A curatorial team was established, and together we reviewed proposals from thirty-five artists which would guide our approach to creating a cohesive exhibition. A small number of artists were approached to include particular artworks. Work was curated within four thematic areas: Whakahekeka o kā Roimata, referencing our heritage as travellers and adventurers; Whakawhitika, related to water and the environment; Tohorā, connecting to our relationship with whales and whaling; and Waka Tūpuna, exploring whānau and whakapapa. There was additional effort for developing public programmes and wānanga. Several makers of craft and merchandise were also invited to enrich the offerings at the DPAG store.
Ultimately, some forty-five artists were directly involved in the conception, presentation, and creation of artworks, merchandise, design of the Octagon garden beds, and public programmes. More were involved as co-creators, guiding tikanga, use of reo Māori, performance, and sound. It felt enormous at times and, in many ways, it was, considering the scale of participation, the spaces we sought to occupy both within and outside of the building, and the establishment of a new collection of Ngāi Tahu art. We were ably aided enroute, first by Ayesha Green and then by Natalie Jones, both Ngāi Tahu, and both with oodles of experience in fundraising and in wrangling a large, slightly unruly, group of artists.
The way in which ‘our own people’ view and connect to us and our endeavours mattered, and matters still. While we didn’t always get things right with hapū, my hope is that, in the end, we did change the experience of DPAG and grow appreciation for contemporary creative practice for those many individuals, whānau, and rangatahi participating in the creation of artworks and wānanga, and viewing the exhibition.
As a trust, we endeavour to mentor, to include and support Ngāi Tahu artists. The Paemanu Collection is a tangible legacy of this aspiration. Most artists who created work for Tauraka Toi now have their work in the collection, and they (we) are also co-owners with the trust.
While years in the making, the exhibition itself was over in the blink of an eye. Covid-19 made itself felt, challenging visitation and events throughout the exhibition. With mana whenua and DPAG support, I believe we managed to execute an exhibition which was in equal measure meaningful, challenging, and joyous. With the breadth of creative participation, there were multiple opportunities to engage for anyone visiting, regardless of their familiarity with Ngāi Tahu history, knowledge of participating artists, or contemporary art practice.
There are important lessons to be found in the development and presentation of Tauraka Toi. For me, among the more important of these are that employing a tikanga Māori approach can contribute to success in contemporary arts; that artists working collectively can govern, direct, and manage complex projects and resources, and that good relationships require trust, time, and reciprocal effort. Paemanu: Tauraka Toi - A Landing Place, now exists in the virtual world, but will be recalled each time a work from the founding collection is brought onto marae, and into galleries, and other public spaces.
Ka whāngaia, ka tupu, ka puawai—that which is nurtured grows, then blossoms.
Kiri Jarden (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Ngāti Toa Rangatira) has worked in arts strategy and planning, management and events for nearly twenty years both in Rotorua and Ōtautahi. Most of her work in recent years has been as a producer, helping create opportunities for others to present or create their own work. There has been a shift back to making art herself which has been precipitated through her moko and tamahine. Jarden's research and documentation of her whakapapa underpins her creative activity in various media.