In 2017 I was part of a collaborative project between University of Otago Scientists and artists. I teamed up with Denise Martini, a PhD student from a small village outside Padua in Italy. She was engaged in research into the genetics of North and South Island Kākā. The New Zealand Kākā is a large species of parrot of the family Nestoridae found in native forests of Aotearoa New Zealand. Two subspecies are recognised and a possible third has not been ruled out. It is endangered and has disappeared from much of its former range. Denise, I soon realised, had an extremely interesting backstory as to how she became the first in her family to graduate from University and how she ended up in Aotearoa New Zealand completing her PhD.
I decided early on that the project would combine photographs of Denise in the laboratory, quotes from her story and photographs of Kākā that I would make at Orokonui. Orokonui Ecosanctuary is the flagship biodiversity project for the South Island where multiple species of plants and animals are protected from predators. It is a truly beautiful and peaceful place serving a magnificant purpose in conservation.
The day I turned up to photograph at Orokonui the temperature was sub zero with a howling wind and sleet in the air. I was told it was very unlikely I would see any Kākā as they don’t like those conditions. As so often in life there are often serendipitous moments of coincidence and a meeting of spirits. Two Kākā visited. In between I became fascinated by the motion of the trees in the extreme winds and those of the Toe Toe grass. Their resiliency and ability to move with the forces were remarkeable. This formed the basis for a videography series: Orokonui Series 1 Toe Toe and Orokonui Series 2 Native Trees
The Science and Art project was presented as a group exhibition by the University of Otago as part of the Australasian Genetics Conference 2017