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Multi-cultural Making: The Future Of Craft In Aotearoa

Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making opens at The Dowse, 6 June 2020

Jewellery that can only be worn in a virtual world; handwoven harakeke battle suits; and digital mōteatea – a new exhibition at The Dowse Art Museum opening 6 June explores and challenges the definition of craft in Aotearoa today.

Featuring projects by more than 20 makers from throughout Aotearoa, Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making is co-curated by Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi), Director of The Dowse, and Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai.

Spanning a broad range of practices, the works in the exhibition are often unexpected; painstakingly embroidered Dunkin’ Donuts wrappers, 3D printed taonga puoro, a still-life tableau made of sugar, live tattooing with uhi, Korean woodturning, and masi depicting Fijian weniqia, tattoo markings.

Chitham says the exhibition shows the diversity and energy of handmade practices happening in Aotearoa in the 21st century.

“The traditional perceptions of craft is studio craft – ceramics, glass, jewellery, and textiles – that all come from a Western tradition ,” he says. “We’re hoping to expand people’s understanding of what craft and the handmade is, and could be.”

“In Ā Mua, the thing that defines the many practices on display is that they’re innovating within a lineage or tradition of making that’s specific to each makers’ cultural context.”

“The lines between art and craft have been broken down. Instead, we’re now talking about what we make and how we use it, which has significant impact now and for future generations.”

Māhina-Tuai says the practices, objects and makers in the exhibition engage with traditions that span hundreds of years, multiple cultures and a vast variety of techniques, skills and materials.

Ā Mua is exciting because it presents wide-ranging examples of the richness, creativity and ingenuity of our diverse makers in Aotearoa New Zealand,” she says.

“Together, they provide a snapshot of what craft is today, and what it could look like in the future.”

Ā Mua features work by Brendon Monson, Eugene Kara, Fuli Fati, Kupa Kupa and Jack Kirifi, Henriata Nicholas, Jay Hutchison, Jo Torr, Joana Monolagi, Kaaterina Kerekere, Kaetaeta Watson and Louisa Humphrey, Kathryn Tsui, Kereama Taepa, Monmouth Glass, Rowan Panther, Shona Tawhiao, Talafungani Finau, Tracy Byatt, Tu‘ifonulava Kaivelata, Victoria McIntosh, Wai Ching Chan, Walk In The Park, Designworks and WISE Collective.

Ā Mua, which is a Māori term used to describe ‘a time to come’, also reflects the cyclic nature of Indigenous time where the past, present and future intersect, interchange and co-exist. Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making traces the relationships of each featured maker’s place within, across and alongside traditions of craft and the handmade.

The exhibition was originally conceived as the next chapter of their 2019 book Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of Making in New Zealand and the Wider Moana Oceania, edited by Chitham, Māhina-Tuai and Damian Skinner.

COVID-19: This exhibition was originally scheduled to open in April, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dowse reopened on 18 May 2020 at Alert Level 2, with extra hygiene precautions in place. Find out more here.

Two other exhibitions also open at The Dowse on 6 June: Human Hand: Fiona Amundsen & Tim Corballis, exploring three historically-laden sites in Arizona, USA, through film and photography, and The Group: Flying No Standard, showcasing the legacy of The Group, 1927-1977, with works from The Dowse Collection.

High res images can be downloaded via the Dropbox link here.

  • The Dowse Art Museum is a free public gallery for people to enjoy contemporary art and culture. Open 10am-5pm daily, The Dowse is located at 45 Laings Road in Lower Hutt, just a 15 minute drive from Wellington City. The Dowse Art Museum holds one of the largest collections of studio craft in Aotearoa.

Curator biographies

Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi) is Director of the Dowse Art Museum and was formerly the Director and Curator of Tauranga Art Gallery. He has been involved in the arts in Aotearoa in a variety of roles for over fifteen years. His projects have included a series of exhibitions and accompanying publications highlighting contemporary toi Māori such as Whatu Manawa: Celebrating the Weaving of Matekino Lawless, Toi Mauri: Contemporary Māori art by Todd Couper and Whenua Hou: New Māori ceramics.

Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai has a background in art history, social anthropology and museum and heritage studies. She has worked as a curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum and a guest curator and consultant for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. With Toluma‘anave Barbara Makuati-Afitu, she is the co-founder of cultural academy and consultancy Lagi-Maama.

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