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Making Waves, Paemanu: Tauraka Toi

Ngā Toi Māori, Te Toi Ataata
image Andre Te Hira, Whakaahua Series – 01, detail, 2021, Courtesy Paemanu Charitable Trust
image Areta Wilkinson, Star Whata: Space Odessey 2021, detail, 2021, courtesy Paemanu Charitable Trust
image Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti, Maata/Marth/Wharerimu, detail, 2021, courtesy of Paemanu Charitable Trust
image Ephraim Russel, Taki Apakura [lament], 2021, courtesy Paemanu Charitable Trust

When Ngāi Tahu artists landed at Dunedin Public Art Gallery in December 2021 with their exhibition, Paemanu: Tauraka Toi, they also launched an artwork collection.

Paemanu, governed by a charitable trust formed at Rāpaki in 2013, first mooted the idea of a permanent collection in 2020, having spent two years working with the gallery.

“We were looking at the values which underscore curatorial decision making, how exhibitions are pulled together and influenced by the way collections are formed” says Paemanu chair, Kiri Jarden.

Major city gallery collections consist of artwork bequests and loans from wealthy patrons, and often their descendants, as well as purchased works. These collections include international pieces, work by colonial artists and by notable New Zealanders.

“What we couldn’t help but notice was the low number of artworks from Māori artists in the gallery collection, and unfortunately that isn’t so unusual in the national context,” says Jarden. “For us it wasn’t too much of a stretch to consider what it would take to create our own collection and how by doing this we might contribute to the experience of contemporary Māori art while also ensuring access to the artworks and the stories they tell, to hapū, to the iwi, and other cultural institutions.”

The trust has some contemporary art luminaries on board including Ross Hemera, Rachael Rakena, Areta Wilkinson, Simon Kaan, Nathan Pōhio, Martin Awa Clarke Langdon and Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti. Previous trustees and current collaborators include Ngāi Tahu artists Lonnie Hutchinson, Vicki Lenihan, Peter Robinson, Neil Pardington and Ayesha Green among others. With this stable of artists onboard it was clear that the Paemanu Collection had the makings of a nationally significant collection.

“Creating our own collection was made much easier given our close working relationship with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery team” says Jarden. “The Gallery will care for the collection, which will consist of work from over 20 artists, for the next few years. That is significant for both parties.”

Paemanu has been supported by Creative New Zealand to initiate the collection, and even before the exhibition had reached its mid-point, other work had been offered to the collection.

The collection was not the only change making activity undertaken by Paemanu. The collective also supported an internship at the gallery which resulted in the intern show He Reka te Kūmara, and co curated the two yearlong collection show, Hurahia ana ka Whetū. With the opening of Paemanu: Tauraka Toi, the collective influenced the entire gallery exhibition programme.

Jarden says “We’re ambitious for our art and our stories to be seen and told. And right now, many galleries are looking at how they engage with Māori art and artists, so supporting artists working in various disciplines into gallery spaces and into a collection is timely.

“We also bring our writers, musicians, carvers and weavers along with us into exhibition programmes. It is important that all the ways we share our Ngāi Tahu creativity and stories are acknowledged. They also add rich texture to viewer experiences.

“A couple of years ago I had someone up north reflect to me how lucky Ngāi Tahu was, that we had a real breadth of creative talent and experience. I agree whole heartedly of course!”

Paemanu: Tauraka Toi involves 36 Ngāi Tahu artists curated by senior practitioners alongside trustees. Paemanu has been supported by Creative NZ, the Ngāi Tahu Fund and Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

Closing on April 25, 2022, there is still plenty of time to visit the exhibition and participate in public programmes, with in person and on-line.



Principal Arts Advisor Kiri Jarden shares her thoughts on the creative process and some of her inspirations.
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