An Aotearoa Summer
Revisiting old stomping grounds, adventuring to new beaches and basking in the wonders of ‘True Zealand’.
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-cordinator of IPF and the co-founder of the magazine Good Sport. This summer he went home to reconnect with the land, the summer and the people, and brought home a collection of photos full of both nostalgia and new experiences.
Summer in my native land of Aotearoa is of great importance in my life. I returned to my home town this summer in the very isolated Tairawhiti on the east coast of the North Island, Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa or Gisborne. After spending a lot of the previous year travelling across the globe I decided I would spend three months situated on the farmland my parents live on and 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 region 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 is a simpler and very beautiful way of life. Swimming means finding river spots and beaches that only locals know about. Traffic jams do not 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 and family over new years all while others party in a vineyard and watch the sun come up before anyone else in the world, by virtue of being the most eastern city in the world. There are water bombs or 'Manu's' galore, off the train bridge or off the rocks. 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, also known as 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—especially if it involves the locals, there's a warmth to the people here that is rubs off on you and leaves lasting positive effects. Basically this trip, spent with my camera, became a homage to home and I was lucky enough to spend it with family and friends in the sun, sand, waves, bush, cold drinks and multiple ice creams.
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This article is presented by Weis