• Megan Brady
  • Kiringāua Cassidy
  • D Harding
  • Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly
  • Areta Wilkinson

Tihei mauri ora, the first sneeze of life vibrates into space, and human existence is claimed. The exhibition Te Hā considers the sacred breath: the deep inhalation, a savouring, the expulsion, pulse, echo and squall, resonating tone and timbre, intonation and incantation. Mātauranga Kāi Tahu is central in the formation of this exhibition kaupapa. Te hā is transferred through the spoken words of Kāi Tahu rangatira Teone Taare Tikao, recorded by historian Herries Beattie (Tikao Talks, 1939). Tikao’s account explains the source of the winds, through the marriage of Maui’s grandfather Mahuika, the atua of fire, and Hine-pu-nui-o-toka who holds te pū o te hau: the power of the winds.

In this exhibition, Areta Wilkinson and D Harding are represented by existing works; Megan Brady, Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly and Kiringāua Cassidy have been commissioned to make new works. Curator and Toi Māori Intern Taniora Tamati-Rakete (Te Atiawa, Kāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi) invokes te hā as an expression of interconnectedness. Both the premise and artworks in this exhibition are founded in Māori or indigenous knowledge and are enduring expressions of hauora, vitality and connectivity.

Areta Wilkinson’s (Kāti Irakehu, Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, Ngāi Tūāhuriri) Untitled works comprise a series of porcelain pieces formed from the back and palm of the artist's hand, alongside thin reed-like paper and clay straws. The artist describes the works as maquettes exploring Māori concepts of spirituality. Tikao talks about spirit in life and in death, explaining "the body dies and the soul passes on to the other side", flipping his hand to illustrate his meaning. These pieces by Wilkinson explore the words and world of her tīpuna and are animated by the warm body: through hands, lips and breath. Originally made as part of Wilkinson’s 2003 artist residency at Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, here they are shown publicly for the first time.

First Nations Australian artist D Harding (Ghungalu, Bidjara, and Garingbal peoples) employs the breath as a method of applying pigment, a practice from indigenous Australian rock art which is still used by his family today. D’s work, from the series Three Blue Breaths (2018), uses pigments ingested and then expelled by the breath onto paper. In this work, Reckitt’s Blue, a laundry whitening product commonly used in domestic settings before bleach was available is used as a pigment. Harding notes a symbolic link with the domestic labour that generations of their female ancestors were forced into through colonial government policy, as well as the history of this blue being used in cultural practice in Central Queensland where their family are from.

Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha) has created He Aho Tapu, He Aho Hā (2023), a sound work for five speakers using taoka pūoro, Māori instruments of sound, and voice. Solly writes, “Music, sound, and the places they touch, are invisible records of our existence, survival, and connection to our tīpuna and mokopuna. From the world first being sung into being, to the first breath of Hineahuone, to the chants that helped bring our waka to these shores, Hā has woven the whāriki of sound that keeps us in place on our lands... Hā has kept us safe, hā has kept us alive.”

Kiringāua Cassidy (Kāi Te Ruahikihiki, Kāi Te Pahi, Kāti Taoka, Kāti Moki) presents a text-based work for the exhibition. In Cassidy’s words, “This written piece talks about te reo Māori, specifically te reo Kāi Tahu. It draws from the metaphor of breath, and on a larger scale, wind and its many forms… the intricacies of the language as strong gusts and stormwinds, and also as calm, light breezes… The same question is asked at the beginning and end, with the concluding answer that this wind is the breath of the eponymous ancestor Tahu Pōtiki, from which te reo Kāi Tahu finds its origins.”

Megan Brady’s (Kāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Pākehā) work She looks down to find my eyes (2022) explores the ebb and swell of the tides, as if the sea itself is breathing. This sculptural work is made out of found glass and other items washed up on the beach. The artist writes, “The big pattern is our tides; the ocean's breath... This is a pattern I have known my whole life, but only in recent years have I begun to understand it in such closeness to my own breath.” Rimu timber skirting in the gallery space holds pieces of blue glass from the artist’s mother’s collection. The skirting asks the viewer to lower their gaze as if looking, scanning, moving along the shoreline too.

Tamati-Rakete seeks to emphasise connections between the breath, mental wellbeing and tranquillity, and Kāi Tahu kōrero concerning te hau and te taiao. Te Hā at The Physics Room is intended as a contemplative space, a space for considering how we connect to the breath, and back to a creation narrative of sustaining life on earth.

Megan Brady (Kāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Pākehā) is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Working in sculpture, installation, object making and sound, she is particularly interested in the way we navigate sites, often responding to patterns and details in the environment. Selected recent projects include Where light and footsteps fold (CoCA, mural commission, Ōtautahi, 2022), Matairaki (Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Ōtepoti, 2022), Paemanu: Tauraka Toi (Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Ōtepoti, 2021-22) and Lay in measures with Ed Ritchie (Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2021.)

Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly (Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Tiu) is a multidisciplinary artist working in Pōneke, which is also the title of her debut solo project featuring taonga pūoro, cello, and vocals, recorded in different Wellington locations in order to compose within the histories and sounds of these places. She considers te taiao as a co-composer within her work and has created sound installations working with maunga and moana, as well as the hidden histories within the oro of our whakapapa. Her first book Tōku Pāpā, a celebration of father daughter relationships in te ao Māori and Kāi Tahu, was released in 2020. An upcoming book, The Artist, is due for release in 2023. Solly is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori.

D Harding is a descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples, born in Moranbah and currently working in Meeanjin Brisbane, Australia. They work across a variety of media, exploring the visual and social languages of their communities as a cultural continuum. In 2022 their work was part of rīvus, the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, curated by José Roca. In 2021 the solo exhibition Dale Harding: There is no before, curated by Megan Tamati-Quennell, was held at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, Aotearoa. Harding’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2021); Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2019); Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2019, 2015); and Milani Gallery, Brisbane (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019). Their work has also been included in group exhibitions throughout Australia and overseas, including at Tate Modern, London (2021); Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2020); PAC Milano, Milan (2019); Lyon Biennial, Lyon, France (2019); Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE (2019); Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2018); Liverpool Biennial (2018); TarraWarra Biennial (2018); Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); The National: New Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2017).

Dr. Areta Wilkinson (Kāti Irakehu, Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, Ngāi Tūāhuriri) has investigated over 30 years the intersection of applied art (contemporary jewellery) as a form of knowledge and practice with Māori philosophies, especially whakapapa and a worldview informed by Ngāi Tahu perspectives. Of import is elevating this knowledge through Treaty based bi-cultural methodologies as modelled by her Taua and Poua (grandparents). Areta has a strong collaborative ethos and besides making her own artwork she has collaborative projects with groups like Paemanu: Ngāi Tahu Contemporary Visual Arts, and supporting iwi agencies such as Aukaha charged with inserting Ngāi Tahu visibility into the public realm of Ōtakou. Her last solo exhibition was Moa-Hunter Fashions at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū (2020). Group exhibitions include: Paemanu: Tauraka Toi. A Landing Place at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin (2021); Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2020); The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane, Australia (2018). Her work is well represented in New Zealand collections including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington.

Kiringāua Cassidy (Kāi Te Ruahikihiki, Kāi Te Pahi, Kāti Taoka, Kāti Moki) was born and raised in Ōtepoti Dunedin. He is a first language te reo Māori speaker, raised with te reo Māori in the home, and with his whānau continues to support kaupapa Māori across his iwi, Kāi Tahu. Cassidy is currently the youngest certified translator/interpreter of te reo Māori in the country, achieving this qualification in 2021 at the age of 17.

Ngā mihi nui to Toi Māori Aotearoa for their support of this project. We would also like to acknowledge The Year of the Arts, Christchurch City Council, for their support of Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly's performance on opening night.

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday - Friday, 10am – 5pm
  • Saturday - Sunday, 11am - 4pm


  • 301 Montreal Street
  • The Arts Centre Registry Additions Building (access from The Arts Centre Market Square)
  • Ōtautahi, Christchurch, 8013