Welcome. Kia ora!
I live in Wellington New Zealand, on a hillside overlooking a beach. I write in the morning. When I can, I garden in the afternoon. Or go to the movies.
In 2018, I’m celebrating Aotearoa New Zealand’s 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, with two projects: #directedbywomen #aotearoa; and This Joyous, Chaotic Place, a major multi-media project funded by Creative New Zealand, to honour poet, activist and lesbian feminist Heather McPherson (1942-2016), who founded the legendary Spiral collectives.
#directedbywomen #aotearoa is a series of popup events within the international #directedbywomen context. It’s designed to raise awareness and appreciation of work that women direct, within and outside Aotearoa New Zealand, for any kind of screen. It will run at least until the end of November, when – in 1893 – women here first voted.
It’s started small with a series of screenings of, and discussion about, women-directed films, and focused on historical work made in Aotearoa New Zealand, made with women as crew. More soon.
This Joyous, Chaotic Place
This Joyous, Chaotic Place: He Waiata-Tangi-ā-Tahu, opened in March at Mokopōpaki, a kaupapa Māori gallery in Auckland, with the launch of Heather McPherson’s posthumous new book, This Joyous, Chaotic Place: Garden Poems, edited by fellow poet Janet Charman, a ten-women reading of Heather’s poems and an event with painter Allie Eagle.
In Pantograph Punch (March) Francis McWhannell concluded–
…Drawing on a profusion of material from collections both private and public (much has been mined from Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa), This Joyous, Chaotic Place blasts the archive open, countering the silence of the library and the standoffishness of the vitrine. As the title suggests, the exhibition is raucous, celebratory, even as it acknowledges marginalisation, oppression, and violence. It serves to remind us of the roots of contemporary feminist movements like #metoo. We stand on the shoulders of Artemisias – and of Heathers [people like Heather McPherson].
In Art New Zealand (Winter 2018: 80-83) Jaimee Stckman-Young wrote–
This Joyous Chaotic Place holds little respect for the hierarchies of the art or literary worlds. It speaks more to the value of people than to the arbitrary ways in which we privilege varied forms of creative expression, or privilege certain practitioners over others. This body of work and the women it represents present a radically simple thesis: a life well lived is a work of art, The personal is deeply political. The two are not mutually exclusive, nor is one definable outside the context of the other. This ethic encourages its viewers in a direction of respect to the sacredness of the feminine, of the indigenous, of the mother, and the power of collective action.
The full catalogue of the exhibition will be available soon.
And, in the first review of This Joyous Chaotic Place: Garden Poems (book reviews often take a little longer!), Paula Green wrote, in NZ Poetry Shelf–
To enter the glades of Heather’s final collection, lovingly tended by Janet [Charman], is to enter a garden rich in aroma, with diverse plantings and seasonal changes. As with Ursula [Bethell], to view Heather’s writing through a garden lens is extremely productive…
As much as stillness gifts Heather’s poetry a translucent layering, the internal movement – the links and arcs, the revelations, the richnesses and the reserve – offer an uplift along with countless movements. By paying attention to the garden in which she lived, and the people close to her, her poetry establishes contrasting intensities – from the joyful to the chaotic. It is a pleasure to read.
The exhibition included a shop front cinema programme of archival works #directedbywomen, many of them digitised by national institutions specifically for this project. The research for this part of the project included an in-depth exploration of Auckland Women’s Community Video, a radical collective in the 70s and 80s.
I’ve focused on women’s filmmaking, for twelve years now, working towards gender equity in film.
I started with Wellywood Woman ‘For Women Who Make Movies & For the People Who Love Them. Globally’. The name is a joke and the work’s always been serious and with a smile. I love Aotearoa New Zealand and my work for positive change for women filmmakers here.
Wellywood Woman posts also appear on Medium because it’s so visually satisfying, alongside Spiral Collectives and Dispatches: Northern Nigeria (in support of the Lovatt Foundation that houses and educates orphans from the ongoing conflicts there).
I now have a strong international reputation, see for example Matthew Hammett Knott’s article about me on Indiewire, here– Heroines of Cinema: Why Don’t More Women Make Movies? Marian Evans on Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice. And I love the pleasures and surprises that come from a global audience and being part of an activist community; in 2017 our action over filmmaker mothers with children being excluded from Cannes was very satisfying, with coverage in the Hollywood Reporter, among others. In 2018 I have a contract with Eurimages to supply interviews with women directors.
Other Writing & Activity
Sometimes I publish work in other people’s books and on other people’s sites, like Women & Hollywood, Indiewire, Muriel Rukeyser Living Archive. My latest favorite is a post on the Commonwealth Writers site, with this image of the Complex Female Protagonist cap I had made, thanks to the Bluestocking Series.
(Also worn by Jane Campion! *Well* worn, by the look of it! Who’d have thought a Complex Female Protagonist cap would end up in a frame like this!)
Usually I also write for the page, the stage and the screen. These projects use @7R4SM on Twitter.
A stage play and a radio play inspired by the life and work of renowned U.S. poet Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980). A huge learning experience, with themes that echo some of those in Development-the-movie.
I was a single mother for a long time. It was a risky occupation. This free book builds on my experiences and incorporates stories single mothers told me. My @7R4SM Twitter account was originally for this book.
A restaurant, three women and a boy. And a gay ex-All Black.
An unfinished novella adapted from a screenplay. Longing to get back to it.
Where I experiment now and then, as with my first comic, Mouse, started at a short-and-exciting Graphic Novel course taken by Dylan Horrocks.
The Poppy Seller
A short film about World War II pilot Bruce Cunningham, in post-production.
I’m proud I wrote the script for this short animation, very proud of the ‘Breathe, Think, Do’ concept I invented and of the lyrics for the Breathe Think Do song. Thanks to Mandy Hager for the story that I worked from.
Feature length documentary, with a 15-minute excerpt at the link.
More social media
Filmed projects, including some of Christine White‘s compositions for Throat of These Hours.
‘Aphros’ is the name of a 48 Hours competition group I was part of. We made Interrogating Tinkerbell, a short film about anxiety that also responded to Hinemoana Baker‘s poem, Tinkerbell. Also a research project for Throat of These Hours, Interrogating Tinkerbell is quietly showing now-and-then at selected festivals.
Bits and pieces here, including footage of Keri Hulme’s the bone people winning the Booker Prize.
I’m on Pinterest in two places–
- as a writer, a New Zealander, a bee fan, a gardener, a keen researcher of topics like vaginal mesh and tiny houses.
- as Wellywood Woman – chokka with boards on women’s storytelling, with an emphasis on women in film, including a well-used women’s film festival board and a board about women’s crowdfunding campaigns. And more! On topics like Keeping An Eye on The Washing, Mother Films & Breast Films, Earthquake Stories.
I have an LLM (with Distinction) from the University of Otago, and PhD in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington (where I won the David Carson-Parker Embassy Scriptwriting Award for my MA feature script and held a Women in Leadership Scholarship for the PhD). I’ve been admitted as a barrister and solicitor in the High Court of New Zealand.
For most of my adult life I’ve worked as a cultural activist, in projects like the legendary-in-New Zealand collectives Kidsarus 2 (award-winning picture books), Spiral (Keri Hulme’s Booker prize-winning the bone people – always lower case – among other publications) and the Women’s Gallery.
Mahi Ata Mahi Ahua: Women’s Work in Film (now a dead link, but it was a great site)
An historical website of women’s films and filmmakers, from the eponymous film festival (2003).
A site of work by New Zealand lesbian artists, to accompany my Lesbian Landscapes: A Little Oral History, an essay published in 2001 (dead links, but it was a fine project, too).
The Women’s Gallery
In 1980, Anna Keir, Bridie Lonie and I founded the Women’s Gallery Inc, which continued to 1984. This Mothers catalogue is from an exhibition that Anna Keir and I co-ordinated there. It toured public galleries in New Zealand, with associated programmes wherever it went.
Later, Bridie Lonie, Tilly Lloyd and I produced this book, still used as a text at secondary and tertiary level.
I partially updated A Women’s Picture Book: 25 Women Artists of Aotearoa New Zealand here also now dead. Here’s an image from the former Cilla McQueen link, developed before she became New Zealand’s poet laureate (2009-2011), from her Cobalt.
I grow flowers that are safe for bees. Neonics and Roundup are a problem in New Zealand. And I follow bee-keeping practices around the world.
I also garden on a public zigzag close to home. That story’s here.
I was distracted 2015-2017, by changes to the historic area where I live. Lots of heartache and research, written about at length, in This is the House that Joe Built and Saving St Gerard’s *&* Joe’s Place?.
You can contact me at wellywoodwoman, gmail dot com.
(last updated March 2018)