Toi Māori from Govett-Brewster Collection creates new exhibition

Tue 25 Jul 2023
Ngahina Hohaia, 'Roimata Toroa', 2006. Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Photography (detail) by Bryan James.

A new landmark survey exhibition of Toi Māori from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection opens on 5 August, spanning more than 50 years of contemporary Māori art practice.

Te Hau Whakatonu | A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings includes work by Māori artists represented in the Gallery’s permanent collection, alongside two new commissions by Ngahina Hohaia and George Watson, and Brett Graham’s Cease Tide of Wrong Doing, 2020, which the Gallery is fundraising to add to the Collection.

Te Hau Whakatonu | A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings seeks to celebrate and activate Toi Māori from the collection,” says the exhibition’s curator Taarati Taiaroa (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Apa).

“The Gallery’s modest holding of Toi Māori reflects its exhibition histories, relationships with artists and shifting priorities, and this exhibition is a means to set a foundation to help inform the forward focus of Toi Māori at the Gallery and in the collection.”

The exhibition is the first to be curated by Taarati, the Govett-Brewster’s Ringahāpai Kaitakatū Ngā Toi Māori / Assistant Curator Contemporary Māori Art, since taking up the newly established role at the gallery in October 2022.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery opened its doors in 1970, adding the Len Lye Centre in 2015. The contemporary art is owned, operated, and principally funded by New Plymouth District Council.

The exhibition title Te Hau Whakatonu was given to the project by Te Ingo Ngaia, member of He Whiringa Toi, the Māori leadership group for the Gallery: hau is the vital essence, life force, breath, to be heard. It is the sign of life - that something is living.

“The exhibition’s sub-title A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings is a phrase used by Māori rights advocate and leader Moana Jackson to describe whakapapa and storytelling in the Māori intellectual tradition. I’m interested in the agency that Jackson’s phrase implies, and that through understanding whakapapa we gain the ability to make decisions and set priorities to support future aspirations,” Taarati says.

“He Whiringa Toi works with the Gallery team to prioritise our Māori artists, works and stories. This exhibition and the associated conversations are important steps in growing our tribal presence and voice in the Gallery, and in the wider community,” says He Whiringa Toi Chair Wharehoka Wano.

The exhibition has also been welcomed by Gallery Ringatohu/Director Dr Zara Stanhope as a valuable reflection point for the Gallery’s permanent collection.

“The story of the Gallery’s collection to date reflects concurrent focuses on contemporary art, leadership, and Gallery strategy at the time each work was acquired, set against limited means for collecting,” Zara says.

“We take seriously the priority of ensuring ours is a living Collection, which supports the activation of a perpetual series of beginnings for works as society changes. This project is a significant reflection on how the collection continues to reflect lived meaning for artists, communities, and those who engage with the Gallery now and into the future.”

The exhibition also offers an opportunity to extend the stories surrounding and supporting the works through written and oral interpretation, which will be developed throughout the exhibition through a series of Whaiwhakaaro – public conversations led by invited community members, cultural leaders and artists.

Opening weekend also features a dynamic events programme as a number of exhibiting artists activate kōrero between works through the Gallery spaces. 

Opening weekend events

Saturday 5 August

10.30am — 11.30am | A Conversation with Ayesha Green and Tia Ranginui

1.00pm — 2.00pm | A Conversation with Brett Graham and Ngahina Hohaia

2.30pm — 3.30pm | A Conversation with Darcy Nicholas and WharehokaSmith

Sunday 6 August

10.30am — 12.30pm | Toi Mā Te Whānau Family Art
Join exhibition artist Ayesha Green to create a picture book drawing inspired by your memory.