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Brett Graham's monumental exhibition
Tai Moana Tai Tangata inhabited the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery from December 2020 to May 2021.
The solo exhibition by Graham challenged narratives surrounding the New Zealand Wars, centred on the experiences and histories of Taranaki and Tainui Māori.
Engaging the architecture of colonial frontier warfare and the language of war memorials in times of peace, Tai Moana Tai Tangata
occupied the entire Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Three panoramic landscape films establish the geography of the exhibition, from Manukau in the north to Ohawe in the south, and site five monumental sculptures within this territory.
Visitors were welcomed in, the art requiring them to examine their own position in relation to the stories the artworks told.
Ka pari te Tai Moana
Ka timu te Tai Tangata
As the tide of Ocean rises,
the tide of Man recedes.
Te Rauparaha - 1882
"...I am not aware of another exhibition which has managed to take the viewers into the time and space of that history in a manner as emotionally affecting and critically charged as Graham's at the Govett-Brewster."
Art New Zealand
Exhibition curator, Dr Anna-Marie White (Manukorihi, Te Ātiawa), says: “These monumental sculptures by Brett Graham function as historic memorials, yet they refuse to settle in the past. Launching from experiences shared by Taranaki and Tainui through colonisation, these artworks cast the lessons learned by our ancestors into the future. Stripped of the optimism conveyed in the teachings of nineteenth century Taranaki leaders, these prophetic visions clothe our future in doubt."
Dr Anna-Marie White is a researcher, writer, curator and Strategic Advisor to Toi Māori Aotearoa: Māori Arts New Zealand.
Dr Brett Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, Tainui) is one of Aotearoa’s most accomplished contemporary artists. Graham is a sculptor who creates large scale artworks and installations that explore indigenous histories, politics and philosophies. In 2019 he spent six weeks in Taranaki as the Govett-Brewster Creative New Zealand Artist in Residence.
Connecting with tangata whenua and his extended whānau, Graham researched the history of the relationship between Taranaki and Tainui Māori, focussing on the pact of solidarity forged during the New Zealand Wars, a relationship known as Te Kīwai o te Kete.
Kei a koe Taranaki tētehi kīwei o te kete, kei a au kei a Waikato tētehi.
You, Taranaki, have one handle of the kete, and I, Waikato, have the other.
King Tāwhiao, 1864.
This first edition of the virtual tour is created for education audiences. The original English wall texts have been adapted and extended for younger readers and are designed to be shared alongside the extra reference material and focus questions in classroom settings.
The te reo Māori wall texts are written and spoken by Te Ingo Ngaia (Manukorihi, Ngāti Tairi, Ngā Mahanga, Ngāti Manuhiakai, Waikato-Maniapoto,Te Arawa me Ngāti Porou hoki ), Māori language teacher at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and translator.
The voice of Wharehoka Wano (Taranaki, Te Atiawa and Ngāti Awa) opens the virtual tour with a karakia.
Our gratitude goes to Wharehoka Wano and Te Ingo Ngaia for helping to bring this monumental exhibition to life in the digital space.