Paemanu: Tauraka Toi

On a landing place for art at Dunedin Public Art Gallery


Caitlin Donnelly, Lucy Hammonds, Kiri Jarden
Jun 30 2022

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In December 2021, Dunedin Public Art Gallery opened Paemanu: Tauraka Toi—A Landing Place. The exhibition, years in the making, saw the gallery turn its spaces over to Paemanu, a Kāi Tahu contemporary visual arts collective, to fill with a suite of exhibitions that both highlighted toi Kāi Tahu, and spoke to the history and politics of DPAG as a collecting institution and art gallery. Here, Kiri Jarden, Caitlin Rose Donnelly, and Lucy Hammonds offer perspectives on the process and legacies of Tauraka Toi from their positions as a representative of Paemanu, an exhibiting artist, and a curator from the host institution respectively. This essay was co-edited by Hanahiva Rose and ArtNow Essays commissioning editor, Lachlan Taylor.

Kiri Jarden, Chair Paemanu Charitable Trust, Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Ngāti Toa Rangatira

‘IF YOU’RE going to occupy, then occupy,’ said Rānui Ngārimu when our collective first embarked on developing Nohoaka Toi at CoCA, in Ōtautahi Christchurch, in 2017. And so we did. We set up camp, sleeping, eating, and creating onsite. It was this occupation that spurred an invitation from Dunedin Public Art Gallery to develop a project for this most venerable institution.

Paemanu is a collective of Ngāi Tahu contemporary visual artists which formed as a charitable trust in 2014 at Rāpaki. Trustees reside across the motu, connected by whakapapa and practice, a commitment to whanaungatanga, research, and to bringing Ngāi Tahu history and stories to life. When we first convened in Ōtepoti, in 2018, it became apparent fairly quickly that we wouldn’t set up camp quite as we had at CoCA. We would be looking at the entire gallery as an opportunity. With a well-established collection in situ, there was already an occupation at DPAG, and we wanted to understand what this meant—what and who these taonga toi represented.

At the same time, we began connecting with those hapū the gallery maintained a relationship with at Ōtākou, Puketeraki, and Moeraki. Making these connections was essential, not just so that we could acknowledge the haukainga and seek their guidance, but so we could connect these ‘home people’ to the artworks and public programmes that would result from our work at DPAG. A suggestion from Puketeraki kaumatua, Professor Kyla Russell, led to bringing three kōhatu mauri—mauri stones—into the gallery to hold space for us as we took time to develop our relationship with staff. Kōhatu mauri carry mana and mauri representing connection to the past, to the people and whenua, and would embody that mana, that mauri, in the work we would be undertaking at DPAG.

I often referred to our rōpū as going on a journey with the gallery team, acknowledging that there was a commitment to taking time to build a relationship. If there was ever any notion that Nohoaka Toi could have been picked up and dropped into DPAG, that quicky abated. We would eventually go on to support curation of the collection show Hurahia ana kā Whetū, and the engagement of an intern, Piupiu Maya Turei, in addition to the major exhibition project, Tauraka Toi.

Kōhatu mauri carry mana and mauri representing connection to the past, to the people and whenua, and would embody that mana, that mauri, in the work we would be undertaking at DPAG.

DPAG STAFF THROUGHOUT supported, guided, brokered, and hosted. I don’t doubt there would have been moments of anxiety for the gallery curators and managers, however, they demonstrated great confidence and faith. The approach to developing and implementing Tauraka Toi was not particularly conventional and, as a trust, we held fast to our principles, to our tikanga.

Our first encounter set us on a path that would lead to a partnership for developing the various projects. Our earliest challenge for DPAG was an invitation to identify four pou within the gallery’s collection. These could have been any artworks which staff believed held particular importance to the gallery, and which they considered as anchors for the collection. In the end, we were presented with a group of fifteen works. We coined these ‘the first fifteen’. These works were identified as pou for a range of reasons, yet our strong impression was that they were chosen for their relationships to and influence of benefactors and patrons. We still had a need to understand what other value propositions existed—who were the makers, what were the stories were they telling, and what connections to the gallery, to Ōtepoti, might be made?

Our exchanges are ultimately what shaped the curatorial approach to Hurahia ana kā Whetū, underscored by values, or valuing, of people, place (and identity), global networks, and the power of art. It was also what encouraged us to take a look at establishing our own collection. The Paemanu Collection would be our way of addressing the absence of Ngāi Tahu, and Māori art generally, from the DPAG collection—something not at all unique to this institution. With establishment support from Creative New Zealand, the collection added a further dimension to Tauraka Toi, and the invitation we would extend to artists to join us at DPAG, and the collection.


Photo Credit

Installation view, 'Hurahia ana kā Whetū—Unveiling the Stars', Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2021. Image courtesy of Dunedin Public Art Gallery

PAEMANU: TAURAKA TOI—A LANDING PLACE, references those places where waka were landed and tethered. DPAG sits in an area where waka were traditionally hauled up, and thus we established the overarching kaupapa, as spoken by Ross Hemera, Poutokomanawa o Paemanu:

Here the gallery is our tauraka, a landing place for Kāi Tahu art.
So long ago we remember when you landed your waka
Your tāhūhū smoothed an ātea deep forever on this tāhuna
We look around this place to lay out your āhua
It was your kōhatu that assured a firm anchorage
When we draw together again it is time to remember your tauraka
We will lay out your āhua again today

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.


Photo Credit

Caitlin Donnelly (Kāi Tahu, Pākehā), 'Mahana', 2021. Woollen blankets, wood, steel wire. Paemanu Collection. Image courtesy of Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Caitlin Rose Donnelly, Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Pākehā

Ko Uruao te waka. Ko Ūpoko o Tahumatā te mauka. Ko Kāi Tahu rātou ko Kāti Mamoe ko Pākehā ōku iwi. Ko Kāti Irakehu tōku hapū. Ko Tukuwaha rāua ko William Thomas ōku tūpuna. I te taha tōku Māmā. Nō Waihōpai ahua. E noho ana ahua I te Waikaka. Ko Sutton rāua ko Henderson ōku mātua, engari ko Donnelly ōku mātua whākai. Tokorua āku tamariki. Ko Caitlin Rose Donnelly tāku Ikoa.

FIRST, we start with where we come from. My pepeha tells you my whakapapa, connecting me with my tūpuna, the whenua of Aotearoa, and my whanauka. Whanauka is an extension of whānau—a group of people connected through whakapapa to a shared ancestor. Whanauka can also be used to describe a group of people tied together for a shared purpose.

Whanaukataka is about building and maintaining relationships to strengthen bonds between whānau and whanauka through shared experiences and working together—connectedness. It ties people together, offering a feeling of union, belonging, and structure. This is how we flourish. Tauraka Toi landed our waka of Kāi Tahu into the gallery space of Dunedin Public Art Gallery, filling it with our taoka and celebrating who we are as artists with our whānau. It was also the start of my career as an artist outside of education.

Simon Kaan, a member of the Paemanu board, has been a kind and generous guiding support since I met him as an undergraduate student at Dunedin School of Art, and he was a co-supervisor of my post-graduate studies. He was there as I found and grew into my Kāi Tahu identity and continues to be an incredible tuakana to me. I was very honoured when Simon invited me to a hui and noho marae at Ōtākau Marae for Tauraka Toi. Despite my initial nerves about meeting well-established artists I only knew through study, it was a weekend filled with fuel for our wairua. The kaupapa and environment were inspirational. I felt at home and had an incredible sense of belonging, acceptance, and validation: these are my whanauka. Being at a marae has this incredible ability to level us all as human beings—sleeping, working, and eating together. The whānau fundamentals of respect, kindness, and inclusion made this hui special. I found that the artists who led Paemanu were very humble. Their motives for the collective, and this project, went beyond the exhibition: it was about creating and sustaining that feeling of whanauka I was experiencing, to grow Kāi Tahu artists and art practices.


Photo Credit

Installation view, 'Paemanu: Tauraka Toi—A Landing Place [Tohorā]', Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2021. From left, works by: Caitlin Donnelly, Martin Awa Clarke Langdon, and Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti. Paemanu Collection. Image courtesy of Dunedin Public Art Gallery

I WORKED WITHIN the Tohorā section of Tauraka Toi with Martin Awa Clarke Langdon and Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti—the Paemanu curators of that kaupapa. Throughout the process, I had guidance and support from them, and from Simon. Ross Hemera, the Poutokomanawa, or heartpost, of Paemanu, also called to check-in. The artists I met at the noho kept in touch and supported each other, and those relationships continue to grow stronger today. There have been many hui and zui, as well as opportunities to work, gather together, and learn. This project offered more than an exhibition and a chance to show work—it gave us, and our community, an opportunity for connection and whanaukataka.

The kaupapa of the Tohorā space started with Martin and Rongomaiaia. They connected early in the process to anchor this kaupapa around the skull of a baby pygmy sperm whale, that had stranded at Wharekauhau. As the wall-text said, ‘The surrounding artworks draw on the physical, spiritual and cultural properties of this taonga to explore Kāi Tahu relationships with tohorā.’ At the noho Paemanu, leaders approached a few of us younger artists, suggesting we propose for the Tohorā section. I was initially unsure how I might fit—my early ideas are a testament to this and, thankfully, have not seen the light of day. There was struggle to work through, which made for stronger work. We got there through conversations, working together, and regular contact with the leaders, Martin and Rongomaiaia. The results were better than I could have imagined. All the works in the Tohorā room worked together, with many connections that complimented each other. My own work, Mahana, is informed by my journey to connect to my tūpuna. I put much mana into my work for that reason. It is an extension of that journey, of me and my identity, a representation and aspect of my tūpuna.

Dunedin Public Art Gallery once seemed intimidating to me because I saw it as an exhibition space for the elite. Now, it is a home. They facilitated and accommodated Paemanu and our whānau through meetings, opening and closing ceremonies, and public events. A curatorial internship was held by one of our whanauka, Piupiu Maya Turei. Over many interactions, the gallery staff have become our friends, and there was always a whanauka or friend in the space. I visited the institution many times throughout the show. Space was made for us, our tamariki and kaumātua, and there was always kai. The staff and Piupiu kept the home fires burning for us.

This project offered more than an exhibition and a chance to show work—it gave us, and our community, an opportunity for connection and whanaukataka.

COVID PLACED RESTRICTIONS, and disrupted plans, including a noho intended for the installation period. Despite these restrictions, the manaakitaka from the gallery showed through. Before these shared experiences, before the support from my whanauka of Kāi Tahu artists, I would not have considered myself able to approach such a large institution as an emerging artist. Now, through the display of my work, which is stored at the gallery in the Paemanu Collection, I have a strong and ongoing relationship with the institution. The legacy of this show on my practice is one of confidence, support, and friendship, both with the gallery and my found whanauka of Paemanu.

Even now that Tauraka Toi is finished, the relationship between Kāi Tahu artists and Dunedin Public Art Gallery continues to develop—through ongoing conversations and the new presence of the Paemanu Collection, on long-term loan to the gallery. This exhibition considered future generations, and demonstrated principles of whānau, whakapapa and tino rakatirataka by placing Iwi Māori and Kāi Tahu Māori at the heart of its subject matter and processes. In addition, the collective itself continues to show great āta in carefully and deliberately developing and nurturing relationships. Making connections with whanauka has personally anchored me as a Kāi Tahu artist.

In a talk during the exhibition, Rongomaiaia described Paemanu as a whirlwind that collects artists as it goes. I would add that it not only collects, but lifts us. I have made life-long relationships with many in this project. As a result, I now have an art whānau base that supports my career. We are whanauka: we work collectively, invite each other to opportunities, and support and encourage one another in our pursuits and in our art.

Caitlin Rose Donnelly (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Pākehā) is a contemporary artist who works in various media, processes, and scales, including drawing, painting, textiles, and jewellery. Her practice is concerned with researching obstructions in identity. Her work often transforms rapidly, as her practice is process-driven. Her latest works have been large scale textile installations working within a kaupapa Māori framework.


Photo Credit

Installation view, 'Hurahia ana kā Whetū—Unveiling the Stars', Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2021. Image courtesy of Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Lucy Hammonds, Kairauhī Curator, Dunedin Public Art Gallery

IN LATE APRIL, Tauraka Toi closed at Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Artists, whānau, and friends gathered to acknowledge the end of this stage of the kaupapa, and preparation began to move artworks out of the galleries and on to their next nohoaka. Closing is an important part of exhibition-making—a moment to acknowledge the labour, reflect on knowledge created and shared, on relationships built, and on legacies. In the face of almost constant disruption, and the call of busy lives, the artists of Paemanu—with the gallery team—pulled together to create a final week of wānaka and whanaukataka. Toi Kāi Tahu reached out across every room in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, extending beyond the building and out into the whenua of the Octagon—the civic centre of Ōtepoti Dunedin.

Paemanu: Tauraka Toi had a long gestation period. The trustees of Paemanu and the DPAG team began building a relationship around 2017. Early on, we discussed spaces within the complex that would be best suited to the kaupapa. The answer from Paemanu was direct: all of them. On one level, this simplified the project in that all aspects of gallery work were integrated with the kaupapa—contemporary, historical, front-of-house, back-of-house. On the other hand, it added infinite complexity to the many strands of the project as they emerged, and to figuring out how best to support each, and meet the challenges they presented.

When Tauraka Toi opened in November 2021, it sat alongside two related exhibitions developed through the relationship between the gallery and Paemanu. These were Hurahia ana kā Whetū—Unveiling the stars, an exhibition exploring the gallery’s permanent collection, and He reka te Kūmara, an outcome of the 2021 curatorial internship programme supported by Paemanu. Together, these exhibitions presented an all-encompassing, kaupapa Māori-led programme that activated a conversation extending across time and space. Although each exhibition was shaped by its own set of circumstances, together they became the expression of that early challenge: to prepare and reshape the whole institution as a tauraka, a landing place, for toi Kāi Tahu and for mātauraka Māori.


Photo Credit

Installation view, 'Paemanu: Tauraka Toi—A Landing Place [Whakawhitika]', Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2021. From left, works by: Peter Robinson, Megan Brady, Neke Moa, and Andre te Hira. Paemanu Collection. Image courtesy of Dunedin Public Art Gallery

LIKE CIVIC ART collections worldwide, Dunedin Public Art Gallery—established in 1884 as the first public collection of art in Aotearoa—has been shaped by the conditions of its history. Early in our conversations, Paemanu trustees identified the context of a collecting institution as something significantly different to previous projects. Coming to understand how the collection might operate as meeting point between the gallery team and artists was important in guiding how we moved forward. Collections inevitably present challenges: issues of bias, of power, of representation. At the same time, they uphold values of the importance of art and artists in our society, the power of creative expression and ideas, and the need for collective care and action. Through regular wānaka led by Paemanu trustees, our team went through a process of introducing the collection to Paemanu, re-considering it through their responses, and then developing a commitment to co-create Hurahia ana kā Whetū.

The process of curating Hurahia ana kā Whetū highlighted the challenge of locating mana whenua narratives within the collection, particularly when looking back into the foundation of the institution in the late-nineteenth century. However, through the constant shaping and re-shaping of our collective working process, we found ways that these stories could be made more visible throughout the exhibition. This process was revealed to the audience through the dual narrative that led viewers through Hurahia ana kā Wheū, which honestly addressed our differences, tensions, and shared aspirations. With time, came trust and support, and our focus remained on finding a way forward together, to create an exhibition that could elevate mana whenua stories and Māori art history, while acknowledging the history of the collection over time, and the agency of the artists whose stories it carries. As Paemanu Poutokomanawa, Ross Hemera, wrote in an accompanying exhibition panel, Hurahia ana kā Whetū represented the ‘advance guard’—a project by which we undertook the necessary work to prepare for what was to follow.

Alongside Hurahia ana kā Whetū, another aspect of the Paemanu kaupapa was to support the gallery’s curatorial internship with a specific focus on developing Māori curatorial practice. Similar to the Paemanu collective, this internship came to operate in an expanded way. The 2021 curatorial intern, Piupiu Maya Turei, brought together collaborators Madison Kelly, Mya Morrison-Middleton, and Aroha Novak, who together created He reka te Kūmara. This exhibition wove together the work of Māori artists held in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery collection with contemporary Māori artists from Ōtepoti, and across Aotearoa. From an institutional perspective, He reka te Kūmara reinforced an ongoing recognition of capacity gaps within the organisation. The exhibition highlighted the need to build a network that could ensure that the internship was supported by Māori curatorial expertise. In parallel, it fed into larger questions of how to expand institutional capability and meet audience, artist, and community aspirations and expectations around the position of te ao Māori within the functions of our public galleries. These are questions that will continue to be addressed by galleries throughout Aotearoa.

Collections inevitably present challenges: issues of bias, of power, of representation. At the same time, they uphold values of the importance of art and artists in our society, the power of creative expression and ideas, and the need for collective care and action.

AS THESE PROJECTS developed, so too did the wider work towards Tauraka Toi. An exhibition curated and led by the artists of Paemanu, Tauraka Toi involved over forty artists and creatives, as well as an active programme of wānaka. Our role as an institution was to support the kaupapa as it had been determined by the artists—to smooth the way for the incoming waka and all who travelled with it. This was an important part of our commitment to Paemanu—to open up the institution, to care for the kaupapa, to say yes, to find solutions. It created many opportunities to test gallery conventions, shaping them to better support kaupapa Māori exhibition-making. While, from the outside, people were talking about power-sharing and partnership, from within, we talked of trust, responsibility, and manaakitaka.

Over the course of these years working with Paemanu—a time in which meals have been shared, challenges issued, babies born—the question of legacy has been a constant consideration. The most obvious legacy of this project has been the formation of the Paemanu art collection, which will be placed on long-term loan with Dunedin Public Art Gallery. This is a contemporary art collection shaped by Paemanu and guided by their tikanga, developed independent of the gallery. The loan relationship creates an opportunity to increase the visibility of toi Kāi Tahu within the gallery collection and formalise an ongoing relationship between Paemanu and the institution. A group of kōhatu mauri, brought into the gallery by Paemanu, hold space as a signal of the ongoing presence of the Paemanu collection. From an institutional perspective, this loan relationship is founded on a desire to support Paemanu aspirations to grow Kāi Tahu visual culture for future generations. It will stand alongside and independent of the gallery’s own acquisition programme, which will also continue to address the representation of toi Kāi Tahu, and more widely toi Māori, within the Dunedin Public Art Gallery collection. Although this aspect of our work together remains in its infancy, the potential of the model is dynamic and innovative.

Over the past years, as we have been travelling this route shaped by the Paemanu kaupapa, discussion within the institution has been underpinned by the importance of ongoing relationships, both with Paemanu and with mana whenua. One of the common misconceptions of curatorial practice is that projects have a firm end. In reality, each exhibition, each relationship, leaves an enduring impact on everyone involved. Beyond the collection itself, the relationships we have forged maintain the shared work of this project, ensuring that our institutions continue to expand and meet the needs of our communities and audiences, to elevate mana whenua stories, and to harness the power of contemporary art, now and into the future.

Lucy Hammonds is a Curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Her curatorial practice extends across contemporary and historic art and craft, with a focus on collaborative working processes. Recent exhibitions include Paemanu: Tauraka Toi – A landing place & Hurahia ana kā Whetū (with Paemanu: Ngāi Tahu Contemporary Visual Arts, 2021-22), Joanna Margaret Paul: Imagined in the context of a room (2021), Ralph Hotere: Ātete (2020), New Networks: Contemporary Chinese Art (2018-19), Gordon Walters: New Vision (2017-18, touring) and Marie Shannon: Rooms found only in the home (2017).

I tīmata tā mātau, ko te Mana Whenua haereka i te whakatūraka o te kōhatu ki te roro matua. Ki te whakaaturaka ‘Hurahia ana kā Whetū’ i tūwheratia i Māruaroa, ko Ross Hemera rāua ko Cath Brown te hāpai, nā i waere ai te ara kia tau ai a, ‘Paemanu: Tauraka Toi’.

He rakapū kairaupī o kā kaitoi matua o Kāi Tahu me kā Kaitiaki o Paemanu - ā, ko Areta Wilkinson, rātau ko Kiri Jarden, ko Lonnie Hutchinson, ko Martin Awa Clarke Langdon, ko Nathan Pōhio, ko Rachael Rakena, ko Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti, ko Ross Hemera, ko Simon Kaan, ko Vicki Lenihan, ko Ayesha Green, ko Peter Robinson.

NB: These texts follow the preferred mita of each of the authors, and as such there are differences across them. Generally, Kāi Tahu Māori use a k in place of the ng digraph used in standardised te reo Māori, though this is not universal.

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