Graduate Exhibition 2012: ….akoranga….
Since completing my 3 year BA in Maori Visual Art & Design last year with my graduate exhibition ‘Akoranga’, so many doors of creative opportunity have opened up. Now in my post-grad studio year, i wanted to take the time to reflect on that exhibition as it marked a real milestone for me, not only creatively but within myself as a whole.
It was a hard slog managing my time between my personal life, academic life & creative life in order to pull off this exhibition & tie-up 3years of hard work. I previously posted some blogs on two of four main paintings that hung in the exhibition – ‘Nga Potae’ which reflected my personal struggle in maintaining the different roles within my life & ‘Tu Tonu’ which expressed my identity as a Maori Woman. ‘Tu Tonu’ actually became one of three paintings that encompassed a triptych series I entitled ‘No hea ahau?’. Encouraged by one of my principal tutors who saw an opportunity for me to search deeper & extend out from that kaupapa (subject) of identity, it quickly led into a reflection of myself & the three key elements that encompass my identity as a Maori woman:
1. ‘Hau Kainga’ – My foundation & roots
2. ‘Tu Tonu’ – To stand strong, tall & proud,
3. ‘Turangawaewae’ – My place of belonging.
The other two paintings were based on Whakapapa (geneology):
‘Whangara’ – A homage to my ancestor Paikea & the lime trail left by the Tohora (whales) when they migrate along the East Coast of Aotearoa (New Zealand). This was the first painting i did when i started at Toihoukura in 2010. It was the first time i used four Niho Taniwha as a reference to Whangara – The Four Sails which soon became a signature design in all my work. It was also an experiment using acrylic paint on raw canvas & eventually became one of most precious pieces. There was much interest in this piece over the three years i studied as well as at the exhibition but, it eventually ended up in the graduate collaboration exhibition at Kura Gallery in Auckland, sold & now lives in Switzerland.
‘Whakapapa Akoranga Series’ – This painted series pays respect to my Tipuna (ancestors) Marae, Rohe Whenua (land area), Toi Maori (Maori Art) and my own personal learning and discovery thus far about my Whakapapa (geneology). I split it into four generations, each representing a quarter of the wharenui (large house) to make up one as a whole to reference the first place of learning for Maori, our Marae.
In the first panel i started with Waho-te-Rangi inspired by the smaller of the two wharenui at my Marae – Whangara-Mai-Tawhiti which holds this name. Waho-te-Rangi was one of the principal ancestors of Whangara & dates back to 1650AD. He belonged to the Ngai Tamahenga tribe that occupied the land from Whangara to Pakarae. After losing his eye in a battle, a famed warrior chief would be named after him & this incident, avenging the insult of this battle & inheriting the mana of Paikea, Tamahenga & Waho-te-Rangi. That boy was Konohi for whom the principal tribe of Whangara is named – Ngati Konohi. From he descends Hinematioro, his great-grand daughter born as a princess around 1750AD & described as a queen. Her birth had been long anticipated with the dedication of a Puriri tree grown many, many years before to serve as her store house – Te Whata-kai-a-Hinematioro. It stood in the vicinity of the Whangara Marae long after she passed & its remains now live in the Tairawhiti Museum here in Gisborne. Another iconic individual i have referenced in this quarter with the Ringatu Star is Te Kooti who had a profound involvement & arguably ‘influence’ over many tribes, there religion & tikanga (customs) in Aotearoa. This can be seen in the painted Pou (posts) that decorate Waho-te-Rangi’s walls. Pou were traditionally carved & reflected an abstract art form but as Te Kooti & his followers were constantly on the move, it was faster to paint them & more realistic images were used as european art forms started to influence the traditional at that time. The Kowhaiwhai design i used is one of the main designs found within almost all the panels in the wharenui.
The second panel looks at the very beginning, the essence of our world & living – Nga Atua (gods), Nga Whenua (lands) & the importance of retaining our cultural traditions through knowledge passed down. The doorway represents the Kauwae (chin moko worn by Maori women) which indicates the opening to conversation & knowledge. Kauae Runga (top lip) – Celestial Knowledge/Kauae Raro (bottom lip) – Rangi & Papa Knowledge (Sky Father/Mother/Mankind)/Whakawae (chin) – Whakapapa (geneology). The Kauae also depicts that of a doorway into a Wharenui or space. The Pare (lintel above doorway) represents the lips with a Takarangi (Whakairo/Carving design) that references the separation of Rangi & Papa.The Pou (side posts) represent the Whakawae (chin moko/whakapapa/geneology). The ‘Kauae’ is the strength or pillar, support for this doorway to conversation & knowledge. The two Niho Taniwha (triangles) represent the two islands at Whangara – Tua-motu-o-Ratu (furtherest to sea) & Te-toka-a-Kahutea-te-rangi (Whale Island). The ‘Whale Island’ as it is widely known, has a natural spring & is also a Wahi Tapu (burial), the resting place of our Tipuna Paikea (The Whale Rider). The red vertical stripes represent the Pou Tangata (standing people/post) which references the way our people/ancestors were buried inside burial chambers such as these. The Kaokao design (zigzag pattern) that runs the centre of the Paepae (front porch) symbolizes land, hard work & defiance. It is one of the Tukutuku patterns i commonly use in my work.
The third panel is about Porourangi, the eponymous ancestor of Ngati Porou, & born in Whangara 1450AD. His full name was Porou Ariki Te Matatara-a-Whare Te Tuhi Mareikura-a-Rauru. The first half of his name is from Rarotonga & signifies the first-born son of a tapu (sacret) line. The second half indicates the breaking of dawn, blood-red, the early morning birth of a ‘full blooded man’, a great chief. His grandfather Pouheni was was also such a man. His wife Hamo-te-Rangi was from Turanga (Gisborne). Together they had three children from which were to descend some of the most important whakapapa lines of the Ngati Porou & other significant tribes of the East Coast region. It also references ‘Hawaikii’ in the reflection of composition to Whangara as they say it was exactly the same, only opposite in land marks. The Rauru (Kowhaiwhai design) that is placed in the top skirting of window references Unity & the verse that accompanies speaks of the peace, heart & soul.
The Fourth & last panel of this painting pays tribute to Whitireia, the largest of the two wharenui at Whangara Marae. Originally named by Paikea himself as a Whare Wananga (house of learning). From Hawaikii came Uenuku, the Rainbow God down to Paikea one of his most noble sons, to Rongomaituaho, son of Paikea, Grandson of Uenuku. With the Bailer of Hakihea, Rongomaituaho communicated from miles across the distant ocean that all was well in this land of Aotearoa (Whangara) & to settle apon this iconic place that resembled so closely to their home across the pacific, Hawaikii. The Kowhaiwhai design is that of the Pitau-a-Manaia, a design adopted by the Te Ao Mararama carvers, one in particular who whakapapa’s back to the East Coast – Master Carver Pine Taiapa.
Color & composition are fairly literal, while the symbolism tells the story or visually retains the knowledge this painting keeps. For me, my children, my whanau, hapu, iwi, for all who wish to enjoy it.
Although my intention was to create this painting as a finished piece, i discovered as i progressed with it that it may never be finished with the amount of learning & understanding it requires. Once it was hung for the exhibition, it was soon clear that this piece would definitely become a reflection of my own learning process. I don’t look at it now as a finished piece, rather a foundation for adding layers as my artistic understanding, direction and grounding in regards to my whakapapa develops. So much history, so much to learn – this doesn’t even scratch the surface!
This exhibition also included several drawings & mixed media pieces which all reflected personal emotions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, art forms & passions i experienced in my 3years of study. I also included a series of my favorite photographic images that relate to the exhibition as well as close-ups of each main painting. It was important for me to have a good selection of art work which not only showing the range of mediums i practice but the flexibility in price they reflect – something for everyone : ) The opening was a fantastic turn-out, friends & whanau, positive feed back & great celebrations that followed! All in all, 3years of hard work really did pay off : )