We anticipate the viewer to see a glow of light from Wakefield St. This will delineate a currently dormant and dank existing path to Customhouse Quay, avoiding a busy and stressful carpark. A slow flickering transpires, as if from the heart of the resident pohutukawa tree. As the moving body progresses down the path, black curtains bound to the earth morph concave and convex in the chilling breeze. Invited into the soft shelter of the transparent curtains, the flickering becomes more vivid, the viewer is led down a meandering spiral closer and closer to the light souce. Distressed warps in the curtain weave create viewing moments, to the subsequent level of transparency. We get to the foot of the tree, yet be are still concealed, only to observe floating orbs emanating from the tree’s calm canopy. A space we cannot clearly see, but that we can start to dream of on the rest of our path towards the water, tracing back our footsteps through the waving filaments, giving the evanescent feeling of ocean spray.
1. (verb) (-a,-hia,-tia) to afford shelter, shelter, protect.
In Maori cosmogony, ‘pō’ in ‘pōhutukawa’ evokes darkness, the underworld, the place spirits go after death.
When describing a person who is well thought of or nurturing, ‘Te Rata Whakaruru’ can be said, literally meaning ‘to provide shelter’.
This concept strongly resonated with us. We wanted to evoke the feeling of being enshrouded in a sinuous world that provided shelter from the world outside. Our encounter with the old tree made us feel much smaller and cradled by something metaphysical.
There is also etymology in the tree’s name about
it’s geographical adaptaion to the starkest of coastal situations, roots often clinging to the last crack of rock before it’s wide reaching crown skims over the water. It is indicated in proverbs as one of the first trees of Aotearoa to be spotted by ancestral waka. Pohutu is a name given to a geyser – or plume of water, and pounding waves, so other iterpretations are taken as constantly splashed or drenched with spray.
It’s unique status as the first tree to greet ancestors and the last tree at Cape Reinga that guides departed spirits into Te Po, imbues pohutukawa with profound reverence. One that can be felt by any who have experience an old, potentially chiefly tree.