Nicole went to art school for a year before dropping out. She says, “I was still learning how to fend for myself and navigate white spaces. I ended up becoming an english, media and creative writing graduate instead.”
In her last year of uni, Nicole “picked up the shitty camera” she bought when she was at art school and started taking photos of her friends and Auckland city. “It was hard adjusting to the city when you used to have a river running through your backyard. To cope, I started imagining the streets downtown as a giant playground. I would roam them late at night by myself, people watching or trying to sneak into abandoned buildings. One night I took photos at a friends party on K Road and from there I started getting paid to do others.”
"It was hard adjusting to the city when you used to have a river running through your backyard. To cope, I started imagining the streets downtown as a giant playground."
“For the past three years I’ve been working and playing in and out of Auckland’s creative/music scene.” Nicole says she found whanau, in a collective called The Grow Room. They had a studio space inside St Kevin’s Arcade on K Road, then another space in Samoa House… however rent was rising, they were “struggling” and could no longer afford a venue. “So we had to dip,” Nicole says. “During this time, I basically documented the gentrification of K Road’s underground creative communities. It was nice being able to showcase all these crazy things happening - no one else was doing them any justice.”
"Before I started to acknowledge my tūpuna, I feel I was basically ceding my indigeneity with the way I was choosing to live here. I’m still learning how to navigate myself with mana here."
“It’s a bit of a painful process so I have to let things sit for a while and ideas to mature before doing anything in the public eye. I’ve been focused on going home more often, delving deeper into my whakapapa and re/learning history. Now, most of my closest friends here are Māori and I’m lucky to be able to unravel everything with them, and document the process. We’ve been going to each others marae for wananga and have been talking about sparking up a little book club for Māori resources among other ideas.”
In regards to her ambitions and artistic intentions she says she hopes her work “will be felt by other Māori on their own journey of remembering, reacquainting and reclaiming.”
“I’m more into working with video at the moment because of the limitations photography can have when trying to encapsulate something. Eventually I’d like to create work/work in ways that tangibly help my whanau and iwi, but I’ll need to be ready to move back home for that.”
"Every time I go home my dad takes me on these trips to Ruatoki and Taneatua or Rotorua to visit whanau, our urupa and the land we have. He tells me all of his stories, and shows me exactly where they happened. He’s been doing this since I was a kid but I really only started paying attention over the last few years. Now that he knows I want to know everything, he’s been telling me more than ever before."