8 March 2020 | Songwriter Residency, Steffi (Germany)

Photo of Valley Views by Steffi Rodigas

On Monday we said ‘Haere atu rā’ (goodbye) to our incredible manuhiri. A weekend of deepening the korero with a couple who traveled from Germany to Aotearoa. It was Steffi’s third time in NZ and for Hans, his first. Steffi wanted to show him this stunning country.

As we began our wananga (workshop), we realised just how connected our new friend felt towards the land, and how serendipitous our meeting was. Steffi was a social worker, but on her first visit to our shores, standing alone at the highest point of the Routeburn Track, she had a moment of deep realisation to give herself permission to act on her creative talents. From then on her life began to change.

Steffi has now been painting professionally for two years. Her first solo exhibition was 2019, together with her partner Hans. A larger solo exhibition will be this Sunday in the Botanical garden in Bayreuth with pictures of nature, landscapes, and animals. This is followed by her exhibition in the Natural History Museum in Coburg with her artworks depicting New Zealand at the end of May.

The other passion in her life is music. On the last leg of their trip, Steffi needed to acknowledge her experiences of Aotearoa. These acknowledgments were to the maunga, awa and moana of Aotearoa. As her English needed some help, Stephen collaborated with Steffi to develop and then refine her lyrics, introducing ideas, imagery, and history to support her knowledge. Although Steffi had researched about NZ history, land wars and confiscation, hearing the formation of kupu (words) and whakatauki (proverbs) for our artist in residence, was profound.

Later that day, I was given the lyrics and began a process of building the vocal melody and music. Taking note of Steffi’s range, knowledge of the guitar and preferred genre, the lyrics guided the melody to create shape, structure and musical tension and release. Steffi plays a little guitar and I was careful not to make it too complicated as we collaborated, so she can perform the new piece herself.

Upon finishing her song, our guests had tears in their eyes and goosebumps (Gänsehaut!), and on her final evening, Steffi practiced playing the song herself.

Steffi’s expression of her appreciation and care for our whēnua is truly a heartfelt act, full of gratitude. Her acknowledgment and connection is inspirational. Ngā mihi nui e wahine ataahua, thank you for sharing your artistry with us, the beginning of much more to come. I know that our next collaboration with you will be soon, across land and sea, across Te Ao.. haere, haere atu rā, e hoa.

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Visit Steffi's website for more information on her artworks as seen below.