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Writing (MA)

Kaiya Waerea

Sickness, being, fucking, caring, menstruating, 

writing, soreness. Sleeping. 

Image, surface, and throwing stones. Scale. 

Precarity, alternative economies, 

light, mass, and everything you can see is holding you

Pluralities, multitudes, murmurings. 

Leaps of faith. 

I am a chronically ill writer, designer, and publisher from Aotearoa, living in London. My writing has been featured in the RCA Design & Philosophy Journal, Ache Magazine, Sick Magazine, and DreamsTimesFree. I have had work exhibited at Lunchtime Gallery (current), South Kiosk Gallery, Transmediale and Alchemy Film & Arts, and have given talks and workshops for NN Contemporary, Control Shift Network, Dash Disability Arts and the Remote Body amongst others.  

Prior to studying at the Royal College of Art, I graduated from the BA Design programme at Goldsmiths University of London. During my second year I began Sticky Fingers Publishing with Sophie Paul (also of this graduating cohort). We started working together out of a shared concern for what knowledge feels like, and since have developed Sticky Fingers into a feminist intra-dependant print publishers working with over 75 writers across the last three years to publish work too terrifying, messy or fragile to be published anywhere else. We are concerned with feminist, queer and crip publishing methodologies and prioritising work dealing with these politics. 

Currently, alongside running Sticky Fingers Publishing I am an associate lecturer on the BA Graphic Design programme at Camberwell College of Art; I am one third of design trio Access Power Visibility working on Healing Justice London’s Death by Welfare project; I am a support worker for artist and poet Abby Nocon; and a freelance writer and designer.  

I came to writing through my design practice; language being a system like any other which designerly knowledge can attend to. My research is interested in such systems, and in particular the knowledge that is produced when you move through systems which aren’t designed for you; the things that emerge from this rupturing, and how we might nurture them.

A methodology is when a method is used in relation to an ideology. Through looking at what Crip does, we can constitute new ways we can think. My final major project, Crip is a Verb, looks at how we might constitute crip as a methodology; how crip might form, reform, and deform the ways and means through which we configure a creative practice. Of course, any crip methodology wouldn’t be singular but plural: contradictory, troubling, and discursive. This essay is a twisting together of disparate practices into a path forward from here. My final major project is an output of my ongoing interdisciplinary practice, the older sister to my undergraduate research and the younger sister to whatever is coming next. 

Whilst on this programme, I have also been attempting to start tending to my indigenous-ness after spending most of my life suffocating it. This has been spurred on by recurrent dreams of the oceans and bush of Aotearoa backdropped with te reo mumblings which come laden in grief, alongside being thrust into the imperial epicentre that the RCA Kensington building is situated amongst. Every time I went into campus I would pass the Northern Cross memorial, the statue of Lord Wellington, my home city's namesake, and many of the buildings from which the murder, assimilation and indoctrination of my ancestors were planned and developed.

I present two pieces here with are some first fumblings with these reckonings: Ko ai Taku Tūpana, Ko ai Taku Tamahine I wrote first; Bitches Witches & Dykes: Bodies of Water & Bodies of Knowledge I wrote several months after. Both of these are terrifying to put into the world, my relationship to them partial and tense, alive, living. 

Through all of this I am lead by a childish optimism for a future lead by pleasure; embarrassing cliches, sincere corniness, the flush of joy at learning from a mistake. Denise Riley says a sentence always leans forward, it presumes a reader. Dearest reader, I am leaning forward: let's see where we can get from here. 

Content warning: ableism, ableist language, eugenics, medicalisation, racism, white supremacy, intergenerational trauma, medical trauma, Nazi-ism, homophobia, transphobia, euthanasia and colonisation. 

Please note for all of the projects below — open the images as individual files to read — and then use the carousel to move through.

The character count for the alt-text input for this site is inappropriately low for textual work. To read full image descriptions along with the excerpted text as plain text, download the document in my 'About' section.

‘Crip is a Verb_Cover’
Crip is a Verb_Introduction_1
Crip is a Verb_Introduction_2
Crip is a Verb_Introduction_3
Crip is a Verb_Introduction_4
Crip is a Verb_Crip Ruptures_1
Crip is a Verb_Crip Ruptures_2
Crip is a Verb_Crip Time Travels_1
‘Crip is a Verb_Crip Misfits_1
Crip is a Verb_Crip Misfits_2

Crip theory takes the medical othering of the disabled body and uses this as a starting point from which to conceive of an identity politic. Here, I work through that crip might mean as a practice, looking to artists, writers, designers and theorists who are imagining disability differently. Through ten sections, each celebrating a different verb — ruptures, time travels, misfits, luxuriates, bewitches, protests, lusts, memes, documents, and persists — I use these verbs as a lens to think about what crip can do. The present reality that disabled people face is murderous, the sites, systems and objects we encounter operating through what Rosemarie Garland-Thompson calls eugenics logic. In the face of this, disabled creative practitioners are making work which resists dire social norms and imagines futures which centre and support difference, instead of eradicating it. Crip theory understands the disabled body as a starting point for reconfiguring selfhood. Here I show how it is also a site for reimagining the economy, ecology and power.

Cover sticker illustrations by Tommy Brentnall, single A4 copy bound for the occasion of RCA2022 degree show.


full text 15k words

Bitches, Witches & Dykes was a women liberation magazine which ran in New Zealand from 1980–82. I encountered it quite by coincidence, browsing the shelves of the Feminist Library in Peckham, the yellowing, crumbling pages as far away from their origin as I am. 

Within Bitches Witches & Dykes operates a separately edited segment titled ‘The Black Forum’, and through examining the life of this segment and the paper more broadly I explore notions of diaspora and intergenerational loss through an archival encounter. Across three timescales I look to other wahine Māori writers and activists to examine Māori identity and oppression, and how this plays out in the patterns of my own genealogy, circling ideas of movement, distribution, diaspora, bodies, print, water, and knowledge.


5k words
Pitt Rivers Photo
Ko ia Taku Tūpuna Ko ia Taku Tamahine_Print Version
Ko ia Taku Tupuna, Ko ia Taku Tamahine

This piece — originally presented in audio — is a response to a photograph from Pitt Rivers Museums photo archive. The title means she is my ancestor, she is my daughter, and is a grappling with what Audre Lorde writes in ‘Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’: 

“… the strength of women lies in recognising differences between us as creative, and in standing up to those distortions which we inherited without blame, but which are now ours to alter.”

The holes which tear and appear in our whakapapa can be tended to, allowed to heal, or left to fester, grow, darken, passed down again. Through thinking with this photograph I attempted to begin approaching these holes, prodding them carefully, coming up, continuously, against colonial technologies; the screen, the archive, the google image search, the email exchanges. 


7:15 mins
Monologue of a Hagstone_Assemblage

Erosion, time, water, knowledge, 

land, dryness, silence. Sickness, streaming. 

This monologue was written for a task about object hood, voice, and direction. 


1k words
facing a blank wall_pg1
facing a blank wall_pg2

In November of 2020, we were given a brief to write about ‘place’. That winter already felt like it had been going on for so long, and as the second wave of covid was picking up pace in the UK, the future was forshortened. On the day I wrote this I was visiting the RCA library for the first time, having booked one of the six available study slots, and had barely written for months, barely written since beginning this programme from my bedroom. 

The movement, the change of locations, the travel from my home in south east London to this new place which I was supposed to feel apart of dislodged something in me, and when I was settled at my allotted desk in the Kensington Library, I wrote this start to finish.  


1.5k words