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Symbols can offer us an access point and a way to interpret things we don’t understand. For Māori a tohu is not only a sign or an emblem; it can also act as a set of directions or wayfinding that allows us to navigate the complexities of contemporary life.
Tohu Whakatipu explores the unique symbolism and visual languages of three of Aotearoa’s most exciting Māori artists.
Featuring work by Lonnie Hutchinson (Ngāti Kuri ki Ngāi Tahu, Samoan, Scottish, Irish and English), Kaaterina Kerekere (Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Rangitāne, Ngāi Tahu) and Rangi Kipa (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Tama ki te Tauihu) Tohu Whakatipu unpacks issues that are relevant for many Māori.
“Māori art and design are one of the key identifiers of our cultural identity and heritage. The icons, motifs and stories are unique to our whānau, hapū and iwi.” - Kaaterina Kerekere
In Tohu Whakatipu ideas of wellbeing and connection take centre stage. Whether it is through whakapapa, rongoā or the reimagining of traditional forms, each of the works in the exhibition acts as a link between past, present and future.
"Our art forms are languages and play a fundamental role in the transmission of our knowledge systems and our identity.” ii - Rangi Kipa
Building on the inaugural exhibition Puhi Ariki, which opened at Wairau Māori Art Gallery in February 2022, Tohu Whakatipu takes its cue from the gallery’s kaupapa of profiling contemporary Māori art practice while reflecting ideas that are important in today’s society.
Based in different centres throughout the motu - Taranaki, Ūawa Tologa Bay and Ōtautahi Christchurch – these artists represent distinct points of view related to their iwi and hapū.
Exhibition curator Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi, Te Uriroroi) says, “This exhibition brings together three artists whose practices challenge preconceptions of Māori symbolism through their innovative and exciting use of technology, materials and forms.”