Kararaina Te Ira, Curator Taonga Māori Collection/Poutiaki Taonga at Puke Ariki. Photo Caitlin Finnerty

Kararaina Te Ira, Curator Taonga Māori Collection/Poutiaki Taonga at Puke Ariki. Photo Caitlin Finnerty

Contemporary art meets Māori astronomy

04 Jul 2018

She’s not even 30 but already Taranaki curator Kararaina Te Ira has brought new meaning to contemporary New Zealand art with her exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

Kararaina is the guest curator behind Tātai Arorangi / Looking Through the Telescope and leapt at the opportunity to delve into the Govett-Brewster Collection and choose artworks to exhibit. The result is an impressive showcase of contemporary New Zealand art.

“As a country, New Zealand is very rich in its ability to produce its own contemporary art. I think because we’re so geographically isolated our artists are just that much more innovative. It’s fantastic as a curator, to be given the opportunity to select works to display at the Govett-Brewster.”

New Plymouth-based, Kararaina herself is no stranger to remoteness. Growing up with her grandparents in Waitahanui, a rural community just outside of Taupo, she was immersed in Te Reo Māori and the Māori way of life from a very young age.  “My parents were really committed to making sure I had that traditional Māori upbringing. Where other kids got to do ‘kid things’, my whanau would take me to hui, to seminars and to museums.” 

This passion is very much present at the Tātai Arorangi exhibition which Kararaina describes as bringing together the themes of astronomy and women, darkness and light.  “With Tātai Arorangi I just really wanted to be able to use the power of women to describe astronomy in a traditional Māori sense and it’s fantastic that it’s up at our local art gallery,” she says.

Kararaina’s day job is Poutiaki Taonga or curator of Taonga Māori at New Plymouth District Council's Puke Ariki Museum, where she is in charge of caring for a range of cultural artefacts. 

Tātai Arorangi / Looking Through the Telescope is open to the public at the Govett-Brewster in New Plymouth from 12 May to 29 July 2018. Owned and operated by NPDC, the art gallery is a Taranaki icon since it opened in 1970 and contributed $7.4 million to the local economy in 2016 (Source: Berl).