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PAWA 23: Amber Clausner on Louie Zalk-Neale’s Opening Night hikoi

PAWA 23: Amber Clausner on Louie Zalk-Neale’s Opening Night hikoi

Written By Amber Clausner – 2023 Written responses were curated and edited by Sasha Francis
Louie Zalk-Neale
Louie Za...

We’re walking the distance between a church and an art gallery; from a lawn to water in a plastic barrel.

Louie is barefoot, wearing only black trousers, black sunglasses and woven tī kouka around their chest. Behind them trail rocks and stones pulled by twisted fibres protected from the artificial ground using found things; metal shapes, the plastic of wing mirrors, cardboard tied with string.

The rocks and stones were once bones and once before that they were bodies; of birds, of berries, of bark on trees. The found things were once bought and once before that they were marketed and then manufactured by human hands from materials extracted from the forests and quarries where they had been living.

We’re in the CBD and we’re moving against the traffic. 

Rush hour is subdued. Instead is the noise of metal and plastic and cardboard holding the weight of densely compressed genealogy dragged along tarmac. The sounds are chimes and grumbles, scrapes and moans.

As Louie walks, they open their arms as wide as the fibres they have weaved together, turned so that inner arm faces outwards, fingers tangled in the tī kouka twine as they hīkoi gently across hills smoothed by concrete. 

Louie knows the terrain through the weight of the pasts that follow them. Their head is stirred and turns in response to slight changes in tension and sound. Some slip from their protective casings and we stop to tend to them. Some resist their restraints and I carry them the rest of the way.

They step around inconsistencies, bare feet soaking up the sun stuck in tarmac. Drains, pools of wet and where the pavement has worn away; buckled, eroded, erupted. They walk further than they need to before crossing roads, so ancient earth is lined up before it’s time to go. Cars wait impatiently when we do. One speeds off fast, much faster than it needs to once we have. 

Sorry wanker, we’re going as fast as generations.

Audiences emerge from windows. Pedestrians cross to the other side of the street or avert their eyes as their bodies pass ours closely. Someone new joins us for a short while, asking quiet questions. 

The crimson plastic of the two wing mirrors (crab claws) is grazed grey now, the metal is scratched and shining, the cardboard is wearing out. Protections transformed by the gravity of whakapapa dragging across contested ground.  

We arrive at automatic glass doors and inside them and we gather, cyclical and circular. Watch ancestors placed on pillows caught in the orbit of a cylinder bright blue with lights and pumice. Watch as Louie dips hands into the clear water, buzzing with mechanics and compressed air. We hold our breath, bring our bodies to the floor and become patient until the end.

At the start, before we left the fenced lawn, I’m approached by someone from the church. Say they are curious. So long as you’re not doing anything demonic. Are you? I smile with my teeth and my eyes and look over at Louie. They are methodically moving the rocks and stones and their protections down each step, one at a time - a careful preparation for a hīkoi between institutions, across land under tarmac, whilst the sun sets behind buildings thirteen stories high. 

Amber Clausner is an arts producer, writer, and a unionist based in Te Whanganui-a-tara. She is currently attempting to soothe her own late stage capitalism nausea by making zines, lying down in direct sunlight, imagining better futures, fighting for workers rights and avoiding social media.

PAWA 23: Amber Clausner on Louie Zalk-Neale’s Opening Night hikoi

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