Te Ahi Kā, Danish photographer Martin Toft’s homage to tangata whenua of the upper Whanganui River, is now on sale after a ceremonial blessing yesterday morning.
Representatives of Te Whānau o Tieke and Te Whānau o Mangapapapa, led by Tawhero Haitana, travelled from the Whanganui region to Auckland’s North Shore to bless and receive copies of the book, which was published in the UK and craft-printed in Poland.
Martin's step-daughter Indra-Kaye and partner Callum, travelling from the UK, represented him at the event, which was hosted by the team from Publishers Distribution Ltd and Oratia, which are distributing the book in New Zealand and Australia.
"Finally Te Ahi Kā has reached the shores of New Zealand and yesterday the books were blessed in a special Māori ceremony in Auckland. Such an honour and privilege to be part of this special journey that began in 1996 when we returned home to the ancestral homeland of Mangapapapa."
In the mid-1990s Martin spent six months living among Ngā Uri O Tamahaki far up the Whanganui River, learning of their struggles to retain ancestral lands. The whānau cemented the bond by giving him the Māori name Pouma Pokai-whenua. Twenty years later, Toft returned to complete his photo report.
Te Ahi Kā: The Fires of Occupation records that interaction in photos, archival images, interviews and text — summarising the key political, environmental and cultural issues for the iwi.
Images from the book
Produced by Dewi Lewis Publishing and distributed in New Zealand by Oratia, this sumptuous hardback features superb colour and black & white photographs, fold-out pages and alternate female (fern) and male (embers) covers.
Te Ahi Kā evokes the physical and metaphysical relationship between a river and its ancestors, between Māori and the author. It aims to leave a legacy for future guardians of the Whanganui, and to share the aspirations and desires of this unique community.
Martin Toft is a photographer, photo book artist and educator who works on commissions and long-term collaborative projects. Born in Denmark in 1970, he has travelled widely and since 2004 has been based in Jersey, where he teaches photography at Hautlieu School. His work has been exhibited and awarded widely around the world.