This article is part of our VICE Weekends summer series, presented by Weis
Ben Clement is a photographer based in Melbourne, with strong ties to his homeland in Gisborne, New Zealand. Amongst many wonderful things, Ben is the co-coordinator of IPF and the co-founder of Good Sport. This summer, he went home to reconnect with the land, the summer and the people, and brought home a collection of photos that are equal parts nostalgic and new.
Summer in my native land of Aotearoa holds great importance in my life. I returned to my hometown this summer on the very isolated Tairawhiti (east coast) of the North Island: Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne). After spending much of the previous year travelling across the globe, I decided I'd spend three months at the farmland my parents live on to reconnect with land, the summer and the people. Revisiting old stomping grounds, adventuring to new areas and basking in what I would call 'True Zealand'.
The east coast is known for its isolation and with this isolation brings a unique outlook on life, as well as a strong connection to the land. Parts of the area feel like the old country, where animals roam free without fences and roads barely exist. It's a simpler and very beautiful way of life. Swimming means finding river spots and beaches that only locals know about. Traffic jams don't exist—the city of Gisborne only has two sets of traffic lights. You're only a stones throw from nature and fresh vegetables that are sold on the side of the road. There are more than enough areas to fill your drink bottle with fresh water from the river or natural spring and trees act as washing lines when camping. Horses are raced along the beach of Kaiaua for charity over New Year's all while others party in a vineyard and watch the sun come up before anyone else in the world by virtue of it being the most eastern city in the world. There are water bombs (manus) galore off the train bridge or off the rocks. And if you're not swimming you're probably close to or on the water, heading out on a boat to catch a feed of kaimoana (seafood). The nights are as clear as anything, often spotting multiple shooting stars within only a few minutes.
There's an eagerness to wake up early and spend the day seeing and doing, and a warmth to the people leaves a lasting positive effects. These photos are a homage to home, memories of a summer I was lucky enough to spend with family and friends in the sun, sand, waves and bush with plenty of cold drinks and multiple ice creams.
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This article is presented by Weis