Cassandra Barnett is a writer of Ngāti Huri (Raukawa ki Wharepūhunga) and Pākehā descent, and Mama to a son with African whakapapa. She writes poetry, essays and short fiction about cultural, diasporic and ecological futures. She worked as a lecturer (fine arts/critical and contextual studies) and art writer for 15 years, and believes deeply in the power of art and word to bring transformation.
Cassandra was Writer in Residence at Zealandia wildlife sanctuary (2019), and in 2022 is the Auckland Regional Parks Artist in Residence (Waitākere). She is currently working (with her cousin Shirley Simmonds) on a CNZ-funded project to research and gather the whenua-based stories and storytelling practices of her whānau and hapū, for a book responding to devastating quarrying of their ancestral pā sites (see here)
"As kaitiaki we must find and honour our own charges, our own wards. Māori and non-Māori alike must take our places as ecological participants. We must start getting our hands dirty, stop living separated from our own relations to things. Must develop our guts for this. I must dig deep into te tau o taku ate - my liver, the seat of my feelings - and awaken the connective, activating grit and aroha for the job. I'm working on bringing the ecosystem inside of me and myself inside of it. Everything is about thresholds. I'm thinking again and again about surrendering to a world that is well, and how hard but how urgent it is."