Writing MAORI ART MaCVIII

gallery invitation
© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues

 

BlueOrbit

rangihīroa,  he āmionga kikorangi, ‘the blue orbit’, 2018

 

E ngā kaipānui tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā ra koutou katoa. Ngā whakawhetai ki a koutou mo te awhi me te tautoko hoki. Hari te ngakau nei e hoko ana koutou ki tā tātou pukapuka. Naaku te rourou, nau te rourou, ka kī te kete.

The following text comprises notes used to prepare for a presentation of ‘Writing Māori Art’ at the City Gallery, Wellington, 25 August 2016. They explore the background to the creation of MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, Batemans, 2015/2018. Some key themes and motivations for the work are discussed. ‘Writing Maori Art’ has been edited for this particular platform however, it largely follows the question/response format used in the original kōrero. I am offering this as a koha to recognise the hundreds on the publisher’s facebook site that have supported this project and the many who have been visiting this companion site to peruse the MaC I-VII blogs. I hope the kaupapa is useful to those searching for authorial intent.

 

Presentation
Panoho, Leonard, Caldwell, Brunt and Tamati-Quennell

Writing MAORI ART

It was difficult to know what to prepare here. I wondered who might be attending so I found myself asking questions throughout this kōrero.  I have largely kept that initial structure involving enquiry and response. This imagining ones audience and then writing to / for that readership or group is what I think writing a book is about. There were other influences as well. The panel members (Megan Tamati-Quennell, MONZ and Peter Brunt, VUW), that follow this talk, were also interested in hearing about the book’s central river metaphor so I have included some discussion on awa. If you are looking for a brief explanation of the river try this video link.

Lorraine Steele, (Lighthouse NZ PR Book Publicity) assigned by my publisher Batemans to help market ‘Maori Art’, told me prior to its initial launch in June 2015 at Te Uru that books, particularly art books in New Zealand, don’t sell themselves. No great revelation for those involved in publishing here tonight. You would immediately understand the role authorial self-promotion plays in marketing New Zealand books, films indeed all creative activity in Aotearoa. In Auckland, the situation seems grim. With a city of nearly 1.5 million people there is no major window for New Zealand books on Queen Street, or apart from Unity Books, in the central city. Our publicist suggested I take a few months out to travel meet, greet, sign and sell. She was particularly keen on areas of the country with community ties to the book. What sounded like grim advice then makes good business sense now.

So here is my delayed response, eventually following marketing advice. In returning here to Wellington I am re-visiting a site important early on in the creation, the conceptualising, the illustration and in the production of ‘Maori Art’. I lived locally. I taught up the road on Tasman Street at the local Design School. My original publishing contracts were sent here. My first manuscript was created in this town. It was here I began describing to alarmed, possibly bemused readers, I was writing a book on Māori Art that would be centered around the metaphor of a river. My first readers Mary Barr, Jayne Sayle, Garry Nicholas and Luit Bieringa were and still all are locals. I curated a major Māori and a Pacific show, for the Dowse Art Museum and for the City Gallery respectively, prior to living here and I am grateful to Robert Leonard and the City Gallery for letting me continue this legacy in not simply celebrating curating but also writing ‘Maori Art’ with you.

 

WHY WRITE MAORI ART?

 

So why write a book on Māori Art? Indeed, why write any book? At risk of personal scrutiny I quote British novelist George Orwell’s essay ‘Why I Write‘  because his account of authorship and motivation provides a useful structure here to work with and against. Writing post world war II (summer 1946) Orwell lays down 4 drives: sheer egotism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.  Some areas resonate more than others. I test a couple of these ideas.

Egotism: taking Orwell’s first motivation. On 11 August 1992 I was offered a contract with Nevill Drury, Publishing Manager, Craftsman House, Australia. Drury writes, ‘Delighted to enclose contracts…I feel this publication will be a very worthwhile addition to the literature on Pacific art. Your book will be distributed internationally, and I think could also attract offers of translation.’ Lofty possibilities indeed. From the point of view of a 28 year old, burnt out from curating a Pacific show and travelling a large Māori exhibition on tour to Australia for Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery, this Australian contract was a big deal.

Egotism? Orwell claims, ‘It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one.’ Perhaps initially there is the grand vision but the brutality of 22 sobering years deals to romantic visions: there have been contract losses, institutions neither believing, nor backing and, worse, stalling its publication, job loss, an employment court battle with a Vice Chancellor, reluctance by the ‘community of taste’ to accept my writing and so on. Many of the previous MaC blogs detail this history. The great nineteenth century pacifist Parihaka prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai in 1903 told an historian seeking answers on the land wars, William Baucke, to ‘ask that mountain, Taranaki saw it all.’ For those that continue to have trouble understanding the raruraru behind writing ‘Maori Art’ I would like to quote Te Whiti and say, ask the book – it saw it all.

My disagreement with Orwell stems from the thought that there is not much room for inflated egos when authors are jobless and manuscripts go unpublished. The one abiding passion I had for ‘Maori Art’ was to focus my thinking and creative output on its kaupapa. Others were also important in helping birth it. The photographers, Haruhiko Sameshima and Mark Adams and more recently Tracey Borgfelt the publisher, and publicist Lorraine Steele, believed in this project. For those intent on reading my thoughts in relation to the book I suggest less focus on personality and more on the work itself. That, despite Orwell’s insistance, would be the more rewarding line of enquiry. I think this book does actually follow its own unique path without deviating. Reflectively author Anne Rice‘s perception of what inspired her about the focus in Franz Kafka’s writing seems to fit this kaupapa:

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.

 

SO WHAT IS MAORI ART ABOUT?

 

AucklandArtGallery bookshop
Maori Art on display, Toi Tāmaki ‘Auckland Art Gallery’ bookshop, 2020
PNG flower
rangihīroa, impatiens, Papua New Guinea native, 2017

Orpan River, airstrip, village, and Anguganak bluff – upper right

 

The book references or is influenced by four river types. The personal, the tribal, the Austronesian and the cosmological. These four layers underpin the selection of material and the central metaphor and they make sense of the force relations contained within the chapters. Regarding the first and third rivers, I was born in Angugunak bluff amongst the mountainous rainforest of the Western Sepik district of Papua New Guinea. I lived alongside the Northern Wairoa River (river II), out on the West Coast at Bayleys Beach or Ripiro (during my childhood/early adolescence), alongside the Whanganui River (during my work as a curator – river II) and on the South Kaipara Head (during my time teaching tertiary in Tāmaki – river II and IV).

Mark Adams, north Kaipara looking out from towards the waha mouth of the Wairoa ki te Tai Tokerau River,

In the broader sense ‘Maori Art’ makes a case for a cultural river comprising ocean currents that take people, cosmologies, visual and spoken languages and whakapapa out of ancient China, insular Asia into the Near and Distant Pacific. Eventually this diaspora leads to bottle necks of culture comprising the Lapita peoples further north and to the West and Eastern Polynesian gatherings centred on islands like Rangiātea and Rarotonga through which the very last southern migration of human beings on the planet took place. Those people have become known as Māori in the south and Maoli in Hawai’i.

 

rangihīroa, gardenia hand, 2017

As with the visual motifs explored in MAORI ART this flower is found in a number of sites, throughout the world, associated with our Austronesian ancestors: Southern China, Taiwan, Madagascar and the Pacific.

WHERE ELSE MIGHT I FEEL ‘MAORI ART’ RESONATES ORWELL’S SUMMARY REGARDING MOTIVATIONS?

The aesthetic area. There is an interest in the sound of words and a passion for this helps drive imagery and design. Further, in political terms Orwell also talks about the, ‘Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.’ In ‘Maori Art’ the society I envisage is one where locals and those overseas are more discerning about how they see, describe, interpret, endorse and market particular types of Māori art. Two whole chapters are devoted to communities that base themselves around two very different extremes – the orthodoxy of Sir Āpirana Ngata and the modernism of Ralph Hotere. Perhaps to the surprise of some I don’t see either position as solely or idealistically encapsulating the society or artform for which we should strive.

Orwell finally talks about writing possessing an historical impulse. Again I don’t wholly agree with the definition. Historicity in ‘Maori Art’ is tied up with Asia Pacific and concepts of the past not as teleological so much as ancestral and in flux or in continuum. Mark Twain once described the Mississippi as iconic in the sense that it embodied the recent history of his nation (not to be confused with First Nation concepts of history). I used the river metaphor and various states of water in flow because I believe they too embody our unique history in this part of the world.

More than this I saw the river as an inclusive form that embraces all.

commemorative lei aroha
pare puarangi, 2017

MAORI ART book Television & Radio coverage

For the convenience of those visiting the site this post contains 5 samples of video, Television and Radio material in chronological sequence 2015-2016 covering the publication ‘MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory‘,  Batemans, Auckland, launched Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Art Gallery, Titirangi, Auckland, 10 June 2015.

The publishers facebook site (link above) has all the background to the making of the Film Construction book launch video with Director Perry Bradley and his team: Kia rere tonu ngā wai o te awa. ‘The River Must Flow’. Producer -Felicia Brunsting, DOP – James Rua, Production Assistant – Ferris Bradley, Stills Photographer – Belinda Bradley. Locations, Kingsland\Central Kaipara, 16 May 2015

Māori art book illustrates ‘visual whakapapa’‘Expert art historian, and our first ever Māori PhD recipient in Art History, Rangihiroa Panoho has just released a new book with a unique focus on Māori art and how it conveys whakapapa through visual mediums.’ Reporter: Manawa Wright, Te Kārere, TVNZ, location: Pukekawa, Auckland Domain, 10 June 2015

publicity Maori Art book
RNZ Interview Panoho/Ryan 2015 Maori Art launch

How to look at Māori art in the 21st century,  Interview with Kathryn Ryan, Nine to Noon, 12 June 2015. Link here:  http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201758148/how-to-look-at-maori-art-in-the-21st-century 

‘Maori Art’ book, Interview Matai Smith and author, Good Morning, TVNZ, 28 July 2015

MAORI ART wins AAANZ Prize for best writing by Māori\Pacific author, Australia National University, Canberra. Video : PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 3 December, 2016

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AWARDS ‘ngaa whakawhiwhinga’


‘Māori Art’ winner AAANZ book prize presented at the School of Art, Australia National University, Canberra, 3 December 2016 . This is an international award in the discipline of Art History.

Best Art Writing by a New Zealand Māori or Pacific Islander

($500 supported by Christchurch Art Gallery)

Jenny Harper Congratulates Rangihiroa Panoho as an AAANZ Award winner

 

This prize was awarded to the best art writing, whether in the form of a book, article or essay, by a New Zealand Maori or Pacific Islander.

'This is an exciting and innovative addition to the discipline of Māori and Pacific art history volumes. The expansive vision of the author deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded.' 

Maia Nuku, Associate Curator, Oceanic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Full report posted in www.facebook.com/maoriartbook/

or try the AAANZ net site below:

http://aaanz.info/prizes/

AAANZ annual prizes recognise the best in arts writing and research across Australia and New Zealand. The awards cover a broad array of arts publishing and acknowledge the contribution of both emerging and established scholars and artists. The categories include prizes for books, catalogues, artist books and Indigenous art writing. The prizes are sponsored by a number of universities, art museums, associations and publishing bodies around Australia and New Zealand. The prizes recognise the following. Originality and rigour of scholarship. Contribution to knowledge in the area and impact on scholarly debate in the field. Significance of the topic to the field and to adjacent disciplines. Significance and originality of arts research. Quality of the design and production values of the publication. Ability to convey complex ideas to wider audiences.

Ngā Kupu Māori awards, Auckland Museum 3 October 2016

Tracy Borgfelt, Batemans Associate Publisher (right) Kikorangi and Adrianne Panoho (left), Ngā Kupu Māori awards, Auckland Museum 3 October 2016

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Whānaunga Amokura Panoho (left) Kikorangi, Adrianne and Rangihīroa Panoho, Ngā Kupu Māori awards, Auckland Museum 3 October 2016

IOU ‘Māori Art’ the book + the exhibition. Writing the book Māori Art, then painting and curating it. 21 March 2016

An attempt to clarify what these three approaches (i.e. writing/painting/curating) might mean in the gallery context.

Map of ancestral mountain, ko Whatitiri te maunga, ko Te Uriroroi te hapū, Maungārongo te mārae, Porotī te hau kāinga

Oxford Definition of ‘indebtedness’.

IOU Māori Art the book + exhibition (currently on display at Tivoli, Waiheke Island) is an experimental look at what it might mean to write a book and then paint and curate a show about that book. I could perhaps have retreated into the easy response a number of artists make quoting senior Māori painter Ralph Hotere. His aphorism suggests art should speak for itself. Perhaps it might be said that a book should be left to do the same. In my particular case the publication Māori Art: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory co-published with David Batemans Ltd is certainly large and detailed enough (352 pages, a large body of images including many specially commissioned ones) in itself to create its own satisfying world.

However, what I found in visually working with key ideas in the book was that there are so many ways to explore and open up text and narrative that art potentially takes the published work in lots of exciting new directions. Curatorially the labelling of the show along with compositional elements in the painting help provide a whole range of other layers with which to read the book. Text in the exhibition space refers the viewer as reader back to particular points in the book. Art brings a whole other level of enquiry to the writing.

Sometimes the technical approach of specific artworks provided a rich interface with published ideas. In Māori Art, for example, I was working with the key idea of palimpsest as an ambitiously local way of reading Māori art within a 5 – 6000 year timespan that included its proto Polynesian, Austronesian and proto-Austronesian beginnings in the Pacific, Island Asia and earlier in Southern China. The layering I maintained had to be translucent and accumulatively luminous. I referenced the idea in chapter 2 ‘Te Hana’. I also drew on other histories. I love the oil technique developed by the Northern European painters and in particular that pioneered by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. The palimpsest metaphor that I worked with leant itself to encaustic (i.e raw natural ground pigments mixed with purified and heated beeswax). This is a much quicker version of the oil glazing I have also admired in works like the Ghent Altarpiece whose centrepiece I featured in chapter 2. What I liked about encaustic was that it physically described what I was alluding to in the text. It also, in its layered process, demonstrated the idea of obscuring and at the same time transmitting in part information from deeper layers into the final painting surface.

 Rangihīroa Panoho, Pao pao te wai, Waipao te awa, acrylic on canvas, 2016. ‘Waipao is the river in which my illustrious ancestors used to drink and immerse themselves. Today it is shallow’, encaustic on Oregon pine, 2016, photograph: Haruhiko Sameshima

The river with which Te Uriroroi identify is named after the flush of water in summer from the Whatitiri puna that was so powerful the motion caused boulders and rocks to clash and clatter into one another. Pao refers to the striking smashing motion of the water.

I created a book on a broad ranging art historical topic with a specific whānau ‘family’ and tribal kaupapa ‘foundation’. Painting and the broader exhibition is letting me tell other connected stories that, while not appropriate in a general publication, are entirely suited to the intimacy of exhibition space. A viewer can walk around an interior and visually discover those connections. I found that there were many ways to open up the sacred landscape sites in my Tai Tokerau rohe that I had only been able to document, in collaboration with the photographers Mark Adams and Haruhiko Sameshima, in the book. There is, for instance, a big difference between showing the public a published image of our sacred maunga Whatitiri and by contrast presenting it as a physical object that brings with it a more tangible human history. Currently my Te Uriroroi hapū are, for example, having their historical grievances over land and water loss and rights of ownership heard by the Waitangi Tribunal.

Water and an ancestral connection with protest is part of the videographer whānaunga Nova Paul’s 2018 work that looked at both the centrality of Waipao river to Te Uriroroi and the 1895 sit in of our ancestor, our namesake Henare Panoho atop Okoihu (our Te Parawhau tūpuna Kūkupa’s pā tūwatawata at the feet of our ancestral maunga Whatitiri – see painting below) to protest the Crown’s breaking up of our ancestral lands on Maunga Whatitiri (see map above) into 15 farms sold to colonial settlers.

Paul adopts the Te Ātihaunui-ā-Pāpārangi approach to the legal personhood of their matua awa Whanganui , Ko te awa ko au, ko au te awa.

I see Henare Panoho as part of the fabric of the water at Kawanui puna where Mark Adams and I photographed.

rangihīroa, Ko Henare te tūpuna tāne, Kawanui te puna, Whatitiri,  2017

Mark Adams, Kawanui, Whatitiri, 26 October 1998

Wai 2058 pops up as regularly in the painting as Yueh (the reference to the ancient ‘axe’ peoples who occupied Southern China prior to the Han invasion).

Rangihīroa Panoho, Yueh, ‘The People of the Axe’, encaustic on board with kauri villa window frame, 2016

Art can become a refreshing way with which to resonate the importance of this local grid of identity and the more ancient layers of symbol and pattern that connect Asia\Pacific peoples. Art potentially can help both the reader and the gallery viewer to move between antiquity and the everyday realities that face a contemporary indigenous people struggling with the burden of their recent ‘colonial’ histories. The three dimensional nature of a gallery is helpful in this regard. Accumulatively the photographs and paintings in IOU completely surround their viewer with their interconnected narratives. They demonstrate an instantaneous awareness that I have always loved about curated imagery. The kaupapa of an artist, a curator and a gallery (sometimes including the architecture) can be read through the experience of the unity of the objects within their exhibited space. I am not claiming that this happens with all shows. What I am saying is that with carefully thought through and well executed exhibitions it is conceivable that a viewer can immediately grasp the essence of a show.

It would be interesting to know whether any of these issues resonate with the curatorial, artistic and publishing efforts of other business people out there. For those wondering what art shows have to do with books and why a book might not speak for itself one point might be worth noting. In New Zealand there are very limited marketing opportunities to showcase publications in a sustained and meaningful way that connects a book with a reader or with an institution (i.e those who will eventually purchase the product). Downtown Auckland has 1 small bookshop (Unity Books) that helps showcase, among other publications, New Zealand books.  The ratio of 1 small central store per 1.5 million people (in a country of only 4.6 million) perhaps helps clarify an urgent need for creative thinking around how to connect a market with a publication. Getting people to meet authors is a key way of selling a work to the public. Following this line of thinking exhibitions are a useful way of introducing an audience to a book. If you are local come and visit the IOU show and test some of my ideas at Tivoli on Waiheke. You may even want to tie a trip in with one of the many festivals (international jazz, wine and food…) on what is still a beautiful and unique part of the Auckland coastal region. Good things can come from small places.

Mark Adams, Te Wairere a Miru, Wairua Falls, Mangakāhia valley, near Porotī, near Whāngārei, 6 January 1995, collection: author

Rangihīroa Panoho, Te Wairere a Miru, 2 September, 2012, acrylic inks and watercolour on board