By Insider – Suzanne Peri-Chapman
The Maori Art Market is on from the 6-9 of October, in Porirua, just a short drive north of Wellington. It features over 200 Maori visual artists, and the works are of a consistently high standard. There are traditional art forms, however there is also a wonderful range of contemporary works, with strong Maori influences shown in new ways – very exciting.
Being the well-known jewelry addict that I am, I gravitated to the various jewelry displays for a good long look at the choices. Again, traditional plus new takes on old things. I’m in favour of reinvention, so was rather drawn to a simple polished circular Pounamu pendant, carved by a woman, Cherry Te Peeti-Tapurau, represented by The Poi Room. I didn’t rush to purchase, but thought I should wander about and look at everything before deciding.
There was some really fine work by the Maori Weavers group (Te Roopu Raranga Whatu O Aotearoa). There were kete (baskets) in many interpretations, most of which I wanted to take home with me. The cloaks were gorgeous – some beautiful work with layering of feathers, and there was one woven with modern plastic material.
Te Rongo Kirkwood’s divine glassworks were there – beautiful, minimal curves with rich cultural influences. An interesting combination was the Spirit Wrestler Gallery, which represents Maori and Inuit art – two cultures that couldn’t be geographically much further apart, but are culturally connected. Para Matchitt has some prints there, and there are many more sculptures and paintings to be admired as well from a well-chosen range of artists.
There were also two tattoo artists, and both of them were tattooing people as I was there…didn’t linger, as the inking machine makes a noise not much more pleasant than a dentist’s drill. Still, if you feel inspired to go home with a genuine Kiwi tattoo with a design from an ancient culture inked onto your skin – you can.
I had done the rounds, and the shiny piece of pounamu was still calling to me, so I went back. By the way, if you want to know more about the significance of Pounamu, see http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/pounamu-jade-or-greenstone. – excellent reading. For some reason, the fact that the piece I was interested in was carved by a woman appealed to me – I think I liked the combination of femininity and the idea of the staunchness of a warrior woman. I may be romanticising my piece of pounamu too much, but there was an almost ritualistic aspect to actually buying it. (OK it may just have been the sales process when buying at an exhibition, but work with me here…).
I was given an envelope with information about the artist and her philosophy, and then after a form had been filled in, I was handed over to a lovely lady who escorted me, she carrying the pounamu, off to the sales desk, where they were most welcoming and commented on the piece. After a bit more paperwork and a credit card transaction, I was again escorted politely to the packaging area, where there pounamu was carefully placed in its box, the box in a wee bag and then it was handed over to me. As I say, it may simply have been the sales process, but was nicely done and it made the purchase feel particularly special.
After the market segment, I went to the Pataka Museum and Gallery next door, which has complementary exhibitions. Pataka has always been a gallery of interest, and they didn’t disappoint this time. Of particular interest to me was the exhibition OMG Maori Gods in the 21st Century by Norm Heke. He is a photographer, and has used the technique of lenticular printing to great, creative effect. In brief, this is when two or more images are in the same print, and the image changes as the viewer moves. There is one in particular where the eyes really do follow you around, as people often say about paintings…Tumatuaenga, the originator of war. There was a note that the NZ Army is named Ngati Tumatuaenga – I checked, and yes, they are ( a tribe that is, not the originator of wars). This Tumatuaenga image has wild eyes looking right into the lens, and it works very well in this format, changing into another equally powerful image.
Another image I liked was Maui and his brothers, which translates well from traditional to modern and back again. If you can get past the fun you have of walking backwards and forwards in front of the prints to make them change, the photographs are great, as well – look closely.
Pataka also has a good gallery shop, if you haven’t exhausted yourselves at the art market. I would seriously recommend the Maori Art Market for anyone looking for quality Maori visual art works, rather than the tourist tat – the Maori Art Market is definitely a tat-free zone, and is well worth a visit for firing the imagination, or for going home laden with high-art goodies.
Photos from Art Market and other websites