Weaving hope : research question - How do collective narratives evolve through a community arts practice? : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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My main practice is in creating public murals, and often in collaboration. In 2019 I was asked to help design a ‘paint-by-numbers’ mural with the staff of Vodafone to mark the horrific shooting of 51 people in a Christchurch Mosque on the 15th of March earlier that year. It was later named the ‘Weaving Hope Mural’. The project soon evolved from the initial ‘paint-by-numbers’ community day and landed as a large digital mural in Te Ngākau Civic Square. I made the film ‘Weaving Hope’ as I realised the work of weaving hope was about collective storytelling. I felt a single document, written entirely by me (one person) would be inadequate to demonstrate the power of communal creativity. Thus, the video, ‘Weaving Hope’, is the most important element of my exegeses, as the video is a demonstration of the context my work sits within and ‘shows’ how I hold a community in conversation. This self-reflection and research have largely moved away from the ‘-isms’. Instead, I have increasingly found myself drawn to the holistic theory’s imbedded in permaculture and regenerative movements. I am also drawn to ideas described poetically through the mystic branches of faiths and mythologies, each focusing on the power of understanding relationships or symbiosis as transformative rather, than focusing on mapping power structures or dualistic thinking to generate positive change. The work of eco-feminists like Vandana Shiva, whose activism is centred around natural farming, seed saving and education has begun to sow new understandings. While these concepts may not have fully flowered in my work yet, they are increasingly important in my imagination. Whilst trying to find a way to frame what was going on in my practice, I came across Chilean philosopher, biologist and systems theorist, Humberto Maturana. Maturana believes that our power lies not in the past or future, but in the moment. His ideas explore how we reflect on the medium we are in, and how changing our momentary medium through reflection we can alter the drift of life. We still do not and cannot control the drift, but with meditation-like focus we can move alter our awareness of a moment. A collective project marks a moment of reflection and connection in the drift. For me this is a sort of prayerful experience and one I felt I had in common with some of the Muslim community who explained their beliefs to me. This written portion of the exegesis has letters to my seven times great-grandmother and my seven times great-granddaughter. In the letters I do not talk for the project, but speak as a member of it. I am reflecting from a moment in time in the drift. I pray to continue to grow, to be more centred. This is where I answer the formal requirements of a Master of Fine Arts, but it is not a format that I believe is well suited to telling collective stories. In fact, I fear documents such as this, risk being damaging to the relational work I am trying to create. The pyramid-like structures of higher education are what have allowed me time and resources to feed my practice, but there is a tension, as institutions are, by their nature, about deciding which individual is most worthy. And so, I chose to write to my ancestors and descendants, as ultimately, they are the people who form me into a chain of life, of hope.