whenua, te whenua ko au
. I am the land and the land is me.
Ka'ai, T. (2005). Te Kauae Maro o Muri-ranga-whenua (The Jawbone of Muri-ranga-whenua).
PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 2
R&R With Eru & K'Lee - Matauranga Maori
. (2020). Retrieved August, 2020, from
McKinnon, M., Bradley, B., Kirkpatrick, R., New Zealand., & Terralink NZ Limited. (1997).
Bateman New Zealand historical atlas: Ko papatuanuku e takoto nei
. Auckland, N.Z: David Bateman in association with Historical Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs.
Papatūānuku e takoto nei, translates as
, Papatūānuku who lays beneath me.
Papatūānuku is the earth personified as the original mother.