PLEASE! EXPLAIN! is the first in our CrossPollination series of creative response writings from the performances during PAWA. Mia Gaudin a writer/lawyer living in Wellington, recently having completed her first novel as part of her Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. As well as reading, writing and appearing in the Waitangi Tribunal, Mia spends her time eating vietnamese sandwiches and pretending to bike up hills. Here she responds to Please Explain Sacred, a durational performance by Jazmine Rose Phillips and Jess Holly Bates.
Photo Credit: Essi Airisneimi
Please, explain. You smelt like a spa and the music was lovely, calming. Sacred. There was citronella or something more complex in the air. The light was coming from low on the ground and I waited my turn. Please. It was cold, the water, and I didn’t expect that.
I wanted to be wrapped up warm because the north wind was coming in a tunnel down the street and everything was concrete around us. I am curious about other women’s bodies. Sacred. When the veil fell from your face eyesnoselips cut into the space and you became real. Explain, please.
Not just a body there. Explain.
My friend washed my feet and I didn’t think too hard about how wrong that really was because I knew my friend had chosen it and I couldn’t stand back and see my friend as subservient even though that’s what my friend was playing at. Explain.
Congratulations, winner, you created a threshold. We went through it, all of us, and into a space with cold feet and cold floor and we crouched under the woolen red web. There were objects with no rules around them. Please. Explain. You tore a needle from a packet and dipped it in a bottle marked ink. Took to your wrist. Explain. A blue hand. I couldn’t watch. Scared. Scarred. Please. Please. Move
People kept coming and you kept washing and the rest of us waited and didn’t know what was happening; if we should leave. Explain. Sacred? The room was waning. I smoked a cigarette. A man uploaded your ass to Instagram. Rolled a rubber boob across the ground. Talked about pizza.
You is plural. Two bodies. The same skin, muscle, hair, breasts. The flatness of your stomachs was astounding. Jess. Jazmine. We didn’t talk about your perfection, the comfort you (that’s plural), had with yourselves. I don’t even feel I can comment because to do so, would I be disrespecting the Safer Space Policy? Would I be oppressing you to tell you that in the performance I compared my body to yours? Both of you. Do I have too much power in writing this? Am I asserting it over you? Am I being fat-phobic just by looking at your body and seeing you have less cellulite than I do?
So much seems sacred. Too much? Not
Break. Power points. Jackets. Heels. Still naked. Full office sex presenting a slide show on tapu. The conversation had already started and we were entering at the end without context.
How and why do Pākehā adopt Māori tikanga and tapu?
The communication plain but still elusive; the arguments weren’t evident. This isn’t a debate, I know, but I wanted to understand what was being said. I was cringing. Maybe this was the point.
Right? You were aware of this effect. The irony in binary.
Right? The contrast with the sacred so stark. Intentional.
Right? Perhaps I am too willingly offended? Making it too sacred?
Right? I’m a pākehā woman too and so easily
Salt. Chalk. Drawing our souls. We are moving and fully immersed. This is magic. Sacred. We are bodies and we are everywhere. A poem like an incantation. The woman next to me scrapes a bone across the concrete. Another one is winding the red wool into a ball. You are washed and we are back in the spa but it’s cold. Did I mention it’s cold? Explain? But then the singing starts and it’s like three ohms 1 2 3 at the end of yoga but over and over 3 2 1 1 2 3 and it’s impossible not to join. Sacred. Sacred. And of course, cake. A ritual with
no need to explain.
Writer: Mia Gaudin. Editor: Jess Holly Bates