Image: essay may ranapiri, takatāpui poem from ransack and redinblack paintings, 2019. Installation view in Queer Algorithms, exhibition at Gus Fisher Gallery. Photography by Sam Hartnett.

essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Wehi Wehi, Ngāti Takatāpui) is a poet based in Kirikiriroa. Their poetry and paintings are part of Queer Algorithms.    


Can you tell us a little bit about your work that has been in Gus Fisher Gallery’s exhibition programme?

It’s a series of paintings that speak to the moment of creation, the violent splitting of Papatūānuku and Ranginui by Tane Mahuta. A lot of the work comes from wanting to free myself from the loaded meaning of language that is always present in poetry – even if you make something that denies conventional understanding the words still glow with connotation. The paintings are way for me to express autonomy as well using the colours of tino rangatiratanga.

What have you been working on since then?

A lot of writing, been pouring energy into poetry commissions and continuing to work on a manuscript tentatively title Echidna that imagines the mother of monsters in Greek Mythology as a young queer Māori woman living in the modern day. I thought I was close to finishing it, but it has recently expanded in scope.

essa may ranapiri, redinblack (detail), 2019.

essa may ranapiri, redinblack (detail), 2019.

What are you doing to entertain/occupy yourself in self-isolation?

I started playing Skyrim again was addicted to that when it came out and thought it would be fun to move aimlessly around a secondary world again. Also I’m always writing and reading something.

Do you have any podcast, book, television, etc. recommendations for us?

I would highly recommend reading Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork if you can get a hold of it, it is a challenging investigation of indigeneity in so-called Australia and the kinds of work that are and have been associated with that indigeneity on the continent.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Fullmetal Indigiqueer by Joshua Whitehead, Black Marks on the White Page edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti which is collection of work by Māori and Pasifika writers, and I just read Cassandra Barnett’s piece ‘Pitter patter, Papatūānuku’ in there which is stunning.

Is there another artist you would like to put the “spotlight” on, that people should know about?

Wairehu Grant is an amazing Māori artist, musician, scholar (he wears many hats) his visual art style skews surreal and grotesque with thick black lines, an acid spectrum of colours and mangled flesh. We worked on a zine together which I am immensely proud of called Nothing Underneath that was particularly deranged. You can find him @shamblingrambler on Insta!  

essa may ranapiri, redinblack, 2019.