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Parihaka

26 August – 26 November 2000
City Gallery, Wellington

Parihaka is a groundbreaking exhibition highlighting the story of Parihaka Paa and its two remarkable leaders - Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. It presents some of the greatest artworks produced in this country in the last few decades, alongside contemporary works and a wealth of historical material, some of which has never been seen in public before.

“Parihaka is one of Wellington City’s major contributions for the Millennium year,” says Paula Savage, Gallery director. On display will be works by artists such as Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Tony Fomison and Gordon Walters, who were inspired by the events and personalities of Parihaka. A $75,000 Lottery General Millennium Grant has also enabled the Gallery to commission major new works of art by 15 of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading artists. After Parihaka, these artworks will be gifted by the artists back to Parihaka Paa.

“This exhibition will offer people an experience of some of the most searching artworks produced in this country,” says Ms Savage. “It will alert people to past and present realities at a time when we are all taking stock of our past and looking to the future.”

Begun in 1994, the ambitious Parihaka project is a partnership between Parihaka Paa Trustees and Papakainga, and City Gallery Wellington. The Gallery has worked closely with Parihaka Papakainga representatives Te Miringa Hohaia and Labour Southern Maori MP Mahara Okeroa in the realisation of the project.

Parihaka spokesman Te Miringa Hohaia says “Parihaka the exhibition is the voice of the people of the Parihaka Paa in collusion with artists, writers and poets and City Gallery Wellington. It brings to the fore the legacy of the Parihaka War for Peace in the lives of Te Whiti o Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and their people. It shows their place in the Maaori vision for independence and self determination, tying in our generation’s hopes dreams and actions in the year 2000.”

Te Miringa Hohaia comments “The exhibition is a voice joining that of the Parihaka leaders and its people. As such it gives new body to the words from Tohu Kakahi to his people when he said: ‘Your voices will never be suppressed nor silenced by the great powers or influences of this land. Nor by the great powers or influences of the world will your voices be terminated’.”

“Parihaka the exhibition is a result of incorruptible leadership in terms of Te Whiti and Tohu, inspiring artists and writers to speak for themselves now. It is also a powerful indication from the people of Parihaka Paa that their voice will cry out until the War of Tohu and Te Whiti be brought to a foundation of peace so that we can live side by side on the land,” says Te Miringa Hohaia.

The story of Parihaka and its two leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, is highly significant in this country’s history. In their efforts to maintain the land and rights of Taranaki iwi, Te Whiti and Tohu led a campaign of passive resistance against the colonial forces from the 1860s onwards. The teachings of Te Whiti - symbolised by the raukura, or white feather of peace - have inspired artists and writers, political activists, social advocates, religious thinkers, philosophers and clergy in New Zealand and abroad. The teachings of Parihaka were noted, for example, by Mahatma Gandhi. The passive resistance actions led by Te Whiti and Tohu at Parihaka were 55 years before Gandhi’s passive resistance campaign in India.

An extensive programme of artist and writers’ talks, lectures, poetry readings, musical performances and tours (in both Te Reo Maori and English) has been developed. These events will explore the continuing significance of Parihaka for New Zealanders from all walks of life. Accompanying the exhibition is a collection of historical photographs, drawings, documents and artefacts. Two photographic portraits of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, printed from the original glass negatives with the permission of the people of Parihaka, will be displayed in public for the first time.

Parihaka continues to inspire new generations of artists and writers, says Ms Savage. “The artworks in Parihaka will be poignant reflections of - and meditations on - the significance of Parihaka in New Zealand’s history and culture. It will examine Maori and Pakeha cultural relationships on many levels: spiritual, political and personal.”
Parihaka is a partnership between The Parihaka Paa Trustees and Papakainga, and City Gallery Wellington.
Generously supported by The New Zealand Millennium Office and the Lottery Grants Board, and Creative New Zealand.

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