Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi Māori-tapa artist wins prestigious award

By Jessica Tyson

Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi artist Nikau Gabrielle Hindin has been announced as the recipient of a prestigious award presented by the Blumhardt Foundation.

Hindin has been awarded the $10,000 'Dame Doreen’s Gift', which is given to an outstanding maker whose achievements have garnered the admiration and respect of peers, sector leaders and institutions.

Hindin’s work involves reviving a contemporary form of Māori art that was largely lost after the extinction of the aute plant (paper mulberry) in Aotearoa. 

The Gisborne-based artist says she feels very grateful to receive the award.

“I wasn’t expecting to receive a koha like this, it feels unreal. It’s extremely validating. Last year I felt like I didn’t stop, every month I had deadlines to meet and this is a wonderful award for the never-ending work that goes on behind the scenes when you are a full-time artist.”

Nikau Gabrielle Hindin. Photo credit: Tara Rock @ladyslider

Artists were nominated for the award by people within the art community. Hindin says she does not know who nominated her.

“I’m not sure who, but thank you,” she says.

Chair of the Blumhardt Foundation, Philip Clarke, says Hindin is an outstanding maker whose practice, research and revival of aute, Māori barkcloth, is of great importance for New Zealand.

“She’s a star, just as many of her works relate to the constellations as a fundamental source of traditional knowledge," he says.

The Blumhardt Foundation was established by Dame Doreen Blumhardt, a notable maker, arts educator and advocate.

“These attributes are all visible in Nikau’s practice,” Clarke says.

Hindin says she would like to acknowledge Dame Doreen Blumhardt who was a maker herself.

“I was raised by self-employed creative women and a grandmother who was always creating with her hands, so this award is very special to me and my whānau and I know my nana would be so proud.”

Māori artist brings tapa tradition home from Hawai'i - May 2019

Hindin would also like to acknowledge all the barkcloth makers throughout Te Moananui a Kiwa.

“This practice is not for the faint-hearted or the impatient. The islands who have sustained this practice through the generations and enabled other islands to revitalise their own unique practice are the real heroes and I have deep admiration for these teachers and practitioners.”

She is grateful for the support of her teachers, Matua Dante Bonica, Kumu Verna Takashima, Kumu Kaliko Spencer and her mentor Matua Rangi Kipa.

Hindin says the most important thing in her practice is that she honours and respects the materials she uses and harvests.

“Nothing is wasted and there are no shortcuts. My process is a collaboration with the natural fibres. Now more than ever it’s important to connect with the environment, to be resourceful and sustainable in not only our art practices but also our daily lives. Learning to live with less, learning the value of time, learning the cycles and patterns of plants, tides, seasons and how we are all connected.”

Achievements and future works

Hindin’s recent achievements include being commissioned to create a work for the cover of the 2019 landmark publication Crafting Aotearoa, of which she is also a contributing author, Clarke says.

She was also the inaugural recipient of the Sir Hugh Kawharu Scholarship at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 2015.

Hindin is currently working on a solo show with The Dowse in Wellington which will hopefully open in May depending on the COVID-19 recovery.

“It’s my first solo show for many years, so it’s exciting but also scary.”

She is also working towards a group show with barkcloth makers from all over Te Moana Nui a Kiwa to show at Fresh Gallery in Ōtara. The show will be curated by Cora-Allen Wickcliffe who has revitalised Niuean Hiapo.

In October, Hindin has a solo show at Corbans Estate. She has also been invited to participate in the Kathmandu Triennale mega art event in Nepal in December, alongside John Pule and Rosanna Raymond.

Hindin says she has not decided how she will spend the gift yet but it will help her continue working as a full-time artist.

“I guess it is a nice feeling to know that I can pay rent this year. Last year I had a big commission early in the year that gave me that same security to make the leap of faith to commit full-time to being an artist. It's things like this that allow me to continue my practice.”