Fire and family tragedy stun DJ

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
Sara Tamati
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

FACING THE MUSIC: Newtown DJ and artist Sara Tamati at her gutted flat yesterday, for the first time since a fire from a downstairs business swept the Newtown building.

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The acrid smell of smoke hung in the air as Newtown artist Sara Tamati stepped into her blackened Wellington flat to face the destruction of her life's uninsured belongings.

"My legs are shaking," the 37-year-old DJ said as she carefully walked around her incinerated and sodden lounge, gasping at the charred remains of turntables and 20 crates of treasured records that she and her husband, also a DJ, had collected over 16 years.

"I totally understand how DJ Lemon feels," she says, referring to fellow Wellington DJ Danny Lemon, who lost 8500 records in the Kiwi Self Storage arson in April.

There was a tragic start to the day the fire struck Tamati's flat above the French Door Factory in Newtown. Her mother-in-law, Janet Wright, died suddenly in hospital in the early hours of Monday morning.

About 4.45pm that afternoon, one of the couple's two flatmates was asleep when he was woken by fire alarms blaring in the joinery shop below.

He fled outside, phoning Tamati to alert her as she was supermarket shopping.

"I nearly fainted, and I was crying at the supermarket," she said.

"It was a double whammy. I remember saying to my husband later that I think I'm at breaking point, that I don't know if I can handle this."

She could see flames shooting out of the roof when she got home.

One of the factory's staff members told her a spark from a cutting machine hit an extractor fan and ignited sawdust.

As well as being a DJ, Tamaki is a graffiti artist and art student. She and her husband, known as DJ Kerb, moved into the flat two years ago, and filled it with art and music. Earlier this year, her bank encouraged her to get contents insurance, "but I couldn't afford that".

News of Monday's fire spread quickly around Newtown and further afield, and within hours, friends and strangers began donating clothing, food, bedding and even jewellery. A Westpac Trust bank account has been set up for donations, and a fundraising gig is planned for August.

Tamati said she had been overwhelmed by people's kindness, but it felt strange to be wearing other people's clothing. "At the moment, the only things I'm wearing of my own are my shoes. I'm trying really hard not to think of all the things we've lost. You've got to laugh, or you'll just keep crying."

The couple are unsure where they will live next. For now, they are focused on Wright's funeral this morning.

They spent all Wednesday night painting her coffin with graffiti art. "We are going to send off Mum the best way we can. Then we will deal with everything else afterwards."

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- The Dominion Post

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