In Flat-Pack Whakapapa, Maureen Lander has created four installations that explore the connections between whakapapa and raranga (Māori weaving), including a new installation made in collaboration with local weavers.
Exhibition developed and toured by The Dowse Art Museum
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Audio Artist talk at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
In New Plymouth for the exhibition opening weekend, Sat-Sun 1-2 Dec 2018, artist Maureen Lander and former Director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Priscilla Pitts, discussed the influence of place on Lander’s work, her use of materials, and her interest in engaging with local communities.
Flat-Pack Whakapapa considers kinship, family and friendship networks as well as genetic heritage. Approaching these forms of human connection from a mātauranga Māori perspective, Lander engages with weaving techniques—including whiri (braiding) and whakairo (patterning)—and the concept of aho tuku iho (ancestral lines handed down continuously from generation to generation).
Building on the notion that our whakapaka is always with us, Lander’s installations can be packed down into individual weavings: easily carried around, reconfigured and added onto. Her approach symbolises how whakapapa grows with us, and how our genealogy is inherited by our descendants, who continue our heritage lines. This representation of whakapapa as mobile supports the idea that despite whānau migrating away from their tūrangawaewae (the place they belong to through their whakapapa), hapū and iwi into the wider world, they always carry their culture with them.
Using an everyday motif like the flat-pack design to symbolise deeply held cultural beliefs such as whakapapa, Lander contributes to a wider, ongoing conversation by contemporary Māori artists who address customary ideas in ways that are relevant for new generations.
About the artist
Dr Maureen Lander (TeHikutu, Ngapuhi) is a multi-media installation artist who has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally since 1986. From the early 1990’s until 2007 Lander taught Maori Material Culture courses at Auckland University. She has a fine arts doctorate (DFA) from Elam School of Fine Arts and her contemporary artwork draws inspiration from woven fibre pieces in museum collections and early illustrations. Since her retirement from university teaching Maureen has continued to make and exhibit her artwork, mainly in the form of large fibre installations such as Aho Kura Huna in Te Papa’s exhibition, Kahu Ora: Living Cloaks (2012).
Over recent years much of Lander’s artwork has been collaborative and has involved varying degrees of community engagement as part of the process. In February 2017 she created a socially engaged participatory artwork titled Mahi Kara. Fun with Flags for Headland Sculpture on the Gulf. During 2018, as well as the touring exhibition, Flat-Pack Whakapapa, her work was exhibited in Embodied Knowledge, The Dowse Art Museum; The Rooms, The Elms historic mission house and library in conjunction with the Tauranga Art Gallery; and in X Marks. Conversations in Cloth, Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, an exhibition which Lander also helped curate.