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Te Ahi Kā - The Fires of Occupation

Book launch by Martin Toft

Thursday 22 November, 5.30 - 7pm

We are pleased to invite you to the Jersey launch of Te Ahi Kā – The Fires of Occupation by photographer Martin Toft on Thursday 22 Nov 5-30-7:00 at the CCA Galleries International. 

All editions of the book, including Trade, Special and Collector’s Editions will be available for purchase. In addition, a set of 6 Limited Edition prints and further framed images, including an unpublished triptych from the project will be on sale too.  The launch will include a Māori blessing and a reading from the book and it will be held in a festive spirit with Danish gluhwein.

The book was officially launched at Paris Photo on Friday 9 Nov at the stand of Dewi Lewis Publishing in the Grand Palais. A launch in New Zealand will take place on Mon 3 Dec in partnership with Oratia Books and include a special customary blessing performed by Māori elders from Te Whanau o Mangapapapa on the arrival of the books in Auckland. 

New Zealand’s Whanganui River is the lifeblood of the Māori. The tribes of Whanganui take their name, their spirit and their strength from this great river, which flows from the mountains of central North Island through to the Tasman Sea. In Te Ahi Kā – The Fires of Occupation photographer Martin Toft explores the deep physical and metaphysical relationships between the river and the Māori.

In 1996 Toft spent six months in the middle and upper reaches of the Whanganui River in an area known as the King Country. Here he met Māori who were in the process of reversing the colonisation of their people and returning to their ancestral land, Mangapapapa, which is on the steep banks of the river inside Whanganui National Park. At the end of his journey Toft was given the Māori name Pouma Pokai-Whenua.

Returning twenty years later to rekindle the spiritual kinship he had experienced, Toft began to work on this book. Its narrative is situated within the context of the current Whanganui River Deed of Settlement, Ruruku Whakatupua and the projects led by local Māori to settle historical grievances with the government dating back to the 1870s. At the heart of it is the Whanganui tribes’ claim to the river, which is seen by them as both as an ancestor and as a source of both material and spiritual sustenance.

Born in Denmark, Martin Toft is a photographer and educator who works on commissions and long- term independent and collaborative projects. He combines elements of documentary and fine art to explore social, anthropological and cultural themes, often immersing himself in communities for longperiods of time. His work is underpinned by archival, historical and conceptual discourse and incorporates photography, video, sound and text. Te Ahi Kā – The Fires of Occupation is edited by Rafal Miłach and designed by leading book designer Ania Nałęcka-Milach. The book was shortlisted for the prestigious Kassel Dummy Award 2018.

There are two cover versions of the book: a female version featuring an image of a fern used by Māori women as a means of purification, protection and prayer. And a male version featuring an image of flames; embers are traditionally wrapped in a Ponga tree leaf (silver fern) to carry the fire from one village to another as a symbol of occupation.

Published with financial support from Creative New Zealand, Lottery Environment and Heritage Fund and Te Mana o Te Awa grant administered by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui.

By Hannah on 13/11/2018