Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga  audio-visual production manager Josie McClutchie has just returned from New York City, where one of her photographs was selected for an indigenous photo exhibition at the tenth session of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The theme of the exhibition was “The Right to Water and Indigenous Peoples”. Although most of the photos focussed on issues of access to fresh water, Josie (Ngāti Porou, Rongomaiwahine, Rongowhakaata) wanted to highlight indigenous concerns about the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, which at the time of her submission had just passed its second reading in Parliament.

Josie submitted a photo she had just taken at Auckland’s Ōkahu Bay during a session she had set up to experiment with photographic techniques to express a theme of connection with water.

She recalls her subject, seven-year-old Denzel Hakopa Timu (a descendant of Ngati Whatua and the grandson of a Māori Studies colleague, Mere Gilman) had loads of patience as she sought to capture the perfect image. As Denzel played in the surf, Josie snapped around 100 shots. The result was the photo “Takutai Moana” (Foreshore and Seabed).

“My father is a fisherman who for many years supplied kaimoana (seafood) to our tribe, Ngati Porou, particularly to the kaumatua of the district and for community hui such as tangihanga - so I have a personal relationship with the sea,” says Josie.

“With this picture, I wanted to create the context for a broader discussion about Māori customary title and access to the foreshore and seabed and how uncertain that access has recently become for many Māori coastal communities with the passing of the new Marine and Coastal Bill. I also wanted to highlight that Māori have had an inseparable connection with the moana (ocean) since time immemorial, one that has fostered an enduring responsibility of guardianship, protection and care.”

Josie, who was the only Māori participant at the exhibition, is particularly proud that her photo gave New Zealand and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga a presence at such a prestigious event. Indeed, her photo was one of only 56 chosen from 140 submissions, many of which came from professional photographers.

“It was really inspiring to be there, around other indigenous nations and photographers. Photography is such a compelling, evocative way to get a message across. It’s a great way to document our indigenous stories.”