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Cottage inspires writer’s creations

A Wellington-based writer is drawing inspiration from a fairy-tale cottage and its magical surroundings in the heart of rural Wairarapa.

Natasha Lampard is the current recipient of the Writer-in-Residence award by Wairarapa-based New Zealand Pacific Studio. Of Whakatoahea, Ngaapuhi, and Pakeha ancestry, she holds the inaugural Te Ao Te O Pukeko Residency for tangata whenua creatives. The residency is named after the property in West Taratahi, where Lampard will work.

During her two-week residency this month, Lampard plans to read, write, think, and continue her work on Mother Tongue, a manuscript with many interwoven themes.

She said the light-filled property and its leafy surroundings have given her space to be creative.

“It’s all been about the light here, and I’ve been so fortunate to be with my incredible hosts, Gaye and Michael. Michael took me for a walk around the property, and he’s planted a variety of beautiful plants, including natives. As you walk through, the way the light comes through the different trees is like an album, and each one is this beautiful song. It’s extraordinary,” she said.

In her work, Lampard explores issues including identity, home, motherhood, loss, and her heritage through her mother’s lineage. She has been motivated to look at how the concepts of belonging and inequity affect society, her own background, and the generations that went before.

“It’s very hard to articulate succinctly. The word ‘whakapapa’ is to place in layers, and I think there are layers and a whakapapa to colonisation, and to the trauma of that. The layers and layers and layers, because it’s the acknowledgement that this is your mother, your mother’s mother, it’s her mother’s mother before her, and it goes right back.”

She said the work is a journey back into her own identity, which Mother Tongue speaks about.

“I’m not only discovering myself, and my identity as a writer, but I am also discovering my Taha Maori, my Maori identity.

“That’s through not only learning te reo but also travelling to my marae,” she said.

Concepts of different meanings of ‘home’ are addressed through her work.

“I’m trying to understand what the concept of ‘home’ looks like, and the precarious nature of that too. I think that is very much informed by my whanau’s experience of having land, and then having that seized, and then having nowhere to go. Being forced into a place where their livelihoods have been adversely affected. And then looking at the situation my mother grew up in, which was incredible deprivation,” she said.

Lampard recently completed her MA with distinction at the Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University – Te Herenga Waka, in Wellington, where she also won a scholarship to continue her work.

She said receiving the residency on top of the scholarship has been affirming of her work and her writing.

“When I look at the nature of the work I’ve been drawn to, it’s always been a story, and it’s always been the sharing of perspective.

“If you have the opportunity, and the privilege and the platform, to be able to write about something that is discussing things like inequity, a lack of fairness, and a lack of compassion, then it is on us to do it with a level of care.

“We cannot be preaching about the need for compassion and care if we are not exercising that in the work we are doing.”

Lampard will complete her two-week residency this month.

The writer-in-residence hosts – nature-based guide Michael Woodcock, and writer and storyteller Gaye Sutton – are delighted to be able to provide resources to Lampard and other writers.

“We have had a partnership with, and provided host property, for New Zealand Pacific Studios for a number of years. And we are both writers and have benefitted from residences ourselves,” Woodcock said, adding they also gain inspiration from the people they host.

The duo wanted to offer this inaugural residency focussing on Tangata Whenua, and are enjoying Lampard’s stay.

“She is very engaging and vibrant as a person. She has been able to immerse herself in her writing since she has been here, which gives us pleasure, and we really appreciate it.”

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