Art New Zealand

Making Memories

The nature of gatherings by definition is for a group of people to come together for a shared purpose.

They can often be energising, inspiring and provide the perfect conditions for building meaningful connections and to exchange knowledge. This was exactly the impression I was left with having attended the international indigenous artists gathering Puhoro o Mua, Puhoro ki Tua held in November 2019 at Turangawaewae Marae, Ngaruawahia.

The event was organised and hosted by Te Atinga, a collective that came into being as part of a Maori and South Pacific Arts Council (MASPAC) initiative in the late 1980s. It was conceived by the six founding members—Sandy Adsett, Manos Nathan, Kura Te Waru Rewiri, Robyn Kahukiwa, Aromea Te Maipi and Ross Hemera—as a conduit to provide support for the advancement of contemporary Maori visual art.

Over the subsequent years the organisation, through its changing committee of practising artists, has endeavoured to encourage opportunities to raise the profile of contemporary Maori art practice through exhibiting, providing funding to artists and through the encouragement of exchange with other indigenous artists from the wider Pacific region and further afield.

Based on the Maori concept of a wananga, this event, which is in its ninth iteration, was first held in 1995 at Apumoana Marae in Rotorua. It was I was invited, with three other indigenous curators, Reuben Friend, Julie Nagam and Heather Igloliorte, to participate in a panel discussion as part of the opening-day celebrations of the accompanying exhibition at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, and to be at the marae with the many artists in attendance. Having arrived the day before, I was able to spend time at the impressive Turangawaewae Marae complex and get a sense of what it might be like to be one of those fortunate enough to be invited to share in this week-long experience. The participants formed discipline groupings; some elected to stay within their field, while others used the opportunity to branch out and explore the possibilities and new connections that might come in a different artform.

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