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NZ Artist Shane Hansen Launches ‘Te Kotahi’ Project

Māori artist Shane Hansen has just launched a new project, and he wants New Zealanders to get involved. The project, called ‘Te Kotahi’ (which refers to togetherness), is a way for him to share his love of creativity. At its core is a message of unity through diversity.

‘It’s all about celebrating who we are,’ Shane says. He hopes that it will encourage people to be more accepting of each other. ‘It’s just a feel-good initiative, really.’

Te Kotahi was launched at Hihiaua Cultural Centre in Whangārei on 4 September, along with an exhibition of recent works. On display are stunning new pieces, including ‘Te Kākāpō’, a vibrant portrait of Aotearoa’s distinctive flightless parrot. However, the centrepiece that night was ‘QT’, a large fibreglass mask inspired by the Kewpie doll.

Shane’s work is well-known. Instantly recognisable for its striking colours and inclusive spirit, it graces communal spaces around the country. As well as displaying impressive technical skill, it prompts us to think about our place in the world.

‘My work has always been about a personal journey for me,’ Shane says. It arose as he was working through depression, and it works as a form of therapy. ‘It has been a way for me to feel good about who I am, and my place in the world. That’s why I use the colours I use; that’s why a lot of it is about native Aotearoa, about where we come from.’

Shane’s art has enabled him to engage with different aspects of who he is, both culturally and emotionally. Te Kotahi is about that too, he explains. ‘It’s about taking it a step further. I want to meet people and share what I love, and have them engage with it as well. It’s changed my life, being able to express myself. I want to share that with others.’

Te Kotahi is open to everyone. ‘Whoever wants to do it can do it,’ Shane says. They could be prison groups, RSAs, kindergartens, LGBT+ groups… He is excited about an upcoming project with Manurewa Intermediate, in South Auckland where he grew up.

One possibility he foresees is having corporations and other organisations getting involved. If a law firm, for example, wanted to get him to run a workshop to identify diversity and build unity, they might also take the opportunity to fund a ‘sister project’ for a community in need, as a way of building relationships.

Shane hopes that Te Kotahi will be embraced by communities nationwide, and he believes that Kiwis will get behind it. ‘Anyone who wants to contribute - resources, materials, anything really - I’m quite keen to have a conversation and see where that leads.’

Someone might think about this and decide, ‘Look, we’ve got a thousand dollars that we’d like to put towards this for our community,’ and get him down to run a workshop, Shane says. Or other creatives might like to get behind it, sourcing funding and taking the project back to their communities. It’s also an opportunity for communities to draw on their strengths, he explains. ‘If there’s a community that gets involved, they might reach out to members of that community. They might say, “Hey, mate, you’ve got a building company, would you like to come and help us install it?” Anyone can contribute in any way.’

There is no particular timeframe or deadline for this project, Shane says. ‘It will happen as it happens. I want it to feel right and happen in a natural kind of way.’

Anyone who wants to get involved can find out more, and get in touch with Shane, at https://www.tekotahiproject.co.nz/

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