• Stevei Houkāmau

With her distinctive uku forms Stevei Houkāmau (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Apanui) reveals the metaphorical and literal connections between tāngata, uku and Pāpātuanuku. Characterised by their carved surfaces, Houkāmau’s works explore whakapapa through the revival and reinterpretation of traditions of her Tīpuna.

The forms she creates draw inspiration from a variety of sources – from ancient amphora to pōtaka, Hawaiian uhi, and jewellery. In connecting her work to the larger historical diaspora, she is linking herself and her practice to the broader traditions of art-making, mark making, game playing, and adornment. While fired uku does not have the centuries-old traditions within toi Māori of mediums such as raranga or whakairo it has deep mythological and spiritual meaning. It was with uku that Tāne formed the first woman – Hineahuone. Pulled from the earth, uku has the ability to convey our links to the geological and spiritual past – uniting tāngata, atua, and whenua. Uku gives Houkāmau the ability to speak to these traditions and meanings while also emphatically placing her work within the world of contemporary toi Māori.

In carving into the surface of the uku, Houkāmau is marking her own history, and connects herself to Pāpātuanuku. Each object is made with her hands, each mark her own deliberate incision. Another kind of etching happens with the projection and soundscape work made in collaboration with Jamie Berry. In this work, we see and hear traces of Houkāmau’s tūrangawaewae (Wharekahika in Tairāwhiti). Images and audio of her whenua and whanau are intercut and overlayed with pulsing, swirling and vibrating designs through which we feel and witness the people, places and memories that come together to make us who we are.

Featured prominently in the exhibition are the Whakapapa Chains. These are physical manifestations of the links that connect us to our past and future. We are each part of a long line, a kākano in a chain that reaches back for generations and will continue on long after us. But we are never lost – we continue to be part of the chain forever, giving it strength for generations to come.

“Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua” – I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on the past.

-Sarah McClintock

Suter Curator

Opening Hours

  • Open daily, 9.30am - 4.30pm


  • 208 Bridge Street
  • Whakatū, Nelson