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Tupaia and Taiata boarded the HMS Endeavour in Tahiti 1769 and aided its navigation to Aotearoa. Tupaia’s diplomatic skill and ability to converse with Māori proved invaluable particularly when the Endeavour’s crew murdered, shot and wounded Māori. Tensions remained high throughout the Endeavour’s course around our islands but news of Tupaia’s status travelled across the land, enabling relationships to improve enough for the ship to collect fresh water, trade goods and Tupaia to solidify his influence within our histories. Tupaia died of scurvy in what was then Dutch ruled Batavia, now Jakarta Indonesia in 1771. 

Ziarah is an Arabic term used in Bahasa Indonesia to describe an ancestral or spiritual pilgrimage to a gravesite. Whilst on residency at Cemeti Institute for Art and Culture, Jogjakarta; I travelled to Damar Besar Island where Tupaia and Taiata’s unmarked graves are. Guided by a lighthouse keeper and fishers who share knowledge across waters, we think we located them.  

This work was made with support of Asia/New Zealand Foundation and CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video New Zealand

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Ziarah, HD moving image with sound. 10:00min

Circuit Summer Reading Series: Bridget Reweti’s Ziarah by Matariki Williams