Artist and doula Holli McEntegart is creating a much-needed space for postpartum parents to share their experiences, get creative, and learn from perinatal professionals.
Holli McEntegart describes herself as a social practice artist and full-spectrum doula. Over the last decade, she has lived and worked in New York and Los Angeles. She returned to Aotearoa as the Covid pandemic set in, which opened her eyes to the inequities in our healthcare system – particularly the shocking lack of maternity and postpartum care – so she decided to do something about it.
A mother to two spirited little souls, she has been a full-spectrum doula since 2018 and is a certified lactation counsellor, and also holds a Masters of Visual Arts. She has exhibited extensively around the world. Her current work on motherhood is central to her art practice, which focuses on re-centering and healing through lived experience.
Her latest project, Inhabit, will operate as a pop-up postpartum support centre, weaving connections, bringing education and “meaning via making” to new parents and the public, with free classes and community offerings.
Inhabit is also providing a social space for new parents to come together to share their postpartum experiences within a context of care and social activism. Placed at the intersection of birth and reproductive justice activism, it’s timed to begin as we slowly open our lives back up, meet, share, explore and “inhabit” collectively.
This project engages critically with how community, cultural and whānau postpartum care have been marginalised in Aotearoa and explores new models of community postpartum care, with the aim of centring intergenerational knowledge-sharing, healing and community-building.
The space will operate on a walk-in basis but will also offer more intimate and focused workshops that can be booked online. The programming and workshops will be facilitated by experienced perinatal professionals, including birth and postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, pelvic floor specialists and therapists, as well as artists and makers.
For Inhabit Wellington, a group of mothers are the co-creators of the work. Through social exchange, learning and support, visual and oral histories are explored. In the lead-up to and during the project, visual echoes of intimate postpartum exchanges from within the space will appear around the city as text-based drawings posted on billboards.
“One part of the Inhabit archive includes Post-it notes that I’ve created for new parents’ homes, hidden inside bathroom vanities and bedside drawers for tired eyes to find in moments of need,” says Holli.
“Post-it notes like this have been shared with me from doulas all over the world.”
A Post-it note wall will also evolve in the space with participants and the public invited to add messages to their past or future selves, postpartum friends and whānau to the wall.
“My aspiration for the project is to create a room that is a site of exchange, reflection, witnessing and encouragement. A place for the intimate sharing of stories,” says Holli.
Inhabit offers a space for people to come together, share and learn as a community how to better care for and support people postpartum, not just through the physical healing from birth, but through the psychological, emotional, hormonal and social transition of postpartum that every new parent and growing family experiences.
“As a society, we focus so much on our birth stories, our stories of becoming, but what happens afterwards?” Holli says. “How many of us know our own postpartum stories, or those of our ancestors?”
Holli’s art practice is underpinned by a desire to unpack the complexities of sometimes overlooked and devalued human experiences – so mothers and their larger support networks may collectively offer new visions and actions for change. This is an aspect of human experience often invisible in the art world. Her work becomes a site of human social exchange between mothers, a doula and the community, aiming to make cultural and whānau approaches to postpartum care more visible.
Inhabit will be open Wednesday-Sunday, May 18-29, 10am-4pm daily. There will be scheduled workshops most mornings at 10.30am, followed by a conversation with shared kai, tea and postpartum-centric herbal infusions. Inhabit is the latest public arts project to fill the former Reading Cinema complex, which has become an ever-evolving creative space.
Inhabit, May 18-29, 100 Courtenay Place, Te Aro, Wellington. For more information, visit inhabitpostpartum.co.nz/whats-on.