Sound essential

“For Maori, oral history at once provides both narratives of the past, and frameworks within which to interpret those narratives. This is because the past substantially converges with the present. Time, context and cognition (thinking) easily connect within the active memory”

Sound was an essential component of my july installation. It activated the space. It filled the space and the kete which sat as still vessels on the wall.

Sound has been an essential component in my major installations through out the course of this programme. It has played the role of activation for the most. This time however with sound being the voices of five old girls whom I had interviewed earlier in the year, the sound, was language and voices and words. It was important to me, that the girls voices be heard in the space. I wanted an authentic voice to the installation and to my subject, our school. That sense of community and collective voice and experience is easily expressed by including authentic sound and voices and memories. It ensures that when I talk about the school as “our” school or “our stories”, then it is reinforced by hearing the authentic voices and girls sharing their stories.

Listening to the voices within a  ‘wharenui’ installation is interesting for the fact that in customary Maori practice, in formal speaking roles on the marae are for the most performed by men. Women perform the ‘karanga’ to welcome visitors onto the marae and men perform ‘whaikorero’, the formal speeches on marae.

The order of the voices and what the viewer hears, is in a specific order. Initially you hear the girls first memories of school, some which are quite sad and then you hear the kinds of mischievous things they would get up to at school and then finally you will hear  the girls speaking about there reflection on what made Queen Victoria School, an effective school in producing educated and confident young women.  I was interested in the viewer hearing those challenges and the idea of achievement just like the ‘poutama’ pattern they see in the space.

Finally the hym, that sits in the background of the voices is “Maru wehi”  or “Majesty” it was one of the more popular hyms sung at school, during karakia. The recording was taken in 1992 when I was third form. We recorded a record/tape that year with around 12 songs, hyms and poi popular at the time. It allowed another layer of sound, authentic sound from the past that wove in between the voices. And keeping with customary speechmaking practice, the sound component ends with the hym, just as formal whaikorero end with a song or chant.

Maru Wehi Koropiko ki tona nui

Ki a Ihu te kororia me nga mana

Maru Wehi Kingitanga me te tikanga

I haere mai i runga ki ona ano

Ki te Whakamoemiti

Hapaitia (Whakakororiatia) Te ingoa o Ihu

Whakapai(Whakakororiatia) Ihu Karaiti Te Kingi

Maru Wehi Koropiko ki tona nui

Ko Ihu i mate whakakororiatia nei te kingi o nga kingi


Majesty worship his majesty

Unto Jesus be gall lory , honour and praise

Majesty  Kingdom authority

Flow from this thrown, unto his own, his anthem raise

So exalt, lift up on high the name of Jesus

Magnify  come glorify Christ Jesus the King

Majesty, worship his majesty

Jesus who died,now glorified, king of all kings



Keenan, D, ‘The past from the paepae: Uses of the past in Maori Oral History ’, in Maori oral history , by Rachael Selby

And Alison Laurie(eds), Oral history Assn of NZ, pp. 54-61.




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