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Kapa haka group Pounamu Kai Tahu - Venice Biennale

Kapa haka group Pounamu Kai Tahu to perform at 2001 Dance Section of the Venice Biennale

A New Zealand kapa haka group Pounamu Kai Tahu will perform at the 2001 Dance Section of the Venice Biennale, which takes place at the same time as the 49th Venice Biennale of Visual Art in June. A Venice Biennale Dance, Theatre and Music Section was created in 1999 to complement the oldest and most prestigious visual arts event in the world.

Pounamu Kai Tahu will perform on 9 and 10 June at the Teatro Verde in Venice. They will also perform a Dawn Ceremony in St Mark’s Square on 7 June at 6.00am.

The work of two leading New Zealand visual artists, Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson, will be presented at this year’s Venice Biennale of Visual Art, the first time New Zealand has ever been represented at this prestigious event. As both of the artists are Ngai Tahu (Kai Tahu in the South Island dialect), The director of the 2001 Dance Section of the Venice Biennale, Carolyn Carlson, invited Pounamu Kai Tahu, a kapa haka group from Fraser and Robinson’s iwi, to perform in their dance programme. The kapa haka group will also ceremonially support Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson by performing at the Official Opening of the New Zealand exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Art on June 7th.

Pounamu Kai Tahu consists of 16 people, all of whom are Ngai Tahu, who have been brought together specifically to support the Ngai Tahu visual artists in Venice. Their performance incorporates the traditional elements of karakia (prayer), korero purakau (legend), moteatea (ancient prose), as well as contemporary presentation of haka (war dance), poi (women’s dance) and waiata-a-ringa (action songs). The group also use traditional wind instruments such as putaatara, pukaea and koauau to accompany some works. Instruments of weaponry such as mere, patu, taiaha and tewhatewha also feature in the performance.

The leader of the group is Maria Tini, who has made a significant contribution to the regeneration of Ngai Tahu within the South Island. The kaumatua (respected elder) of the group is Sir Tipene O’Regan who will be introducing their programme and speaking about Maori culture in Venice.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Pounamu Kai Tahu enhanced what was already a proud moment for Ngai Tahu with two members of the iwi exhibiting at the Biennale. She also said,

“Pounamu Kai Tahu will superbly augment the work of Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson. Their performance will give a European audience a unique cultural experience and will further differentiate New Zealand’s contribution to the 49th Venice Biennale of Art from that of other countries.”

The importance of Pounamu Kai Tahu’s performance in Venice has also been stressed by Mark Solomon, the Kaiwhakahaere (Chairman) of Ngai Tahu:

“Our two visual artists operate in a very contemporary world. However, they also carry with them the wairua (spirit) and history of Ngai Tahu, which is demonstrated in another medium by the group of performing artists Pounamu Kai Tahu,” Mr Solomon said. “ In a Maori context the group are the Korowai (spiritual cloak), and the guardians of the work and the visual artists themselves.”

New Zealand’s inaugural presentation at the 49th Venice Biennale of Art is an initiative of Creative New Zealand - Arts Council of New Zealand, Toi Aotearoa.

ends

New Zealand at the Venice Biennale

Pounamu Kai Tahu at the 2001 Dance Section of the Venice Biennale:

- Wednesday 7 June, 6.00am: Dawn Ceremony in front of the Basilica di San Marco, in St Marks’s Square, followed by Press Conference

- Saturday, 9 June & Sunday, 10 June, 9.30pm: Performances at Teatro Verde

Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson at the 49th Venice Biennale of Art

- 10 June - 4 November, 2001, 10am - 6.00pm, (Press Days 6 - 8 June)

St Apollonia Musuem, behind the Palazzo Ducale, by St Mark’s Square

- Pounamu Kai Tahu will ceremonially support the Official Opening of

the New Zealand exhibition at the Venice Biennale on June 7th.

ENDS

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