In 1841 three Ngāi Tahu men drew a map of their place, Te Wai Pounamu, (the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand) for a government official. Māori were great travellers and they had complex oral geography and gave directions in different ways, including how many sleeps it might take to walk some place. But this drawn representation of land was new to them. The map is irregular, it is not ‘accurate’ in the way we expect a map to be. The men drew the places they knew larger, with more detail, and other areas that they did not know so well are small, with little details. There is advise on which harbours to land in in certain weather, and where the best seals are. I decided to embroider a map of my home town in response.
I was born and spent the first 21 years of my life in Christchurch, so I know the place well. But rather than pay attention to ‘accuracy’, I stitched my childhood memories, embroidering the intense, often sensual connection that children have to place. I included animals and insects, mountains and rivers, a pair of mittens and a bicycle. In the centre of it all is my home and dad’s radio tower that stood tall in the backyard, sending out invisible signals around the world. I, too, gave advice; on where to holiday, where to swim, and where the best apricots are.
Stitching this map was a powerful experience. It turned me into a time-traveller as I travelled back to my own childhood and it filled me with nostalgia and joy.