Uku Rere: Nga Kaihanga Uku and beyond / Whangarei Art Museum, New Zeeland
November 11, 2013 - February 16, 2014
Whangarei Art Museum is the first venue to host this ground-breaking touring exhibition after a highly successful show at Pataka Art+Museum in partnership with Toi Maori. Uku Rere features contemporary ceramics by the five principal members of Nga Kaihanga Uku: Baye Riddell, Manos Nathan, Colleen Urlich, Wi Taepa and Paerau Corneal. Both Colleen Urlich and Manos Nathan are from the Te Tai Tokerau region and this important exhibition is the first major survey of contemporary Maori ceramics and showcases the strength of Maori ceramic art in New Zealand’s contemporary art scene. The exhibition is displayed in the Younghusband Gallery and accompanied by an extensive catalogue available at the art museum.
The exhibition also features Manos Nathan’s unique sculptural work Kaitiaki, which stands to welcome visitors at the Whangarei Art Museum’s entrance. This is his largest work to date and was commissioned in 2002 by the Whangarei Art Museum with assistance from Te Waka Toi – Creative NZ Arts Council. The artist chose the concept of ‘kaitiakitanga’ as the theme of the art work, portraying both welcome and guardianship.
The exhibition coincides with Kokiri Putahi – the 7th International Gathering of Indigenous Artists, organised by Te Atinga the Contemporary Visual Arts committee of Toi Maori Aotearoa in which both Colleen Urlich and Manos Nathan are members of. Since the first gathering in 1995 the committee has worked to develop Maori contemporary art practice for both emerging and established artists working in a range of media, and next year the gathering will also coincide with the January 2014 Ngapuhi Festival in Kaikohe.
The concurrent exhibition held in the Mair Gallery, Salon to Marae – first glimmerings of a Maori Modernism will feature works from the 1950s-1970s by artists Ralph Hotere, Clive Arlidge and Selwyn Wilson. A selection of Wilson’s early ceramics from the family’s private collection adds a unique dimension to the story of Maori ceramic artists. Selected works from Ross T Smith’s two photographic series Hemi Tuwharerangi Paraha (1998) and Stillness Falls Gradually (2000) will also be on display, adding to the significant development of Maori contemporary art practice.
Uke Rere: Nga Kaihanga Uku illuminates the strength of the contemporary Maori ceramic movement in New Zealand. From Taepa’s chunky, rugged pots full of personality to the refined elegance of Nathan’s sculptural pots, the exhibition showcases the remarkable vitality and diversity of the individual practices of the five influential artists. Over the last twenty-five years these artists have redefined and expanded ceramic art - imbuing it with indigenous concepts and a deep commitment to Maori culture. Riddell’s work embraces both Maori and Christian beliefs, while Nathan’s work is influenced by his father’s Maori identity and his mother’s Greek culture. Taepa combines innovative design with ancient Maori and Polynesian forms while Waata-Urlich draws on the traditions of ancient Pacific Lapita pottery. Both Waata-Urlich and Corneal are inspired by the powerful female figures, Mana wahine, in Maori creation stories.
The five artists are connected by their membership of Nga Kaihanga Uku, the national Maori clayworkers’ association co-founded in 1986 by Riddell and Nathan. The artists came together with the shared idea of making artworks in clay anchored in kaupapa Maori. Since then the organisation has developed a co-operative style of working and has provided a strong, nurturing environment for sharing knowledge and skills. While each artist has created a very distinct body of work, they continue to meet regularly, exhibit together and support each other’s work. Further, all five artists have engaged in significant cultural exchanges with international indigenous artists working in clay - an experience that has enriched their work.
Exhibition developed and toured by Pataka Art+Museum in collaboration with Toi Maori Aotearoa and with the generous support of Creative New Zealand.
Tel. +64 9 430 4240
Whangarei Art Museum
The Hub, Dent Street
Town Basin, Whangarei, Northland
Above: Manos Nathan, Ipu Manaia Parirau, 2004, Clay oxides, terra sigillata, oxidation fired 32x27x23 cm. Collection of Darcy & Anne Nicholas.