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Visiting Contemporary Maori Art Exhibition Shows the Way

Media Release 8 April 2014

Visiting Contemporary Maori Art Exhibition Shows the Way


A visiting exhibition with a special link to NorthTec is in the final days of its showing at the Geoff Wilson Gallery. ‘Matatau 2014’ showcases the work of the under graduate and post graduate students of the School of Maori Art at Massey University, Palmerston North.

The exhibition has particular significance to Kura Te Waru-Rewiri, Kurawaka Toi at NorthTec. Kura was asked to work with Professor Robert Jahnke and artist Shane Cotton at the School of Maori Art ‘Toioho ki Apiti’ at Massey University in 1996. Robert Jahnke and Shane Cotton started the delivery the course in 1995.

Kura – “We worked together to set up the four year programme in Maori Visual Arts. It has become a major contributor to the Contemporary Maori Art Movement. I taught some of the first students to go through the programme there and they have gone on to work in museums, art galleries, and as teachers, lecturers and leading artists throughout Aotearoa.”

The Matatau Exhibition is here for a particular purpose. Kura – “The exhibition’s visit is a koha from Massey University to support the establishment of a Contemporary Maori Art School here in Te Taitokerau through NorthTec. Massey has paid for the transport and set-up of the exhibition so that it can show people in Tai Tokerau what is possible at this level. The significance of the exhibition is that it highlights the development in contemporary Maori art paradigm while showing that it is still linked to customary practice.”

Matatau 2014 exhibition includes the work of artists Joshua Campbell, Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti, Shayna Paku-Rimene, Arpege Taratoa, Mark Te Hau and local weaver Te Hemoata Henare, who graduates with her Post Graduate Diploma in Maori Visual Arts this year. Karel Kaio, Geoff Wilson Gallery Curator - “The show consists of large scale pieces that deal with issues of memory, genealogy and lamentation through painting, sculptural installation and digital media.”

And these media are fundamental to the School of Maori Art. Kura – “The focus of the course is 2D painting, 3D sculpture and installation, and digital image which was introduced about ten years ago under the expertise of Rachel Rakena, a leading digital artist in Aotearoa. An important aspect to the course is that it encompasses the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Reo, studio practice, and Maori art theory. Students – and tutors - have to do Te Reo from the first year through to the fourth year.”

Kura describes the programme of study at undergraduate, post graduate and doctoral levels, as exciting. “The programme is exciting in that it challenges mainstream in achievement standard. The students are very skilled, highly motivated, and innovative. The training is rigorous and gives the students focus without being too tight, so they graduate with the skills to get up and go. Each student brings forward their own sense of people as iwi.”

Already plans are underway for the new Maori Art School at NorthTec and Kura is clear about what she brings to the project. “I am a painter and my expertise is in Maori art. My role is to get the North Tec Whare completed and to set up the Maori Art School ‘Te Kura Toi O Te Taitokerau to begin next year with a working relationship with Te Wananga o Aotearoa. There will be three strands to the degree - whakairo (carving), raranga (weaving), and contemporary Maori Art (rauangi).”

Meanwhile, the visiting Matatau exhibition has done what it came to do. Kura – “It has been well viewed. This is a really great gallery and people have been drawn in to the power and mood of the pieces. There has been a lot of korero about the artists, the work, the School of Maori Art, and what we can create here.”

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