‘Art as activism’ new art collection to explore climate change and indigenous voices

By Jessica Tyson
I am Hine by Tina Ngata & Terri Crawford.  Photo/Supplied  

More than 20 creatives from across Aotearoa are coming together to launch a new online collection of multimedia and video art.

The collection Mana Moana Volume 2: Digital Ocean is being led by Mana Moana to explore Māori and Pasifika relationships with the ocean and climate breakdown, and to highlight indigenous voices and knowledge.

It includes nine new collaborative works ranging from video art, to VR /360 film and 3D digital sculpture. 

Tūātea by Louise Potiki Bryant.  Photo/Supplied

The project is co-curated by Rachael Rakena, of Ngāi Tahu and Ngā Puhi, and Mike Bridgman, of Tongan and Pākehā descent - both colleagues at Massey University's Whiti o Rehua School of Art.

“The mana of the moana is something that moana people across the whole pacific share as an idea, as this source of energy and power and something that we really respect, says Rakena.

“It’s really important to remember our relationships with the ocean. They’re whakapapa based. We’re connected, we’re all connected. We can’t survive without taking care of each other and that means taking care of the non-human other too.”

Te Huihui a Matariki by Regan Balzer, Horomona Horo & Laughton Kora.  Photo/Supplied

The project itself is produced by Wellington creative studio Storybox to be launched on July 17 at the tail end of the Matariki lunar phase of Tangaroa.

“It wraps up our Matariki celebration period to focus on the future. We pay tribute to the past, bringing together our offering, the harvest of ideas and knowledge from artists, providing creative nourishment for the mind, says Bridgman.

“Having Mana Moana set within the lunar framework of Matariki is really significant. The Mana Moana connection to Matariki centres the important relationship we need to maintain the rhythms of our environment and the synching of Māori and Pacific ideologies.”

Rukuia by Johnson Witehira & Warren Maxwell.  Photo/Supplied

Art as activism

The curators and producers say the project is “art as activism”, enabling audiences to reflect and discuss many intersecting issues at this time.

"We are in such critical times of considering questions of identity, belonging and relationships between people and place,” says Tina Ngata, a Tairāwhiti based artist, writer and advocate for environmental and indigenous rights.

Ngata, of Ngāti Porou, has collaborated with choreographer Terri Crawford, of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tūhoe, on a video work for the project I am Hine, I am Moana.

It delves into the omnipotence of the atua wahine, Hine, as the ageless, divine, feminine principle that flows directly from the universe and the role of Hine in navigating physical, spiritual, environmental and cultural cycles of change.

“Art has always provided us with the means to speak across boundaries of language and culture, and now technology also allows us to also transcend barriers of distance and location to give voice to our reflections as Tangata Moana, as Tangata Whenua and as Tangata Tiriti,” says Ngata.

I am Hine by Tina Ngata & Terri Crawford.  Photo/Supplied

Other artists involved include visual artists, dancers, musicians, filmmakers and poets, with new works featuring Michael Tuffery, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Kereama Taepa, Dr Johnson Witehira, Louise Potiki Bryant, Dr Karlo Mila, Regan Balzer, Warren Maxwell, Horomona Horo, Laughton Kora and more.

Founded in 2019, Mana Moana is underpinned by values of mana, vā, collaboration, activism and indigenous knowledge and provides a Māori framework that enables and encompasses indigenous moana perspectives.

Mana Moana Meditation by Karlo Mila & Michel Tuffery.  Photo/Supplied

The digital gallery platform will bring the Mana Moana experience to even more people through 2020 and beyond, building on the success of last year’s award-winning Mana Moana water screen seen by thousands at the Whairepo Lagoon in Wellington in 2019 and selected for the Nuit Blanche Toronto Festival in Canada.

The project produced by Wellington creative studio Storybox will launch on 17 July at manamoana.co.nz.