In Earthpushers, a project developed for the 2017 Headlands Sculpture on the Gulf, Auckland-based artist Jeremy Leatinu'u engaged with the history of earth excavation on Waiheke Island and its transportation to Auckland. From the late nineteenth century to today tonnes of sand, shingle and gravel has been extracted from Waiheke's foreshore and land. This earth was originally used to construct a significant amount of Auckland’s early urban infrastructure such as the Grafton Bridge built in 1910.
Through a video work, commissioned by Te Tuhi, Leatinu'u shares how the public helped him transport 500 bags of earth from the Auckland ferry terminal to Waiheke Island as a physical and poetic gesture that recognises the loss of Waiheke's whenua and a meditation on the contemporary transience of earth. The video specifically traces Leatinu'u's extensive research into the past and current histories of earth movement, the process of making the work as well as the overwhelming community engagement to collectively transfer about a tonne of earth across the Waitematā Harbour – including the participation of Ngāti Pāoa representatives as well as many tourists and ferry commuters.