In her latest series Tua o Tāwauwau/Away with the Fairies (2020), Whanganui photographer Tia Ranginui (Ngāti Hine Oneone) addresses patupaiarehe, fairy folk.
In Maori myth, they were the first people of New Zealand. They lived in the forests and mountains, building their homes from swirling mists. They had pale skin and red or fair hair and could be hostile to trespassers. Redheads and albinos were often assumed to the result of interbreeding. Today, some speculate that patupaiarehe descended from early Europeans who discovered Aotearoa eons before Polynesians. Ranginui says such theories are 'exploiting our stories, against us’.
Ranginui's theatrical images feature a man and a woman conjuring mist. They were shot in suburban Gonville and Castlecliff (even though patupaiarehe supposedly live in the forests, away from people), and in full daylight (even though they are nocturnal). Now, it seems, patupaiarehe are out and about, living among us—hiding in full sight, passing for us. They pose in the dinghy in the artist’s backyard, as if it were a Viking longship. The titles refer to Norse and Maori myth.
An earlier series, Hours between Sleep (2016), was made while Ranginui was battling with insomnia following a relationship breakup. Unable to sleep, she photographed people and places at night. The images have an eerie, voyeuristic, menacing quality, with the artist hovering over people or lurking outside the places where they sleep.