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Waitangi Wahine Exhibition in Whangarei

Waitangi Wahine

9 JULY - 18 SEPTEMBER 2016

Curated by Chriss Doherty-McGregor in 2015 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty, Waitangi Wahine brings together five Mana Wahine artists with reputations for pushing boundaries; showcasing work that uses a variety of media from big name artists Robyn Kahukiwa, Linda Munn, Suzanne Tamaki, Tracey Tawhiao and Andrea Hopkins.

Doherty-McGregor explains the exhibition is very provocative and showcases some of the most reputable Māori woman artists in New Zealand. “Essentially this group of work is in response to the impact of the Treaty and its effect on Maori today. It makes you think about the treaty and what it means, and what it has meant for us a nation, both Māori and Pakeha. Together the artists featured here provide political statements on this debate, on the significance and status of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s founding document and the intention, spirit or principles of the Treaty. “

The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed, on 6 February 1840. The Treaty is an agreement, in Māori and English, which was made between the British Crown and approximately 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs). In the English version, Māori cede the sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain; gave the Crown an exclusive right to buy lands they wish to sell and, in return, were guaranteed full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other possessions and the rights and privileges of British subjects. The Māori version was deemed to convey the meaning of the English version, but had important differences.

Most significantly, in the Māori version the word ‘sovereignty’ was translated as ‘kawanatanga’ (governance). Some Māori believed that the Governor would have authority over the settlers alone; others thought that were giving up the government over their lands but retaining the right to manage their own affairs. The English version guaranteed ‘undisturbed possession’ of all properties, but the Māori version guaranteed ‘tino rangatiratanga’ (full authority) over ‘taonga’ (treasures, which can be intangible). The precise nature of the exchange within the Treaty of Waitangi remains a matter of debate today and is the impetus of the works featured in the show. Funding was also received from the Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage Waitangi fund.

One of the artists featured is Robyn Kahukiwa (Ngati Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngati Hau, Ngati Konohi, Whanau a Ruatapere) Based in Kapiti, Robyn Kahukiwa is New Zealand’s foremost Māori women artists. A staunch supporter of Māori rights and the power and prestige of Māori women, she has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for over four decades. She is recognised as an art icon and role model, a leading voice in contemporary Māori art and an international leader in indigenous art. Through her work Kahukiwa has established strong connections between art and politics and has done much to raise awareness of contemporary Māori art on the world stage.

Another artist is Linda Munn (Nga Puhi, Ngai te Rangi, Te Atiawa, Ngai Tahu). Munn had been involved in protest art since the 1980’s, when art became a media used to comment on current issues. In 1989 she collaborated with two other Whangarei mums in one of their kitchens to design the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, which has been acknowledged as a symbol of Māori sovereignty and used in protest marches and demonstrations throughout New Zealand. The flag features in much of the work in the exhibition.

Suzanne Tamaki’s (Maniapoto, Tuhoe, Te Arawa) large scale photographs also feature using provocative fashion photography to agitate discussions about colonisation, with wāhine-toa (women of strength) featuring prominently. Tamaki was one of the founding members of the Pacific Sisters fashion collective in the mid 90’s participating in various multimedia fashion shows including the 12th Sydney Biennale and the South Pacific Festival of the Arts in Samoa, Palau and Pagopago. Her work is exhibited and collected extensively throughout New Zealand and the Pacific.

Tracey Tawhiao (Ngai te Rangi, Whakatohea, Tuwharetoa) is a writer, performance poet, filmmaker, qualified lawyer and leading Mvori artist based in Auckland. Her artworks are made from newspaper where Tawhiao uses Māori symbols and motifs to 'rewrite’ and recreate news stories from an alternative, Māori perspective. By obscuring certain words in a headline or passages of an article, and layering sheet of newspaper she changes the focus of each news item and changes the often negative editorial slant.

Andrea Hopkins is one of Northland’s leading contemporary painters. She is known nationally and internationally for her work which blends cultural semiotics with surreal landscapes. Of Māori, New Zealand and Welsh decent Hopkins is influenced by the Māori concepts of wairua/spiritual, hinengaro/emotional, whanau/family and tangata/the physical being. Her practice involves taking everyday identities and Māori motifs and places them against delicately brushed landscapes conveying messages of duality and strength.

Exhibition developed and toured by Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre with the generous support of Creative New Zealand and Waitangi Day Commemoration Fund.


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