A Breath of Wind to Brush Past: Images of Bloodline

By Maya Acharya

Deborah Thacker McDonald is “a proud Cook Island visual artist” from Auckland, New Zealand, who explores heritage and culture through her artwork. She was born in New Lynn and raised by Pakeha/European parents, attesting that her blood belongs to the Cook Islands while her life belongs to New Zealand, where she was raised.

Having only recently discovered her heritage as a Cook Islander, Deborah describes her art as a way through which she is able to find a connection to her roots. Her latest project, Lãpui (meaning like a breath of wind to brush past), is a photographic series in which she tells her story of living in diaspora, and how blood ties call her to a home she has no knowledge of.

 “This is my way of trying to reconnect with my heritage as a Cook Islander,” she explains.

“My biological father has passed away and I never had the chance to meet him. So in this series I use my daughter as my model to show the connection and bloodline, withdrawing myself to show that although it is not myself in the work, I still have a bond with my daughter and without my biological father, we both would not exist.”

According to Deborah, her adoptive parents taught her a lot and she always felt encouraged by them to explore her heritage. It was her father who suggested that she search for her biological parents, as leaving it too long might lead to regrets.

 "I am a gift and art allows me to give that gift back," she says.

Many of her photographs feature objects such as hand crafted ei’s (headpieces) and lei’s (flower necklaces) that are used to express her heritage. Plastic flowers are also present, symbolising beauty in things that are not from nature or 'natural'.

Photography is her main medium, and Deborah often digitally manipulates her images, transforming them into the image that she wants her audience to see.

“I don’t like to confine myself to just one art form. If it's a visual art medium, I have most probably given it a go. Since there is no rule in life about sticking to one genre it's quite common to find me submerged in my own art world, as this has always been a part of me. Losing hours of the day that turn into night that way is what makes me the person I am,” she says.



To see more of Deborah’s work visit her webpage, or follow debsta_22 on instagram.