Hoki Mai ki Ahau (Return to Me)

Jeff Nusz (US/NZ), Jerome Kavanagh (NZ)

Project Description

Hoki Mai ki Ahau (Return to Me) creates an oasis of digital calm and a healing soundscape by fusing taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) with interactive digital media. The work gently comes to life through the movement of audiences and passers-by. As people approach the screen, they trigger the ebb and flow of taonga pūoro, while meditative footage of Aotearoa reinforce the spiritual connection of the instruments to the natural world. Hoki Mai ki Ahau (Return to Me) artists, Jeff Nusz and Jerome Kavanagh, started to develop this work during the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

“During the pandemic, among the anxiety and uncertainty it has brought, Jerome and I (and many others I’m sure) have found a great deal of solace spending time in nature. Watching a running stream, sitting by the rolling sea, walking a muddy path under a canopy of leaves – these can be a grounding and restorative experience. When we talked, Jerome spoke about how the music of the taonga pūoro can act as a sort of conduit, reconnecting people to nature and natural forces. The slow motion of the lockdown period also felt like a return to a calmer, more humane pace of life. All these things were in our minds as we made this work. The title also reminds us of a sort of prayer, hoping for the safe return of loved ones separated or suffering during the pandemic.”

– Jeff Nusz

Project Credits/Acknowledgements

Cinematography by Sam Peacocke, Commissioned by Auckland Live with support from Creative New Zealand.

Artist Bios

Jeff Nusz (US/NZ): Jeff Nusz is an interactive artist based in Auckland. His installations and online pieces attempt to offer new perspectives on complex and invisible phenomenon through playful interaction. Nusz enjoys collaborations as a way of exploring the creative processes of other artists and discovering places neither could reach alone. He co-founded Screens, an online gallery for interactive art, which among other work, featured his collaborations with John Ward Knox, Seung Yul Oh and Jae Hoon Lee. As creative lead of the Google Data Arts Team in San Francisco (2014-2017), he created interactive works with international artists for a global audience. He has recently exhibited digital arts works at Te Tuhi, Artspace, A4 Gallery, The Physics Room, and on the Auckland Live Digital Stage. As a creative technologist, Nusz has created award-winning interactive experiences for international brands including Sony, Samsung, PWC, Google and Tourism NZ.

Jerome Kavanagh (NZ): Jerome Kavanagh is a Grammy Award-winning featured soloist and Māori musical instrument specialist who hails from the Mokai Patea, Maniapoto, Kahungunu tribes, and the Caomhanach clan in Ireland. He was first introduced to the sound of taonga pūoro at age 16 by one of his aunties. A family owned koauau (Māori cross-blown flute) was the first instrument he recalls learning to play. His work focuses on sharing with the next generations in schools and he is part of a movement introducing Māori music, art and culture to the world. Over his career he has performed/recorded with artists from a variety of different genres ranging from hip hop to classical. His collaborations include Small Island Big Song, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (U.K), Moana and the Tribe (N.Z) Daniel Beddingfield, Hayley Westenra, Joler Gaan (Bangladesh), Kevin Mark Trail “The Streets” (U.K) and two times Grammy Award-winning composer Christopher Tin (U.S.A).