Who is Haumea?

Above: Immediately after gaining my fine art degree at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin Ireland in 2000, I joined my NZ scientist friend Dr Rhys Jones, to count seabirds on the unpeopled atoll of Suwarrow, Cook Islands, in the South Pacific for a UN biodiversity study. This remarkable journey, where we hitched a lift with sailors to sail across the beautiful deep blue Pacific ocean has long been a touchstone for my lives between my birth country, Aotearoa New Zealand and the home of my ancestors from Eire, Ireland. It took many years to reflect on this gift of Suwarrow – the tiny atoll ( a ring of just about sea-level isles) that writer Robert Louis Stevenson remarked as ‘the most romantic isle in the world’, where the wild inhabitants, the birds, the crabs, the fish and sharks knew no fear of humans. How can one’s creative practice inspire an ecological mind of wisdom, love and beauty so we can heal the Earth? I’m still learning how..

Haumea in the ferns
(Unknown artist)

Haumea is the Great Earth Mother, Goddess of fire and creation in the Pacific. Haumea is also the first Indigenous name given to a dwarf planet discovered in our solar system in 2004.

Some say the discovery of Haumea corresponds to awakening planetary ecological consciousness and a renewed interest in other non-Western cultures’ more life-sustaining world views.

artist unknown

Atolls and islands in the Pacific Ocean are some of the most threatened regions for sea level rise and extreme weather events, affecting many peoples and living beings. Worryingly, since I visited Suwarrow atoll in 2000, a significant mid-way breeding point for seabirds in the Cook Islands, one of the islets is now submerged.

Hello! My name is Cathy Fitzgerald and my work aims to empower those working in the arts to engage effectively with urgent eco-social issues.

In deciding on a name for my work, I wanted to express a strong symbol for the life-giving power and creativity of Earth. Haumea as Earth Mother is creative, caring and fiery – the very qualities we will need to develop to create the better world we know is possible. As citizens of the Earth we all have the potential to embody Haumea.

Haumea summons me as I’m from Aotearoa New Zealand, a nation of islands that arises in the Pacific Ocean and first settled by sea-faring Polynesians and then European settlers. In Aotearoa New Zealand Maori creation stories Haumea is god of wild vegetable foods. Haumia is also a child of Ranginui (sky father) and Papa tuanuku (earth mother).

I am fortunate to have dual citizenship with both Aotearoa New Zealand and Ireland. Leaving in 1875 when Irish people were struggling after harsh periods of famine, my Irish Great grandmother gave birth to my paternal grandfather at sea, on the long voyage from Ireland to Aotearoa New Zealand.

So my pepeha, my genealogy of my Irish and Aotearoa ancestors and the lands, the built and cultural heritage that nurtured them, is connected through the life-giving great blue Pacific Ocean of Haumea (which I had the good fortune to sail across in 2000, see short video above).

Cathy Fitzgerald
Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD by Practice: eco-social artist | educator | researcher |

I also chose a symbol from Aotearoa New Zealand for my logo.  The ‘koru‘ – the iconic swirling symbol represented a frond of the silver tree fern un-spiralling as it grows, is the Māori word for ‘loop’ and  represents growth, strength and peace.

All NZ children draw the koru and you see it everywhere there (our famous rugby All Blacks’ symbol is the same Silver Tree fern). My Irish friends, however, think my logo is Celtic inspired – I love how such a symbol speaks universally of growth and potential. My logo had to be green of course, since I live in Ireland now and for the work I do.

Aotearoa New Zealand (my birth country) and Eire Ireland the home of many of my ancestors, and the Pacific ocean in-between, has long inspired me.

Haumea Ecoliteracy for the Arts began in January 2019

Through Haumea, I am sharing my ecoliteracy knowledge to others working in the art sector through tailored learning modules. 

I do hope you will be interested in learning with me for the better world we must all create.