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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Natalie Robertson: Toxic Waters


Natalie Robertson is a Māori photographic and moving image artist who currently lives and works in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Robertson, who is originally from Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty, belongs to the Ngāti Porou tribe. She has very strong ties to the land and to her iwi and as a tribe member shares responsibility for the life force of the Waiapu river. Her work explores Māori knowledge, practices and cultural landscapes, and also engages with conflicting settler and Indigenous relationships to land and place. Customary and contemporary mythologies of the land and space are the framework of Robertson’s work, which also draws on paradoxes of economic development and environmental destruction and the effects that these have had not only on the environment, but also on its inhabitants. This paper examines her art practice, in particular, Uncle Tasman: The Trembling Current that Scars the Earth, a three-screen video installation recorded at geothermal sites in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, and her photographic work The Slow Catastrophe of the Waiapu River, which was exhibited for the first time in Le Havre, France, in 2015 for the exhibition Pacifique(S) Contemporain, curated by Caroline Vercoe and Jacqueline Charles-Rault.

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