Māori artist brings tapa tradition home from Hawai'i

By Jessica Tyson

Artist Nikau Hindin has her newest artwork on display after spending a year in Hawai'i developing her skills around making Māori aute, more widely known as tapa.

The Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa descendant received a scholarship worth $55,000 to study at the University of Hawai'i and says a highlight of her trip was learning from the experts.

“Ancestors from Hawai'i taught me how to beat tapa.   I knew that if I wanted to revive this mahi in Aotearoa that I would need to go to Hawai’i first to strengthen my skills.”

Nikau Hindin. Source: File

According to Hindin, the aute plant became extinct in Aotearoa so the process of creating Māori aute was lost.

Since 2013 she has been working to revive the art form and this week she has new works on display at the Auckland Art Fair.

Some of the pieces on display were inspired by her experiences sailing in double-hulled waka and reflect Māori astronomy.

One of the works is named Matariki, depicting a map of the constellation at different times of the year.

“These are the foundations to retain the knowledge, my research about astronomy and the star compass,” she says.

Nikau at the Auckland Art Fair. Source: File

One of the benefits of the art is connecting to the environment, says Hindin.

“There are so many lessons to learn from our environment.  All of my tools are aute.  The kōkōwai, the ink, the rocks are all from my surroundings.”

She says it can take up to three years to grow aute trees before turning them into Māori aute.

“One of my biggest dreams is to grow my own aute so I have lots of material to teach these skills to children and to communities who want to learn about mahi aute,” she says.

Hindin will be showcasing more of her mahi at another exhibition in Te Uru Waitakere Gallery from June 8, alongside other artists from around the Pacific.