Wāhine artists shaping contemporary Māori art

By Jessica Tyson

Three Māori women are helping to broaden people's understanding of contemporary Māori art through a new exhibition of their work.

Nikau Hindin, Raukura Turei and Turumeke Harrington have solo shows with a similar theme of exploring creation, at the Corban Estate Art Centre in Auckland.

The exhibition has been curated by another talented artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe, of Ngāpuhi, Tainui, Alofi and Liku (Niue) descent, who works to revive the art form of Hiapo (Niuean Barkcloth).

Hindin, of Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, is also is reviving the ancient art of making aute (Māori barkcloth) – a skill that hasn't been practised in Aotearoa for over a century.

She says it’s a really exciting show because it’s three solo shows in one building.

“We’re all wahine Māori and we get to  be self-determined in our messages but also speak to each other.”

Nikau Hindin - Orokohanga

Hindin's exhibition is named Orokohanga in which she has used materials including kōkōwai and aute.

“One of the names for aute is the kiri o tāne which is the skin of Tane and the kōkōwai for me is the support of Papatuānuku or te kurawaka o Papatuānuku which is where Papatuānuku guided Tāne to create the first wahine, Hineahuone, she says.

“These two pūrakau go together. So when I was making these mahi I was thinking about te orokohanga, so the beginning, te timatanga, and our creation stories.”

Hindin, who is based in Gisborne, says all three of the artists are different.

“We’ve got installations, we’ve got bark cloth and we’ve got Raukura and her painting I think we’re all exploring themes about creation, which is obviously mai te wahine.

Raukura Turei - Te Ngau a Hine-Moana

Turei, of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngā Rauru is a multi-disciplinary artist, architect and designer. She uses painting to meditate on the self, sensuality and body sovereignty.

Her exhibition at the Corban Estate Art Centre is named Te Ngau a Hine-Moana.

“Ko te tikanga o āku mahi peita ko te aro au ki te tinana o te wahine. Ka toro atu au ki ngā tino māreikura o te ao Māori otira ko Hineruhi te wahine nānā i tū te apa hapara, ko Hineawatea tērā, i roto i tēnei o ngā whakaahua ko Hinemoana, Ko Hinekirikiri, ko Hineparawhenua.”

"My paintings have a particular focus on the female body. I’m inspired by strong Māori woman leaders in our iwi and female demi-Gods like Hineruhi (god of the dawn light) Hineawa, Hinemoana, Hinekirikiri and Hineparawhenua."

Turei uses a range of materials and mediums for her work.

“Ko tētahi ko ngā rauemi mai te whenua te onepū. He uri tēnā o Hine kirikiri ma, Hineparawhenua mea ma. Ka ranu te onepū me ngā hinu me ērā atu momo peita, ara, te rākau hinu, oil stick. Ka ranu te oneone me te hinu, ka piri ki te pepa.”

"There are many materials, one of them the oil stick, rich dirt from the land, and mixed in with oil, then applied to paper." 

Turumeke Harrington - Te Koretētāmaua SETTLE, PETAL

Harrington, of Ngāi Tahu, has a background in industrial design and fine arts. She creating large sculptural installations reflecting her interest in whakapapa, space, colour and material. She is based in Wellington and lives with her daughter and partner.

The name of her exhibition, Te Koretētāmaua SETTLE PETAL comes from Ngāi Tahu whakapapa recalled from Matiaha Tiramōrehu, a chief of Ngāti Toa.

“Part of the whakapapa, which is a bit different, it runs te pō, te ao marama and then a few stages of te kore. The second to last one is te kore tētāmaua and my friend, who is a Māori studies lecturer, described it to me as the unstable void or the precipice … the moment before everything changes."

The second part of the name comes from her father and how he would tell her to “Settle, Petal" to calm her down if she was anxious.

“The flowers are like balancing at the bottom and obviously the shape forms a void but I just want to leave it open to interpretation.”

Meanwhile, the dimensions of the work is that of a double queen-sized bed.

“I just wanted to make a subtle reference to how this space feels. It feels very homely.”

Exhibiting together

Harrington says she was stoked to find out she would be exhibiting her work alongside Turei and Hindin.

“Three younger Māori women with very different practice -s " it could only be cool, right," she says.

“I think it’s good to broaden people’s idea of what contemporary Māori art is.”

Turei also felt honoured to exhibit alongside the other wahine.

"Noku te whiwhi ki te whakaatu I oku mahi I te taha o enei wahine ki te tū a wahine nei, he māori nei i roto i te whare a Corbans. He koanga ngākau tēnei ki te tū I tō rātou taha, te miharo hoki i tō rātou mahi...Ko te karere nui, ko tēnei te kanohi o te mahi toi o ngā wāhine Māori o tēnei ra. Ehara i te mea e hangai ana ki ngā mahi tawhito. Engari ko tēnei ta mātou o mātou whakaaro i puta ki te ao i tēnei wā."

"I’m so lucky and privileged to exhibit along with these other woman artists here in Corbans Gallery. It’s amazing...The main message is that this is the face of Māori women artists of this day. It is not created from the past."

The exhibitions will run now until October 25.