Saturday, October 30, 2010

From the Kete Files

Traditional Treasures
Museum Pieces
Kete in a Case
May 2010. Ajr

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Maori Place Names - 76

South Wairarapa
North Island
July 2010. Ajr

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rotorua's Sacred Gulls

In 1823, the northern Ngapuhi tribe, led by Hongi Hika, attacked Rotorua's Te Arawa people on Mokoia Island in the middle of Lake Rotorua. Te Arawa were warned of the pending attack by the disturbed flight and squawking of Nga Tarapunga - the red-billed gull - and were prepared for the enemy as a result. Since then, the gulls have been tapu (sacred) to the people of Te Arawa.

Both red- and black-billed gulls breed in their thousands at Te Arikiroa (Sulphur Bay) on the edge of the lake (near the Polynesian Spa) and the red-bills also roost here outside breeding season. The little sandy beach at Te Arikiroa was also the scene of an inter-tribal battle centuries ago, when the people of Ngati Tangaroa-mihi and Ngati Tama (Tama-ihu-toroa) clashed. The dead and dying were said to be so thickly strewn about that they resembled inanga (whitebait) cast on the shore. Things are much quieter today and it's a popular bird-watching spot. You'll also frequently find photographers at work early in the morning, trying to capture the mood as morning mists and geothermal steam mix over the water. There's a msyterious beauty about the place then.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nga Kakahu - Change & Exchange

Last year I wrote two consecutive entries on this blog - one about the stunning contemporary cloaks of Roka Ngarimu-Cameron, the other about the incredibly beautiful 'cloak-inspired' garments by Pakeha artist, Jo Torr. The two never knew each other and only became aware of each other's work after seeing it here. I love that modern technology can have lovely outcomes like this. And as a result, Roka and Jo are now exhibiting together in Nga Kakaku - Change & Exchange, a stunning exhibition at Pataka Museum of Art and Cultures, in Porirua, near Wellington. The exhibition (catalogue pictured above), celebrates the art of Maori weaving from both a Maori and a Pakeha perspective. If you click on either Jo or Roka's name in the label line below this post, you'll be able to read more about their individual works. in the meantime, if you're in the Wellington area, make time to see the show.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Maori Place Names - 75

Otago Peninsula
May 2010, Ajr

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Attention Grabber

"One for the Mother - Allsorts" - 2010
Wayne Youle (Ngapuhi, Ngati Whakaeke) is an artist known for his bright, slick, 'pop-art style', an artist who never shies away from playfully challenging bicultural stereotypes. This is his latest work, covering the usually grey car park bunker outside Christchurch Art Gallery - a vibrant splash of colour that is part of the gallery's excellent OUTER SPACES programme that promotes art works outside the main gallery building. It's as if some giant licorice allsort has fallen from the sky and tumbled onto a green patch right in front of the gallery. Lovely!

A Portrait - 24

Maori Performer
Tamaki Maori Village
June 2010, Ajr

Monday, October 18, 2010

Otakou Marae - A Peninsula Place

Otakou Marae sits almost at the end of Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin - a splendid collection of buildings tucked away down a side road, a short walk from the water's edge. I went there for the first time three or four years ago with Ngai Tahu's TE KARAKA team, working on a series of Ngai Tahu runanga kai features.
I spent the day talking with local kaumatua (elders) about the traditional importance of Otago Harbour as a food source for the Otakou people and in particular, our discussions focussed on the cockle or tuaki as they are known to the locals. Actually New Zealand Littleneck Clams (Austrovenus stutchburyi), they are the single-most abundant large invertebrate animal found in inter-tidal sand flats in sheltered harbours and estuaries throughout New Zealand.

Tuaki have been an important food source for Muaupoko (Otago Peninsula) Maori for generations and their shells have commonly been found in centuries-old middens. The whole area was once speckled with many kaik (villages) and Pukekura (Taiaroa Head) was an important fortified pa.

It was a perfect sunny day in May when I visited Otakou again earlier this year and I couldn't help remembering my previous visit, sitting outside on the bench seats listening to Matenga Taiaroa talking about his great-grandfather, who walked the same soil; to Tangi Russell, who feels just as passionate about maintaining the harbour's tuaki resource; and to Paul Karaitiana, who lives just around the corner from the marae at Te Rauone Beach. He's been there thirty years or more and still gathers tuaki and other kai moana (seafood).
Otakou is 'home' to Waitaha, Rapuwai, Kati Hawea and Kati Mamoe; and in my view it's one of the loveliest of the southern Ngai Tahu marae. Quite apart from its divine location, I'm intrigued by its hefty, elaborately embellished church, its carvings and other tucked-away treasures.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tattoo - Another View

Times Two
Feb.2010. Ajr

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Art at the Civic Centre

Given earthquakes and book writing, I have only just managed to get myself along to the new Christchurch City Council Building - a joint venture between the council and Ngai Tahu - and I must say I am impressed. Who would have thought the old New Zealand Post building would 'scrub up' so nicely. What I particularly like is the building's 'twin face' - the Worcester entrance above, with its wonderful Fayne Robinson powhenua, Te Pou Herenga Waka; and the southern Hereford Street entrance (below), which features the magnificent etched glass mural by Ross Hemera, Tuhituhi Whenua.

Given that the building is a joint venture, a bicultural undertaking as it were, it is also fitting that two other major artworks by leading Pakeha artists are featured - Neil Dawson's Ripple and Feather, which I never actually saw; and the above work, Knot, by Julia Morison. The latter is typical of Christchurch-based Morison's sleek, complex, beautiful perfection - a work that shimmers and changes as you move through the building from one side to the other. It is partially marred here by the scaffolding supporting a large section of inner structure that was damaged in the recent Christchurch earthquake. Based on an 'infinity knot' common in Celtic art, it alludes to the complexities and multiple pathways of communication, which seems entirely fitting for a bicultural public space.

The northern entrance to the building is dominated by the powhenua, carved by Fayne Robinson (Kai Tahu, Ngati Apa Ki Te Ra To, Ngati Porou), which is beautifully offset by the gently cascading water feature. It's there - among a series of decorative tiles representing seven of Canterbury's important waterways, that you'll find the bronze eels by Ngai Tahu artist, Priscilla Cowie (top image). Both water and eels were key determinants in the original settling of Canterbury land. The seven water tiles are mirrored by a further seven tiles on the rear of the powhenua that represent the site's history.

It's the intricate glass mural by Ross Hemera though that I found the most interesting. Hemera (Ngai Tahu, Mamoe, Waitaha), is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Visual and Material Culture at Massey University. 'His creative works draw inspiration from the South Island landscape and in particular the ancient rock drawings found in limestone caves and outcrops that were created by his tipuna (ancestors), the nomadic Waitaha. His works have been exhibited internationally and major commissions include the Wakamarama sculpture at the entrance to the the Maori section of Te Papa Tongarewa, and the beautiful glass windows throughout the interior of Te Runanga of Ngai Tahu, Te Waipounamu House in Christchurch.
His gigantic work for the Hereford Street face of the new Civic Building, is inspired by the words of Matiaha Tiramorehu's petition to Queen Victoria in 1857. In that, "it honours the wishes of Ngai Tuahuriri that these words serve as a aspiration of unity to recognise the partnership between Ngai Tahu and the Christchurch City Council. As it stretches across the wide face of the building, it 'weaves along braided rivers' and over the Canterbury Plains. Ti Kouka, the cabbage tree, has a starring role and willow trees allude to English settlers. All up, it's a stunning work that 'explores both the geological ancrestry of central Te Waipounamu (the South Island) and the material culture of the people' who settled here. More than anything though - more than the beauty of these individual artworks even - I am impressed by the 'recycling' of the old NZ Post building. It was never a high point of any inner city wander and while it could have been demolished and an all-new structure built (at huge cost), it's a credit to both parties that they sought what I think is the harder road - turning an architectural ugly duckling into a thing of beauty.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Meeting House

On a recent visit to Taupo, I called into the Taupo Museum where I was most impressed by the display of this beautiful carved wharenui (meeting house). It's named Te Araha Rongoheikumi. If you remove your shoes you can enter - but not with a camera of course - so you'll just have to believe me when I say it was beautifully lit on the inside, to show off the incredible carving detail. There's a hint of that in the blue light washing up behind the wharenui in the main entrance hall. I love the addition of the burgundy leather sofa to the mahau (front porch). For any international readers not familiar with Maori architecture and culture, the wharenui was traditionally, the central building of a Maori village and now, of a marae. It literally means "big house" and depending on its use, it can also be known as the wharehui, whare tipuna or whare wananga. The wharenui is where a tribe records its history in carving, painting and weaving; it is a building that symbolises and important tipuna (ancestor) and major parts of the building represent parts of the ancestor's body. The amo for instance - the two major vertical carved poles at the front of the building - represent the legs of the ancestor, standing firm on the land.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Portrait - 23

A Performer
Tamaki Maori Village
June 2010, Ajr


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