Exhibition showcases compelling works of Māori artists


Tia Barrett’s ‘A Time Capsule of Aroha’ was a highly recommended finalist (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, September 14, 2023

On tour by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata, the Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award is a showcase of finalist and highly commended works, with Waikato Museum having the honour of being the first venue nationwide to host this travelling exhibition.

“This biennial competition provides emerging Māori artists with the opportunity to showcase their talents on the national stage, while also playing an important role in recording and celebrating tupuna (ancestors) and their stories,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato.

Artist Stevei Houkāmau with her work ‘Kia Whakatōmuri te haere whakamua’, winner of the 2023 Kingii Tuheitia Portraiture Award (Photo Supplied)

Powerful symbolism wins

The exhibition of compelling portraits by Māori artists opens at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato today, Friday, September 15, 2023.

Ms Cotton said, “The diverse creative expression within this exhibition is impressive, with the winning work for 2023 challenging the very definition of portraiture through its powerful symbolism.”

Wellington-based Stevei Houkāmau, whose iwi affiliations include Ngaati Porou and Te Whanau-a-Apanui, was announced the winner of the 2023 Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award and received a $20,000 cash prize.

Her award-winning work ‘Kia Whakatōmuri te haere whakamua’ was chosen from an impressive 96 entries nationwide. Primarily made from uku (clay) and held together with strong wire, the sculpture can be displayed in many ways and was praised by the judges for the artist’s command of her chosen medium.

“Reminiscent of a necklace of touchstones, each individual bead is incised with patterns and tohu (symbols) encoded with knowledge and completed with a raukura feather adornment at each end. The use of whatu raranga to bind the work together reflects how the artist has considered whakapapa connections as an integral aspect,” judges said about her work.

Wood Carving title ‘Kai Whakairo’ by Tukiri Tini (Image Supplied)

Renowned panel for Judging

A partnership between the Office of the Kiingtanga and the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata, the award was launched in 2021 in honour of Kiingi Tuheitia. The 2023 award attracted portraits using a wide range of mediums including whakairo (carving), raranga (weaving), photography, ceramics, and oil paintings.

The 43 finalist artworks were judged by a distinguished panel of renowned Aotearoa New Zealand artists. They include portrait artist Graham Hoete aka “Mr G” (Ngaati Awa, Ngaai Te Rangi, Ngaati Ranginui), researcher, artist, arts educator and curator, Steve Gibbs (Ngaai Taamanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Rongomaiwahine), and artist Lisa Reihana (Ngaa Puhi, Ngaati Hine, Ngaai Tuuteauru, Ngaai Tupoto), who is known around the world for her portraits and digital art.

Waikato artists shine

The judges also gave honourable mentions to two artists with connections to the Waikato region. Tia Barrett was awarded for her photograph ‘A Time Capsule of Aroha’ depicting her grandmother in her whare in Ngaaruawaahia, and Heramaahina Eketone for Ngaa Houhanga Rongo’ (acrylic on MDF), a large heke (ceiling rafter) which will ultimately be installed at Mai Uenuku Ki Te Whenua Marae in Raglan.

The Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award is open at Waikato Museum from 15 September 2023, 10 am to 5 pm daily. Entry is free.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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