Korurangi

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Thursday 5 June 2014
Martin Awa Clarke Langdon

I have now been working at the Gallery four weeks – I had to check my calendar as it feels like time is moving so fast. I have been tasked with a number of projects, most under the guidance of Indigenous Curator Māori Art Ngahiraka Mason, to ensure that I am meeting the high standards that the Gallery sets.

These projects include uploading information to Vernon (a collection management system), identifying works in the collection that require copyright permission for display on the web, working on extending programming for the My Country 'Story Corner', creating a Learning Centre activity space for the next big exhibition, conducting research into the Gallery’s collection and video archives and – not least of all – putting together programming for the upcoming month of Matariki.

The Matariki programme is taking up the majority of my time at this stage, as I have committed to a tight deadline with a wide ranging programme involving screenings, art bites, family drop-in activities, public sculpture walks and even an internal project that involves te reo T-shirts and staff participation (more on this later).

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To help myself centre programming ideas I devised what I saw to be the five core principals of Matariki. These are not mutually exclusive themes but were guiding points for considering ‘does this fit with the kaupapa of Matariki?’ I decided that all programming must connect to two or more components of the kaupapa to be both focused and succinct while remaining diverse.

The five points of my Matariki kaupapa are:

  • Te Ao Māori (Māori world) – The meaning and tradition of Matariki, stories and significance
  • Korero (dialogue) – language, discussion, talks, communication, interpretation (this month of Matariki also includes te wiki o te reo Māori – Māori language week)
  • Kai (food) – nurturing, growing, harvesting, sharing of food
  • Tangata (people) – Whānau, family, whakapapa, relationships, intergenerational learning
  • Whenua (land) – Site, history, place, architecture, environment, sustainability

I think the Gallery realises the importance of Te Ao Māori (a Māori world) and by encouraging me to actively seek to partner and create content and understanding around Matariki, they are offering the chance to shape the perception of ‘Māori’ for the many people connected to the Gallery.

My hope is that by creating engaging content around Matariki, it will help to further the understanding of the value of all things Māori as well as the inclusive nature of relationships and togetherness that Matariki inspires. For communities who may feel under represented this is your chance to be a part of the Gallery, share your uniqueness and add to the complex tapestry that is Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

Te Ao Māori is reflected in the redeveloped architecture through works by Fred Graham, Arnold Manaaki Wilson and Lonnie Hutchinson. It is also apart of the building’s architectural conception, The realm of Tāne: ‘Inspiration was drawn from the parkland setting of the Gallery with adjacent shelter of mature pōhutakawa trees, Māori consider the bush the realm of Tāne Mahuta, a place where spiritual and creative renewal occurs. This became a central leitmotif of the design.’ii For me, all these structural inclusions set up a place of engagement and now it is about connecting people, art, life, site and architecture. To increase the presence of the people reflected in structure would be to energise and complete the Gallery’s purpose. The ongoing presence of Māori has been literally immortalised in stone and wood by these three artists.

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Image 1                                       Image 2                                     Image 3

To me these works say: You are represented here and your voice and presence is welcome. I must mention how amazing and historically uplifting it is that at this very moment the Gallery has two Indigenous focused shows running simultaneously Five Māori Painters curated by Ngahiraka Mason and My Country: Contemporary Art from Black Australia curated by Bruce McLean, Curator Indigenous Australian Art, QAGOMA, who is a Wirri/Birri-Gubba man with heritage from the central coast of Queensland.

i The title of this blog Korurangi references an exhibition of the same name held at Auckland Art Gallery in 1995. Korurangi: ‘a Māori motif in which two spirals surround each other without meeting – a coexistence that recognises difference.’ –  notes from the exhibition introduction, Korurangi: New Maori Art 1995. 

ii Chris Saines, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki – A Place for Art, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2013, p 39. This kōrero was provided to the Gallery by Haerewa, the Gallery’s Māori advisory group, through their representative, Bernard Makoare.

Image 1. Arnold Manaaki Wilson, He Aha Te Wa – Moments in Time, 2010
Image 2. Fred Graham, Te Waka Toi o Tāmaki, 2011
Image 3. Lonnie Hutchinson, Te Taumata, 2011