• Brook Konia (Ngāti Porou, Kōtimana, Pākehā)
  • Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā)

Taura is an experimental project meant to enable artist-to-artist exchange that looks to establish soft shell as a site for activity, experimentation, and community building.

The conceptual framework revolves around taura (rope) made from tī kōuka (cabbage tree) fibre as both a guiding metaphor and material focus. Rope in its simplest form is bundles of fibre rolled and twisted into an interlocking double helix. Many fibres become one; together they have the strength for tasks like hauling heavy loads and lashing joins on waka hourua (double hulled canoe). Taura presents an opportunity for two artists who have been working intensively with tī kōuka to cross over again like strands of rope and spend time in wānanga, both with each other and with a wider community of makers.

The Taura project will emerge over a series of events at soft shell, including a residency involving artists Brook Konia (Ngāti Porou, Kōtimana, Pākehā) and Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā). These artists spent time in wānanga (exchanging and developing knowledge) in 2022 at a three-day noho marae organised by Louie in Ōtaki. This wānanga introduced Brook to tī kōuka, which he now considers his primary medium.

Konia’s work is often the result of careful study, citing historical forms, whakataukī (proverbs), and knowledge held by community members. Brook’s new piece Kanoi is based on the kupenga netting weave at the rear of the waka hourua Te Aorere, reconstructed using traditional lashing techniques and the knots his dad uses to tie loads onto trailers. Motion and whakapapa are remembered in the twist of the rope – a whirling spiral of DNA that lashes distinct materials together and journeys from place to place.

Zalk-Neale’s mahi also utilises tī kōuka as a joining medium, bringing their own body into relationship with other bodies and environments, often in the context of performance and wānanga. Their mahi draws on tī kōuka rope’s resilience in salt water and its visual likeness to features of human and aquatic bodies to explore concepts of fluidity and whakapapa. Zalk-Neale’s woven and twisted adornments reference fins, fishing lines and spines as well as salty hair and umbilical cords with many latching ends. The DNA spiral coils and branches.

The residency at soft shell will be Zalk-Neale and Konia’s first chance to reconnect, consider the overlaps in their distinct practices, generate new work, and share what they’ve learned from their mutual collaborator tī koūka in two years of rangahau (research). Additional events will bring visitors and other artists into the Taura project. Warming the space, visiting the new works, contributing to a collaborative taura workbook, and making rope together at soft shell are responsibilities that can be shared by an extended creative community. Together we gain strength.

About the artists

Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā) is a takatāpui artist who creates with the metamorphic power of body adornment in ceremonial performances, bringing queer visions of the past and future into the present moment. The practice of twisting taura tī kōuka (cabbage tree fibre rope) is a central pou in Zalk-Neale’s mahi toi, which they often combine with discarded plastic and waste materials to form intricate adornments and sculptural objects used in performance. Zalk-Neale’s ropes bind the transgender experience with the transformative shapeshifting powers seen in pūrākau Māori, reinforcing their vision of queerness as an indicator of healthy natural and cultural systems.

Brook Konia (Ngati Porou, Kōtimana, Pākehā) takes a relational approach to objects and happenings in his art making. It has a lot to do with conversation, and that understanding something doesn't always come instantaneously. Patience, care and a willingness to see the world through another's eyes are important virtues in Konia’s practice. He communicates with the materials he uses through psychometry, trusting that truths, facts and beliefs can become known of anything, given time. Konia’s mahitaura practice uses the rau of tī kouka and mānukā rākau to explore aukaha (lashing) as interpretations of au (meaning the self, currents of water, cordage) and kaha (cordage, strength).

Opening Hours

  • Open weekends, 10am – 2pm
  • 6 – 7 July 2024
  • 20 – 21 July 2024
  • 27 – 28 July 2024

Te Tuhi (Soft Shell)

  • Parnell Project Space
  • Parnell Station
  • 23 Cheshire Street, Parnell
  • Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland