Thirty proud Maunga Kura Toi students celebrated their artwork last week with the launch of Nga Kete Toi – Te Wananga o Aotearoa art exhibition. The studio is now showcasing a whole world of Maori art waiting to be discovered, and the student artists are eagerly waiting to take everyone on a culture-filled journey. Beautiful weavings, carvings, and paintings are on display, each with a unique story behind it.
Painter Oriwa Morgan-Ward is one of the students with works on display, and is thrilled with the exhibition. “Maori art is not saturated, this is a great opportunity to bring it to the rest of the world,” she says. “It’s a way of expressing ourselves, to the public that haven’t experienced life in the world of Maori.”
Oriwa’s painting, Waiwhero, is one of many on display exploring concepts in colour, form, composition and light, to tell a beautiful story of womanhood. Each artist shows immense support and respect for one another, not shying away from showing off each other’s art. While Oriwa is speaking of the process behind creating a painting, she takes a moment to credit the patience carvers have when it comes to making mistakes, “at least we can paint over it! It’s a little harder when you’re a carver.”
Pru Robbie, a level six student, has a striking Raranga (weaving) on display that wasn’t an easy task! “It takes a lot of practice to get it right, if the cuts are too deep or too shallow the whole things ruined.” Her approach was to have a simple pattern that was achievable so she could focus on neatness, “then I’ll do something amazing another day”. “I’ve named it Whakawhiti Korero, which means to make back and forth conversation. I have a lot of international people come through my house, then they’ll see this hanging on the wall and ask what it’s about. Well then I can explain Maori tradition, Maori art and create conversations about it.” This flax isn’t just any old flax from the bottom of the garden either – Pru had to travel a considerable distance from her home to find that perfect strong fibre content, and that was the easy part! It then took her two months to put her weaving together. “It’s about doing the practice, doing the hours.”
Up and coming artist, that was 14 weeks in the making. He started with a piece of wood and has slowly chiseled away, creating a stunning end piece. Each carving presented in the exhibition represents a waka and two gods, depending on the artist’s iwi. Maori art is cleverly full of hidden meanings and spiritual beliefs that are left to be discovered by everyone else. Each line and mark carved into the wood means something. “I wanted to do this because I wanted to get back into my culture,” says James. However, he’s not shy to admit there were a few times things weren’t going to plan, causing a little tension between him and the slab of wood. Seeing the outcome though makes it all worth it. “I think Maori art should be shown to the world, these artworks are something I hold dear.” James is already planning for the future – “I want to try do a bit of contemporary art and maybe even a teaching paper.”
From everything on display in this exhibition, you can see there’s a lot of heart and emotion involved in the art. The spirit behind it, the feelings they evoke, the history… these artworks represent the artists’ family, heritage and who they are. For these students, who they are is all about where they’re from, and their art allows them to express and honour their ancestral knowledge.
The exhibition is open until the 1st October 2015 between 9am – 3pm Monday to Thursday at 32 Ngata Street, Palmerston North. Go check it out and discover a world of Maori culture.