HEADLANDS: unpublished responses MaC V



‘First published by the Museum of Contemporary Art Ltd, Sydney, Australia in 1992 in Headlands: Thinking though New Zealand Art, exhibition publication page 122’ MCA

rangihīroa, The Ineluctable Centre, 2017
© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2018-2021. 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 mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.


Letter Derek Schulz to William Dart 4 October 1992
rangihiroa, Pōkākā ‘storm’, 2017
Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

Voltaire, letter to M. le Riche, 6 February 1770

Headlands is such an exquisitely uncomfortable exhibition that it may not prove popular. But it should be seen, both for the quality of the works and for the way it reveals a darker but more interesting side to our nearest neighbours.

Joanna Mendelssohn, New Views of NZ, The Bulletin, 21 April 1992: 104

Black music has very often been stolen and co-opted by white people. But there is a complexity to the story of the blues. Early blues records had vanished by the 1950s. They were disposable things on their way to being forgotten completely. And it was a coterie of white collectors who rescued them from oblivion. Now there are problems with the white taste for the authentic, and the patronizing way that some of the old bluesmen were dug up and exhibited as authentic primitives.

Hari Kunzru interview with Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson ‘Sjón’, BOMB, 15 May 2017

White man, hear me! History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, therefore, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating; one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history. But, obviously, I am speaking as an historical creation which has had bitterly to contest its history, to wrestle with it, and finally accept it in order to bring myself out of it.’ 

 James Baldwin, ‘White Man’s Guilt’, Ebony, August 1965

Headlands aimed to present an overview of New Zealand art which opened up ways of thinking, extended knowledge, and shifted this knowledge into new possibilities of awareness. By building on pre-existing notions of the culture and art of New Zealand, this exhibition reflected and reconsidered those judgements, presenting new ideas, and re-presenting the familiar in a new context. 

Museum of Contemporary Art statement, MCA, Sydney web site, accessed 20 December 2017

rangihīroa, ‘Wīwī, wāwā ‘scattered localities’, 2017

I have been thinking through Baldwin’s comments. With the past everpresent, musing over HEADLANDS, its many responses, over the decades, means contesting less helpful frames of history many critics have sought to impose and reiterate but seldom to revise. In her 1964 diary American writer Susan Sontag confided, ‘Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol. For me various reactions to, not so much my 1992 essay (‘Maori at the Centre, On the Margins…’ for HEADLANDS, MCA, Sydney) but rather to, its authorship, constitute ongoing cultural constriction. Too much has been written, is still being written about me rather than the eleven paragraphs (of a more broadly positioned essay) I penned.

Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol. 

Susan Sontag diary 1964

It would be difficult, unnecessary even, to fractionally respond to these critiques when references to arguments in my HEADLANDS essay have become something of a diversion. Like ‘true north’ its’ position exists in that direction over there: like the angle that one might point one’s house to capture the sun. Immediately after my PhD examination, 2003 novelist Witi Ihimaera (part of the examination panel) breezily described this compass point as a pragmatic reference. The essay he said was one of his points of bearing, out there, on the periphery. For me the edginess of Ihimaera’s remark has deeper resonance. ‘Maori at the Centre…’ has been impaled, muted and neutered. It doesn’t argue back. It mostly offers up a couple of oft-quoted phrases obediently receiving endless re-inscription. If anyone has difficulty understanding this controversial treatment ask the text it saw it all: monologues not discussions, soliloquy not dialogue and silence from, not debate with, the protagonists.

DEBATE: ‘A formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting...in which opposing arguments are put forward...’ Oxford Dictionary

So after a quarter of a century, other than four interventions, of being forced to listen to others curatorial criticism (i.e. the selection of what to celebrate) and to others editorial criticism (repeated assertions), a few things beg clarification. In a 2017 catalogue on Gordon Walters (one of the artists referenced in my 1992 essay) contributing authors, curator Amy Hammonds and architectural historian Deidre Brown, make some authoritative claims. Hammonds works for DPAG, the custodian of the Gordon Walters collection. As with the late Francis Pound’s partner and many other individuals and institutions, both dealing in or collecting the art and offering commentary, Hammonds has enormous vested interest in championing the career of this artist. She claims, ‘It was in the wake of the survey exhibition [i.e. its commercial and professional success] that negative responses to Walters’ use of Māori subject matter began to appear’.

Firstly, I think New Zealanders involved in, or interested in the arts, would benefit from the concept that disagreement with an idea neither means a negative position has been advanced nor that disrespect to a senior artist has been enacted. Much of my lifelong specialist Māori involvement with the appropriation issue shares common ground with those promoting Walters’ work and research. I possess a sincere desire to clarify the process of cross cultural dialogue. However, I am also dedicated to clarifying the consequences of any philosophical position (i.e. the determinedly formalist position) that undermines toi tāhuhu: the visual legacy and heritage of an indigenous people.

Secondly, Hammond’s timeline of objections, surfacing in 1986, doesn’t work for me. My first encounter with Walters was during Dr Michael Dunn’s survey show at AAG in 1983. I later wrote a student essay on appropriation submitted in 1985 in Dunn’s stage III paper on New Zealand Art. Seeking potential employment I sent it on to Luit Bieringa, Director, National Art Gallery to indicate general research interests.

My only brief exchange with Gordon Walters took place during an Auckland Gallery Associates’ lunchtime lecture introduced by Dunn and generously shared by the artist himself  7 April 1983. Diverse questions from audience were fielded by Walters. I participated. I asked him about his koru paintings. Further, the historical determinism present in Hammonds’ assumptions, in my case at least, is misguided. She believes Walters’,

...rising critical status, and the trophy position that his major koru paintings were beginning to assume, made him more of a target. His commercial success further raised the stakes for those who saw his work as an exploitative appropriation.

For me, as a student, Walters was no more a target nor a trophy for the appropriation controversy than I was a wealthy investor with an art portfolio. Actually, when I enquired of Walters I was a shy 20 year old art history student.  I overcame my embarrassment because I genuinely felt uncomfortable about his formalist borrowing. He was a shy older man who didn’t understand the question. The exchange didn’t work. I remember him looking over at Dunn for assistance and the session moved on. I didn’t though. The issue was not simply that my enquiry wasn’t addressed or even that I didn’t have the right question. Rather, something did not feel right.

Despite growing unease there was nothing ‘outsiderish’ about my ongoing exploration of Walters’s appropriative act experienced in the 1983 show. My research was  encouraged. Walters was Dunn’s PhD thesis topic and all sorts of investigations were being undertaken in the Auckland art history department. By this I mean I was encouraged and later supervised as a theses candidate under Dunn (MA) and the ethnologist Dr Roger Neich (PhD) and Alan Wright along with some later guidance as a curator and as an academic. This directed specialist research increasingly involved the refusal of an assimilative voice or even of a post-colonial position. Instead I began looking at ties with wider colonising behaviour in New Zealand. The shift both precedes and follows HEADLANDS in a fairly clear trajectory. The research never focused solely on Gordon Walters.

My first published work (supported by Ron Brownson, AAG) in 1985 was a short article on Ian McMillan’s Plank Paintings (pākehā artist inspired by meetinghouse interiors on the East Coast) for PERSPECTA, AGNSW, Sydney (a commission organised by Cheryl Sotheran). In 1988 and in 1989 I curated two versions of Culture/Response, Sarjeant Gallery featuring many different pākehā/papa’a artists (including Walters) from the permanent collection utilising Māori/Pacific motifs and narratives (leaflet and later small catalogue). In 1988 after completing an MA thesis on Paratene Matchitt I wrote a couple of Art New Zealand articles. One essay promoted Matchitt’s work critiquing the classicism of Te Māori and a Māori art perpetually driven by notions of authenticity. In December 1990 I wrote for ANTIC on the colonising gaze of photographer Laurence Aberhart. From 1992 to 1994 I ran panels, for the School of Design, Wellington involving key Māori, Pacific and pākehā voices that explored identity and appropriation within the frameworks of local indigenous cultural paradigms. And in 2001 I submitted a doctoral thesis weaving together many of these earlier streams of thought into a new Māori art history.

The HEADLANDS essay is connected with all of these projects and initially MCA was interested in incorporating both text and curatorial design components in their catalogue. In December 1989, prior to their commissioning letter, the MCA ambitiously encouraged  preparation in two areas: an essay on cross cultural dialogue and a visual re-construction of my curatorial work involving Māori. By March 1991 (commissioning letter) the curatorium had settled on more singular focus on the essay. All people involved in the HEADLANDS project, including some of my writings’ most vigorous critics – Francis Pound – heard the central arguments presented and knew them 2 ½ years prior to publication.

This lengthy build-up to the opening of HEADLANDS was time enough for any fears, doubts and concerns to be exhaustively talked through and at least clarified if that was ever an interest. All contributing writers at the workshop (Friend’s Lounge of the AAG) on 3 September 1989 had opportunity to share their text. Mine was a 1 ½ page typed summary. The abstract laid out my intentions. Its central argument, evident in the final text, is readable even at an earlier stage. Not one single person at the initial planning meeting, nor any subsequent meeting prior to the HEADLANDS opening, protested my abstract. Editor Mary Barr was the only person that ever suggested to me directly there might be an adverse reaction. She asked me if I wanted to continue to have the Walters material in the essay and I said yes. She asked me to shift my section on Walters to the back of my essay. I complied.

The MCA and its curatorium got what I said I was going to deliver. All of them were familiar with the piece I was submitting.  Further, later in my teaching career, when I worked alongside many of the most virulent critics of the essay, not one of them ever approached me directly to discuss differences in viewpoint or to clarify what it was I actually thought.

So in relation to the claims of Hammonds and of Brown regarding critical dialogue emerging out of HEADLANDS I never experienced any. No interaction whatsoever. What I do recall are the four occasions, over the last 25 years, where forced intervention was required. In 1994, with legal assistance, I took Radio New Zealand to the Broadcasting Tribunal and successfully secured an apology for their misquoting my essay and misrepresenting my views (as they related to my HEADLANDS essay on 15 July 1993) to the public. In 2005 I successfully petitioned the Editor of the New Zealand Listener to acknowledge my response to misquotation of ‘Maori at the Centre’ by their arts reviewer Andrew Paul Wood in a September issue. This reportage by both broadcaster and arts columnist suggested neither, at that stage, had actually read and therefore seriously considered the original document. They were referencing or placating others. In late 2016 I made the private demands of an Elam School of Fine Arts PhD student Charlotte Andrew, seeking immediate views on Walters, Schoon and appropriation through Messenger, public on Facebook. In 2017, in an earlier post (‘Future Flowerings’, MaC II), I offered a long overdue rebuttal to academic Wystan Curnow’s ‘Sewing up the Space in Between’ which had involved derogatory personal criticism of me and very little serious engagement with ‘Maori at the Centre: on the Margins.’ I didn’t have to go looking for the essay (republished by academic Christina Barton and curator Robert Leonard). The intervention came as a result of Leonard gifting me a copy of Curnow’s book while I was working with the City Gallery promoting my own publication MAORI ART in 2016.

Curnow is not alone. For the last 25 years various critics have claimed to refute arguments raised in my essay. Despite extreme verbosity at times – a book, a folly, on one occasion, nearly all suffer the same problems raised in the 1993, 2005, 2016 and in the 2017 interventions. People simply don’t read and respectfully engage with the argument offered in the essay. Rather, attacking the author, not the text, appears primary. This punitive response appeases some in New Zealand art circles but it perpetually keeps the wider public in the dark regarding my actual, rather than my purported, views.

...we build a sort of virtual picture of them that consists not so much of what they say but what they have conjured up in our mind. So that if someone who hasn’t read a book cites non-existent passages or situations from it, we are ready to believe that they are in the book. 

commentary on Paul Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read Umberto Ecco's Chronicles of a Liquid Society, 2016

So for those too easily prompted  in their alignment with others or those struggling with an imaginary protagonist the following two step statement establishing its own conclusive question may be helpful in clarifying a central intention in the HEADLANDS essay:

If the programme of western modernism and global post modernism validates formalist appropriation of motifs and symbols, central to the identity of indigenous cultures, including Māori, how does such a system deal with otherness that refuses to separate the visual from the cultural and spiritual framework to which it belongs?

The historical context (i.e. see Kunzru’s description of white authentication of Black American blues) of Gordon Walters’s appropriation and the wider Kiwi disinterest in Māori art as art (or even contemporary Māori art as authentic Māori) at that time, is regularly used to justify the brutality of his formalist abstraction. It was naive (mono-cultural 1950s New Zealand or not) for a pākehā artist to brazenly claim severed Māori content, in his koru paintings, as cultural homage. I still view this appropriation with reserve 35 years after Dunn’s exhibition and my own brief encounter with the artist. That I, in the early 1990s, would dare take issue with such pilfering seems to have generated a huge storm of defence around it. However, all the verbosity in the world does not change the key problem those supporting Walters’s abstraction of the koru, lifted from tribal sites he both visited and documented, possess. Such words, and increasing resources and power apportioned Walters’s promotion, does nothing to change the undeniable reality that writer/curator Derek Schulz, in two unpublished documents defending my HEADLANDS essay, was to identify in late 1992.

Māori and pākehā cultures, histories and value systems, while they share some commonalities, are markedly different. Those differences, and those histories, have everything to do with how one perceives the issue of appropriation.

Precluding the existence of such a sensibility is the kind of ‘cultural cholesterol’ of which Sontag speaks. It is a position obstructive to the future flow of the arts in this country (see MaC II regarding the stories we tell ourselves). In te ao Māori everything in the ancestral, the physical, the spiritual, the economic and the cultural dimension is inextricably connected. In such a world how could the koru not belong, not be strong, not have value quite apart from its experimentation by a pākehā abstractionist?

It is the interconnectedness of natural and cultural elements in the Māori world, the embalming nature of colonisation and the primacy of a Māori, not simply a pākehā, historical and contemporary paradigm that are key. Despite the clarity of this intention the focus has always been diverted. Its centre seems to be about me personally and how I, and therefore not my argument, do not belong to the arts community or the “team”: let’s call it club koru…

rangihīroa, koru, hōhā, ruha, 2018

Prior to 1992 I was labouring under a youthful illusion I was contributing to a New Zealand industry to which I comfortably belonged. I was the recipient of what one Minister of Arts described as an unprecedented collection of support from arts community colleagues (see MaC I). Despite no-one publicly protesting (quite the opposite) any of my research, writing or curating on appropriation prior to HEADLANDS things were to change dramatically early 1992. The Award winning critic for the Bulletin, Australian art historian Joanna Mendelssohn claims ‘HEADLANDS gave its viewers hope that the world of ideas cannot be suppressed.’ As a writer for the catalogue my experience couldn’t have differed more markedly.

No document epitomises unwelcome ideas and not belonging more than a letter sent Bernice Murphy, Chief Curator, MCA by Richard Killeen (one of the participating pākehā artists in HEADLANDS). Circulated in 1992 the artist advised, ‘…the Curatorium distance itself from Mr Panoho’ offering an added assertion that Mr Panoho was, ‘…letting the home team down’. As if clarifying my right to belong as central (i.e. Australasian arts industry acceptance) Murphy, on receiving Killeen’s censorship advice, immediately faxed and phoned me around the time of the HEADLANDS opening (Sydney 1 April 1992). The response copied to me, included Killeen’s correspondence, her rebuttal and an open declaration declining compliance.

If, as Killeen seems to suggest, there was a “club” then from what kind of club was I as the author of the HEADLANDS essay ‘Māori…’, to be excluded and on whose orders? Further, what rules had I transgressed preventing my belonging to the team? Academic Christina Barton, in a more recent and fairly balanced account, probes the behaviour of a critical contingent (involving Killeen, Pound, Simmons and others) and their attack on myself and to a lesser extent on others,

Particularly vociferous was the opprobrium heaped upon one of the essayists in the catalogue, the young Māori curator Rangihīroa Panoho, who singled out Walters’s use of the koru...While the attacks [i.e. towards me] were couched in the language of propriety, concerning a lack of respect shown to a senior figure especially in the context of an “export’ exhibition, they signalled a deeper unrest, a cultural anxiety catalysed by the occasion that is a marker of the volatility of the moment in New Zealand’s emergence as a bicultural nation...The sharpness of the attacks on Panoho was underpinned by a wider and more insidious disparagement of the curators for showing respect to the Māori artists in the exhibition whilst supposedly demeaning their Pākehā peers...[The] greatest outrage came from a small camp of pākehā artists, academics, curators and collectors, and it circulated not in published form but by fax machine and word of mouth.’

Christina Barton, ‘Rethinking Headlands’, Afterall, University of Chicago Press, 2015 (39) :108

Some readers may have picked up the irony of this ‘deeper unrest and…cultural anxiety‘. The critical contingent, Barton outlines, is concerned about the lack of respect apportioned a senior pākehā artist. Alternatively, while I have always acknowledged Walters’ importance in the essay (and in my curating) I am concerned about the lack of respect being shown a culture. All this opprobrium, sharpness of attacks and outrage couched in the language of propriety is totally at odds with my kaupapa. Here we have Killeen asking Murphy to move me to the edge when my HEADLANDS essay argues centralising indigenous values and kaupapa (i.e. ‘Māori at the Centre: on the Margins’) in New Zealand art. Even in his footnote (in a broader ranging American Anthropologist article discussed in MaC III) Australian anthropologist Nicholas Thomas commenting on HEADLANDS, can’t resist discreetly, perhaps incredulously, surmising what this edgy, ‘intense backlash’ in New Zealand art circles might mean. Variations of ‘peculiar’ are employed twice.

PECULIAR: Belonging distinctively or primarily to one person, group, or kind; special or unique: rights peculiar to the rich; a species peculiar to this area.
Panoho’s relatively brief discussion prompted a peculiarly intense backlash, that can only be understood in the context of special value placed upon ‘international’ exposure in New Zealand art circles. Panoho emphasised that Walter’s formalism had distanced the koru from its cultural meanings and origins, and this would seem a peculiar point to dispute given that the artist himself had, in a widely quoted statement, declared that a reduction to pure form was intended. Thomas, ‘Kiss the Baby Goodbye, Kowhaiwhai and Aesthetics’, Critical Inquiry, 1995: footnote 9, 98-99

The choice of phrase Thomas uses intimates a form of belonging – possibly unusual or strange – particular to group dynamics. In this particular case he is clearly referencing the same exclusive camp of pākehā artists, academics, curators and collectors Barton identifies hovering over their fax machines and their caffè lattes and penned petitions to Luit Bieringa. 

rangihīroa, Aukati, 2018

Meanwhile other very clear battle lines were being drawn up. In late 1992 it became apparent no public debate except privileged discussion (i.e. amongst the critical contingent and their patrons that Barton mentions) was to be entertained in New Zealand. This censorship was practiced from around the time of the showing of HEADLANDS at the National Art Gallery in Wellington onwards. The editorial stance is evident in two unpublished attempts by curator/writer Derek Schulz offered to key New Zealand periodicals on my behalf. There was a refusal by the editors of Art New Zealand and of Quote/Unquote to publish, late September/early October 1992, (along with a complaint – following rejection – to Creative New Zealand who helped sponsor them). The tough editorial line was accompanied by a very cool reception of HEADLANDS on its return to Aotearoa. It would appear the ‘peculiarly intense backlash’, identified by both Thomas and Barr, was influential. Other scheduled New Zealand venues for HEADLANDS, outside the Wellington partnership, were sadly cancelled.

My culpability, as judged by the arts community, was impactful in a number of other areas. Māori arts officials, feeling pressure, were carefully re-aligning themselves  and claiming distance not from what I wrote but from how I purportedly had behaved. Arts administrator Garry Nicholas, of Te Waka Toi (Maori and Pacific branch of Creative New Zealand), claimed sensationally in Quote/Unquote that my HEADLANDS essay was just, ‘howling at the moon.’ “Young angry, junior, flawed, personal, crude, radical” were a few  of the many derogatory terms applied to person and less to text. With the exception of the terms ‘young’ and ‘junior’ a strange déjà vu swirls around ongoing generations of rangatahi employing new versions of the same critical slurs.

Anyone bothered with processing decades of this HEADLANDS monologue knows I am sparing the reader voluminous personal attack (alluded to in Schulz’s correspondence and a more recent public statement, in the Thomas footnote, in Barton’s commentary and in the biographical postscript at the end of this essay). It’s a pity neither editor published the original Schulz rebuttals in late 1992. They would have at least helped the Australasian readership  witness the centre of the argument and they may have helped clarify if not avoid the controversy. Twenty five years later the correspondence deserves quotation because its editing unjustly silenced a genuine attempt at opening up real not imaginary discourse:

Stephen Stratford, Editor,
23 September 1992

Dear Sir,

I make the following points in response to Keith Stewart’s comments on Rangi Panoho in his recent review of the HEADLANDS catalogue...

Panoho has never stated that only Māori artists are allowed to use Māori images. One of the major features of his curatorial work has been the inclusion of European artists in exhibitions of Māori art and his encouragement of the use of Māori imagery by them. The emotive language used in this article suggests that your reviewer and his informants have not read the text which they profess to find so offensive. 

Panoho is polite and considered but unbending in his insistence that Māori cultural imagery cannot be separated from its wairua, a word which defies translation into contemporary English. This is the ineluctable centre of Panoho’s argument and the point of conflict with a secular European art world. 

When artists approach a contemporary science that results may be charming but they will always be nonsensical to the scientific “language” they affect to use. Why should they [i.e. artists and the arts community] feel that their use of Māori images is any more coherent to Māori?

William Dart
4 October 1992

Here is my letter. I will have to wait to see if it is published. Perhaps there is a lot of correspondence on this exhibition:

Laurence Simmon’s emotive attack on Rangihīroa Panoho in his review of the Headlands catalogue draws on a selective cast of quotation that misrepresents Panoho’s ideas and intentions.

The title – Māori at the Centre on the Margins – gives a clear indication of the scope of Panoho’s essay, which is to show that at the end of 150 years of co-habitation, Māori have not moved ostensibly from positions they first took up in approaching European culture. They have always acted independently to take what they thought appropriate and adapted it for their own use. 

In addressing this issue, it is inevitable that Māori commentators, the only authentic guardians of Māoritanga, will address the manner in which European artists have approached Taha Māori. And they have done so, usually with magnanimity and patience.

European art historians have been too slow to return the compliment and the reason is their lack of understanding and entry into the Māori work.

Simmons’ comments reveal little knowledge or interest in Māoritanga. What they do reveal however, through his profoundly shallow comment about the “universal and universalising” nature of art discourse, is that this attempt to shore up a Eurocentric view of art history is desperately ill-founded.

He singles out for disapprobation Panoho’s comments on Gordon Walters which are short and temperate but unbending in their premise that Māori art forms cannot be separated from the cultural values that inspired them. This is the ineluctable centre of Panoho’s argument which insists on maintaining metaphysical differences between the cultures, a difference that European thinking continues to refuse to acknowledge. 

And this arrogance is amply demonstrated in Simmon’s crude dismissal of Panoho’s text as a radicalism based on binary oppositions. He has failed to recognise his own vulnerability as a spokesman for Deconstruction – an indigestible 1980s radical scepticism which attempted to use language to set the boundaries of human experience.

This is a philosophy...which is itself vulnerable to the viral infection of self-doubt. One voice raised against it is enough to collapse its pretensions and Panoho, in addressing Māori concern over Walters’ appropriations effectively introduces that virus into Simmons’ writing.

The irony is that Panoho has always maintained the rights of European artists and writers to enter the Māori world providing they seek the appropriate authorisation. That however has never been in the European rule book and it is why the true sources of Māoritanga have been off limits to European entry for so long.


What sense then might one make of this refusal to engage in tangible debate? Art historian Thomas McEvilley’s Art and Otherness, Crisis in Cultural Identity, 1992 is age appropriate but also continues to be an insightful reading of art communities grimly centred around particular kinds of objects. McEvilley claims the type of alienating behaviour, described by Schulz and others, is not an uncommon tactic of selection and of privileging and of reiterating taste present in visual art cliques. McEvilley, thinking of western modernism, used the term ‘community of taste’ to describe those determinedly setting out to maintain power through control over dominant narratives and a prevailing aesthetic ‘taste’ whose terms they dictate. It is in the interests of the controlling group, the Texan art historian claimed, that its values and its interests (what Baldwin describes as impaled history) are posited as eternal. It might be argued that the appropriation being contested at HEADLANDS (and as a result of the controversy and market interest carefully generated out of it) was a particular kind of abstraction that expectantly mined Māori design yet denied its cultural site of extraction. That kind of behaviour does not involve debate, conversation with or approval from indigenous culture. It is an assumed right of modernism.

Across the Tasman, earlier in 1992, Mendelssohn viewed the kind of vitriol associated with Killeen and sections of the wider ‘community of taste’ as not simply peculiar but laughable. Mendelssohn, and others, wondered from whence some in the New Zealand arts industry, in denunciation of and with extreme sensitivity towards the Sydney showing, originated:

To be in Sydney and hear of some New Zealanders’ expressions of anger at the Headlands exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, makes me wonder at what kind of cloud cuckoo land these critics must hail from...  Those who heard of one of New Zealand’s artists’s letter to the curators [MCA Chief Curator Bernice Murphy] with its complaint that "Headlands sets out to make a mockery of its own culture" have tended to respond with laughter.
rangihīroa, Cloud Cuckoo Land, 2017

r@ngihiroa, CLOUD cuckoo land, 2017

What drives the troubling behaviour Mendelssohn critiques and from which Murphy abstains association? I would probably have to agree with Thomas about the key issue causing such crippling sensitivity. New Zealand (i.e. as Mendelssohn slyly uses the Sydney audience to voice) is continually obsessed with what the world thinks. Only in looking back and reflecting on the Sydney opening have I started to better understand the intensity of this peculiar time bound longing. HEADLANDS, showing in Sydney 1 April – 28 June 1992,  generated a buzz not dissimilar to the current New Zealand fascination with more remote (and paradoxically more central) events like the Venice Biennale. Larger, less marginal nations don’t appear to suffer so intensely from this desperate need for affirmation. The fact that Aotearoa continues to be such a small component in distant multi-national networks and showings in Europe and North America continues, at times, to exert an undeniable effect on the national psyche.

In early 1992, with such a prominent New Zealand presence in the Australasian flagship of contemporary art – the MCA in Sydney, that obsession was a little too evident. The unique thing about the refurbished Circular Quay waterfront site and its opening celebration was that New Zealand and Australian Aboriginal art were  centre stage. HEADLANDS  and Djon Mundine and Fiona Foley’s Aboriginal exhibition TYERABARROWARYAOU: I shall never become a White Man received an exclusive focus. It would appear New Zealand artists and industry professionals had a heightened sense of this unique opportunity those like Murphy and Leon Paroissien (inaugural Director, MCA) had worked so hard to nurture and to grow without overtly interfering or attempting to control. The world was looking on, reputations were being carefully forged. ‘Our’ official standing as a visual arts culture was being measured and tested. It was not just receiving feedback from Australians that dazzled, rather it was the fact that the show was to be viewed by a particular set of visiting dignitaries attending events surrounding the opening. HEADLANDS formed a backdrop, and at times one of the foci, to a strategic gathering of specially invited ICOM officials. Did we miss the point? HEADLANDS, though internationally positioned was, ‘designed to introduce Australians to New Zealand’ not New Zealanders to the world!

While some in the New Zealand arts community imagined a united front and some commonly held belief in its art pantheon involving Walters, Murphy’s agenda, I believe, was less utopian. I found her approach more characterised by gritty and innovative  enquiry that actively engaged art and theory in the international arena but which also insisted on values more regionally located. This perfectly fitted the terms of Power bequest that drove the vision of MCA and its ‘openness to complexity’. Mendelssohn is more accurate suggesting Sydney viewers spurn the kinds of Kiwi sensitivities around popularity and uniformity. Obviating the relevance of Killeen’s letter to the HEADLANDS curatorium she encourages Australians embrace an uncomfortable exhibition that instead reveals, she says, ‘…a darker but more interesting side to our nearest neighbours.’ Mendelssohn’s mention of the darker side (no pun intended), of tension and of her sense of a greater cultural complexity, is in sync with Paroissien’s catalogue foreword. The MCA Director says, ‘Headlands…is an experimental model for cultural dialogue, concerning difference and similarities between two countries.’ Such a binary perhaps unconsciously clarifies greater levels of cultural and transcultural complexity evident in the more simplistic bicultural rhetoric so visible in New Zealand’s official 1990 celebrations two or three years prior. Reinforcing such an official political line across the Tasman does not appear part of the MCA ‘s institutional DNA. Instead, their claim was that HEADLANDS was involved in, ‘…presenting new ideas, and re-presenting the familiar in a new context.

From a New Zealand point of view it was precisely our diversity (i.e. the kinds of differences Schulz outlines in his 1992 and in his 2016 rebuttals) within the overarching national culture, that made the art of Aotearoa and the idea of curating it so attractive to the MCA’s Chief Curator. Of course it is presumptuous of me to assume Murphy, Mendelssohn or Thomas have a special empathy or a deep understanding for something or someone outside their local situation. However, it may be interesting to test the ‘peculiar’ behaviour observed in Sydney and see how it has played out over a number of decades both in critical commentary and in actual experiences on this side of the Tasman.

My recollection of the post 1992 controversy is very different from that described by Brown in the 2017 Gordon Walters catalogue. Like Hammonds, she offers commentary on cross cultural issues forming part of HEADLANDS and revives, perhaps inadvertently, Killeen’s 1992 concept of team player. Actually one might be mistaken for reading the light conciliatory banter as Eden Park rugby commentary. Capture the scene. The sun is setting behind the west stand out beyond Auckland’s Waitakeres. Meanwhile inside the stadium a scrum is rumbling past the five metre line: it’s the New Zealand Maoris versus the All Blacks. In this and the following paragraphs she again (i.e. see other attempts in MaC II, Future Flowerings) attempts to erase key issues in my essay reinscribing herself (and later the late Jonathan Mane) atop the historical controversy. The wise, the neutral referee she intervenes blowing her whistle:

Eventually the main protagonists in the debate, Te Awekotuku and Panoho on one side and Pound on the other, moved on to other intellectual concerns and the appropriation debate faded away from academic art history. 

Gordon Walters, New Vision. 2017: 112

Haha. Hōhā. Ruha. ‘Fad[ing] away[?]’ If the debate, more properly monologue involving pronouncements on me, had dissipated why is Brown devoting so much of her essay to dismantling specific aspects of my argument? Since I never faded away I assume Brown’s attempt to position herself centrally is a little premature. Even if I wanted to accept HEADLANDS in the past tense Brown’s statement is not reflective of my memory of the controversy. The Trans-Tasman fallout from the 1992 cultural event had a serious effect on both my personal and on my professional career for 25 years. I am loathe to dismiss something so difficult and so complex and so long-winded in simply entropic terms. Despite her using versions of the word ‘centre’ four times in the final paragraph of her essay I don’t think anyone would seriously consider Brown pivotal to this issue. HEADLANDS is definitely not some brief passing ‘intellectual concern’ fading out to Titirangi ‘the edge of the sky.’

Brown goes on to employ a range of Māori and pākehā voices to try to discredit the position she assumes I hold. My only response is to say if you are going to use Māori voices against other Māori expect response. There are many Māori voices and many ways their thoughts can be twisted to fit agendas. Using the Waitangi Tribunal to try to attack my position makes as much sense as using Kahungunu to bring me in to line. Brown references the artist Jacob Scott’s opinion and refers to the Native Flora and Fauna case as if this is some decision that can be used to address a philosophical issue tied into an area demanding specialist expertise (i.e. Māori art history and Māori art curating).

Here is another Kahungunu voice, Moana Jackson. As Director and co-founder of Nga Kaiwhakamarama i Nga Ture ‘The Maori Legal Service’, Wellington he was responsible for initiating the claim later submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal over Native Flora and Fauna. A family member was engaged early on in research gathering for the Legal Service. This involved interviews with our northern kaitiaki Del Wihongi of Hokianga and Saana Murray from Te Hāpua (i.e. in relation to the genealogy and the protection of the kūmara). I also involved Moana Jackson in my own work on cross cultural dialogue at the Wellington School of Design (around the time HEADLANDS returned to Wellington). He, Irihapeti Ramsden (Cultural Safety specialist in NZ Health), Luit Bieringa and Jim Barr agreed to participate in a panel discussion on the issue of appropriation.

If Brown is under the impression there is some official or more authoritative position on appropriation (i.e. what the tribunal or what Arnold Wilson, or what Jacob Scott or what a pākehā designer might think about Walters) here is a key voice directly involved in the tribunal case she is quoting. After having received and read my HEADLANDS essay in 1992 Moana passed on the following response,  

Kia ora – Re. the article [i.e. Māori at the Centre]...I found it a reasoned and considered analysis which is absolutely consistent with what our people are saying in all sorts of other areas. The appropriation (or what I call re-definition) of things Māori is an ongoing part of colonisation. Our people need to challenge that and if pākehā have problems about the challenge, that’s their problem.

Moana Jackson, Nga Kaiwahakamārama i Nga Ture, Wellington

Pākehā, and some Māori connected to the New Zealand arts community, do indeed have continuing problems with the challenge of which Moana Jackson speaks. Witness co-author (Walters catalogue, 2017) Hammonds, like Brown, carrying on a Walters crusade rising to a challenge. One of her key foci is promoting the artist’s champion, ‘…leading Walters scholar Francis Pound.’ Summing it all up from the top of her rampart she narrates,

Tensions came to a head in 1992 with the exhibition HEADLANDS... first presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney...In the accompanying publication art historian Rangihīroa Panoho criticised Walter’s works for stripping Indigenous material of meaning to adverse effect.

As one reads on she valorises an overwhelming, victorious response dominating, in effect terminating all opposition. The alternative is rendered so abruptly there is no redemption. She leaves no possibility her reader will entertain any counter-argument: ironically the essence of Thomas’s original critique (i.e. the brevity of alternative or perhaps proper discussion is a continuing weakness). Where then is the debate?

Too late the cavalry must have stormed on through. Sounding assertive and triumphal (bugles are blowing, banners are flying) Hammonds claims,

A vigorous defence was mounted by Walters’ supporters, including both Māori and pākehā artists and academics, culminating in a book length rebuttal by leading Walters scholar Francis Pound. The ensuing debate was vitriolic, pushing a body of Walters’ work from the 1960s and ‘70s to the forefront of a contemporary political discussion.  

Hammonds, Walters catalogue, 2017 : 31

Putting aside the Charge of the Light Brigade and the puffing up of the champion (e.g. see also Curnow’s reference to ‘New Zealand’s pre-eminent art critic’ as part of his bogus claim to be sewing up the HEADLANDS issue, MaC II) this is the key problem with the controversy. Those involved epitomise the cultural dilemma McEvilley outlined: it is not in their interests to respectfully allow other points of view, in particular the indigenous, to sit openly and unobstructed in the middle. If something has been pushed ‘…to the forefront’, as Hammonds claims, what is pushed to the background? Further, one gains the distinct impression from a younger gaggle of critics that not paying homage to the taste and values of those prevailing (i.e. those ‘offering the vigorous defence’) and not properly aligning oneself in New Zealand art circles and academia, on this issue, is quite simply inappropriate behaviour.

rangihīroa, Koru II, 2018

Critic Anthony Byrt reminds his reader that even though he is reviewing my book MAORI ART in 2015 there is a direct whakapapa line he and others are drawing, back to the HEADLANDS essay. The key issue of “fitting in with the team” (i.e. behaviour not argument/person not text) runs through his commentary and is used to justify intensely personal criticisms :

In the late 90s, Rangihīroa Panoho was teaching art history at Auckland University. Earlier that decade, he’d made his name with a searing critique of Gordon Walters’ borrowing of the traditional koru motif. Panoho’s essay had framed Walters’ translation...as a wilful misuse of the Māori form. Senior art historians...were not amused. Some of them, like Francis Pound, were his colleagues at the university. To us students, the tensions were obvious. Panoho was a lone wolf – Māori and abrasive, with an oddly mystical (or so it seemed to me) approach to New Zealand art history. Twenty years on, he has finally published his long-awaited opus...MAORI ART. There’s no mention of Walters, the essay, or the ensuing fracas. And yet MAORI ART reflects the complex outsider-ish role Panoho has assumed in the culture ever since. Panoho’s book lobs grenades at pretty much the entire art history establishment – both Māori and pākehā...[Byrt concludes by saying that:] MAORI ART is sinuous and tough – brilliant in places, vicious and flawed in others. But it is also a rare thing: an ambitious, risky work driven by a deep urge to shift a stultifying conversation. New Zealand art history is in a timid, rarefied place. In that silence, Panoho has laid down a major challenge. 

Anthony Byrt, Metro, Spring 2015: 100-101

Byrt correctly frames my HEADLANDS essay within the broader continuum of career politics and community and professional development (i.e. my book MAORI ART and my career as a Māori and Polynesian art historian). However, he misses the point that the ‘complex outsider-ish…lone wolf’ role and the ‘ensuing fracas’, he mentions, was never my choice. As already outlined that persona non grata was forced on me. If Byrt had looked a little more carefully at my career, prior to HEADLANDS opening 1 April 1992 in Sydney he would have realised I was already a successful, recognised and well supported Māori curator on the Australasian circuit. I didn’t need HEADLANDS to establish my reputation  (see MaC I). I had already curated the large, critically received touring exhibitions Whatu Aho Rua and Te Moemoea no Iotefa with major support from the New Zealand and Australian arts industry. In late 1991 and early 1992 my part-time focus, (besides beginning a new academic career at the School of Design in Wellington) was not HEADLANDS but rather my working as a curator supervising the installation of WAR for its opening (and the beginning of its Australian tour) a month prior at the Adelaide International Arts Festival on the 1st of March 1992.

One wonders – is the vitriol and disrespect Wood, Byrt and a younger generation of writers offer, simply homage to and careful alignment with the broader ‘community of taste’? That is, are the critiques simply mimicry (i.e. models or templates for treating text and offering personal observations)? Are these rangatahi seeking approval from the older generation, the late Francis Pound, Curnow, Simmons and the wider supportive New Zealand art circle with which Thomas and Barton connect the reactionary behaviour?

Another former student Ann-Marie White who, like Byrt, reviewed MAORI ART (Art New Zealand, 2015) is useful here for clarifying extremities in response Barton and others have observed in relation to HEADLANDS. However, by the time White offers criticism a strange editorial twist has crept in. She spends a full three pages offering a clear, detailed and methodical review. Abruptly, in the last couple of paragraphs, she shifts conclusively into a vicious and unconnected attack about respect.

However, it [MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory] is a specialist text and intended for an indoctrinated readership. There are many undercurrents in this book and just as many open attacks; one could say that the argument [no explanation as to what argument this writer intended] suffers from making too many points lightly. The book is complex and demands respect from its reader. Yet it may be said that it does not accord the reader with the same level of respect... 

Anne-Marie White, Toi o Tāhuhu, A Māori Art History, Review, Art New Zealand, Spring 2015, 100-103

Respecting who exactly? This is the same issue central to the HEADLANDS critique. White is working under the guise of everything said prior was simply meeting the demands of a review. Her editor then allows her to tell her reader what she really thinks, offering up a wierd unsubstantiated conclusion. I include this subversion here because it again suggests the types of pressures being exerted on rangatahi writers like Byrt and White. They appear useful voices for believing in and reiterating the ‘outsiderish’ role, the hidden agendas and the disrespect to seniors. In this regard they are tipping their hats to the broader arts community. They also seem useful agents in settling scores the wider community continues to feel need settling (see Byrt’s earlier reference to colleagues ‘not amused’).

Having endured 25 years of enforced censorship in the New Zealand art world (in relation to my HEADLANDS essay) while colleagues like White, Byrt, Wood, Curnow, Simmons, Pound, Brown, Stewart, Bell and many others  are given opportunity to freely voice highly personal opinions about me on key platforms, I am exercising my right of reply if only as self-initiated intervention. If early career academics like White and Byrt, understood the abuse and the gagging endured in Aotearoa then perhaps they would not dream up hidden agendas.

These recent critical reactions comprise part of a broader pattern of response beginning with HEADLANDS. While White does not directly invoke HEADLANDS both she and Byrt are in effect resting in the shade of earlier more powerful collegial responses developing out of the HEADLANDS controversy. It is the post-1992 reactionary behaviour that mistakenly gives White the impression unsubstantiated claims can hang. The shelter is an aukati, a ‘boundary’ White and others feel overly comfortable hiding behind.

Despite all the rhetoric, all the censoring, all the posturing and all the measuring off territory over the last twenty five years my belief is no such boundary or coverings exist. Rather than cutting off opposition and exclusively selecting and repeatedly enforcing a meta-narrative something surprisingly different is coming into being.  I see instead constant tidal movement around far less embedded aukati. I have fully, and unnecessarily, endured the reactionary flow of the critics but the tide is now turning in Aotearoa and abroad. A more incorporating gaze beckons.

Haruhiko Sameshima, pehu, Kaipara, 26 September 1996 (MAORI ART, 2015: 122 ‘the meetingplace of waters’)

The art world is a big world. There is room enough in it for everyone. 

Pineāmine Taiapa, Ngāti Porou carver and historian on the occasion of John Bevan Ford and Paratene Matchitt's 1960s Hamilton exhibition where carvings and contemporary art were juxtaposed. As an orthodox carver this provoked intense anger but later, after reflection, revised support.
It is the inclusiveness of Taiapa, the quintessential twentieth century mentor, that inspires. Belonging, cultural meaning, notions of respect, connectedness and promotion are not values solely dictated by art circles. Rather, these are kaupapa areas my ancestors, and the world they believed in, guaranteed.
A   U   K   A   T   I

A    P O S T S C R I P T  –   A    B I O G R A P H Y

  1. (verb) (-a,-hia,-ngia) to dam a stream, prevent one from passing, block, obstruct, discriminate against - sometimes involves placing a notional boundary across which unauthorised movement is prohibited.
  2. (modifier) discriminatory, biased, unfair, exclusive.
  3. (noun) border, boundary marking a prohibited area, roadblock, discrimination (justice), line over which one may not pass.


Managing dissent is about recognizing the value of disagreement, discord and difference.

Noreena Hertz

Prior to Design School I had met regularly with Mary Barr the Editor and with contributors writing for HEADLANDS. Personal and professional contact with the Barrs (both Jim and Mary) was supportive and inspiring. Now at the end of the whole process I was experiencing a less, ‘equisitively uncomfortable response’ to that casually outlined by Mendelssohn. Not much laughter in Newtown might be this postscript. I didn’t make the Sydney event but I had a couple of small responsibilities around the Wellington show (explained in MaC III Future Flowerings). HEADLANDS was scheduled to open at the National Art Gallery, a short walk over the hill on Buckle Street on the 5th of September. It would run until 1 November 1992.

It was Spring. I was spending a lot of time in a stand-alone refurbished villa on Tasman Street. There were upstairs offices and a couple of downstairs tutorial rooms. I was clocking up the hours preparing new theory courses the local School of Design had employed me to create and run. I had been translating and incorporating the HEADLANDS material as part of this preparatory work involving Māori, Pacific and First Nation art and design history.

I was trying to balance this academic focus with ongoing curatorial commitments. I had finished contract work for the Auckland Art Gallery curating the Te Moemoea no Iotefa exhibition. A month prior to HEADLANDS, Sydney, I had flown back to Australia. I and the National Aboriginal Arts Institute, Adelaide, had negotiated with my new Wellington employer continuing involvement curating and supervising the installation of WAR Whatu Aho Rua as an opening event at the Adelaide International Arts Festival and a subsequent Australian tour. Ivan Dougherty UNSW were interested in my input with the installation in their venue. Perhaps the gallery, and I, was being hopeful. I penned their private viewing and opening date in my diary for the end of August 1992.

Inside the villa colleagues were popping in and out on the way to and from lectures, crit sessions, workshops and tutorials. It was at Tasman Street I first became aware my MCA essay was having an unusually negative effect on the New Zealand arts community. This widespread reception was both unprecedented and confusing early on. It was my colleagues in the arts profession who had believed in and supported me to build my curatorial career and to establish networks in Australasia and overseas (see  MaC I, II and III). Some critics reviewing my involvement in HEADLANDS have surmised my 1992 essay, that mentioned Walters, established my career. Actually it destroyed it. As earlier blogs explain I already had a reputation in curating Māori and Pacific art.

The artist Terence Handscombe was teasing me, in a good humoured way, about what a problem Rangi Panoho was in the New Zealand artworld. He had just read something in Art New Zealand, Spring 1992 (a magazine I first started writing for with a review on a contemporary Māori art show, Hamilton, 1986). Allen Wihongi had heard a Radio New Zealand news item attacking me in Te Reo and offered, a little too freely I thought, his rendition of the translation. It’s bad, he confidently announced. A couple of key critiques of my work had come out in various forms. The most bitter appeared to be reviews in Art New Zealand and another literary magazine.

Luit Bieringa was helping tutor the core course I designed: Cultural History and Social Paradigms.  Bieringa is a special senior figure in the NZ arts community and someone centrally involved in the beginning of discussions and planning around New Zealand’s participation in HEADLANDS. At some point he alluded to a growing collection of letters he was receiving from an angry arts community fielding venom about his youthful colleague and the essay. I had heard back from Whanganui that the Sarjeant Gallery staff were wondering what all the fuss was about. Perhaps a decade of intense involvement with displaying Māori art, my appropriation shows , my writing, my professing, my being on staff for a couple of years had had some accumulative effect. Theirs was not though the dominant view in the New Zealand arts community at the time nor since.

All this gossip and innuendo, circulating amongst staff and students in Wellington, led me to the modest magazine aisle in Newtown New World. I was intrigued as to what all the controversy meant. Stocked up with the latest reviews my wife and I parked the ford on a dead end street staring out at inner city Mt Victoria. Eating curried peach pies from L’afarre we were struggling to digest less palatable vitriol. It was our lunch break and we were wasting it puzzling over commentary from a guy I had never met nor knew at that time (Keith Stewart) writing for a magazine Quote/Unquote purportedly covering the controversy just erupting on this side of the Tasman regarding HEADLANDS. Sensationally titled a ‘catalogue of insults’ there was so much nastiness and bile. Local artists, members of the HEADLANDS curatorium and Creative NZ staff, were adding strong opinions knowing noone would call them to account. This post demonstrates the controversy, like the ebb and flow of words, continues and that it can potentially shift.

The Walters exhibition has moved venues. It is currently showing at the Auckland Art Gallery until 4 November 2018. At a recent panel discussion organised by the gallery Director Rhana Devenport, referencing a Māori curator, asserted the Headlands debate (i.e. concerning Walter’s appropriation of the koru motif in his painting) was dead.  This may not be the most perceptive way to manage dissent. The flow of words on this particular issue, while buried in the gallery’s downplaying of the debate, does not appear to have stopped. Witness the following critical change from someone already quoted in this particular essay:

The Headlands debate shaped a generation of artists, critics and art historians (myself included; I was taught in the late 90s by Pound and Panoho, both then in Auckland University's art history department). It raised the stakes for all of us and forced us to look at our own positions, particularly at a time when the discipline was dominated by white middle-class men. Panoho had every right to raise his concerns about Walter's use of Māori motif, and did it at a moment in which postcolonial thinking was starting to reshape museums...Nor did his argument necessarily negate the quality of Walters' koru paintings. To my mind, it made them more complex; thornier examples of a peculiarly local modernism...

Anthony Byrt, 'Looking for Mr Walters' METRO, July /August, Issue 418:89, a review of the Walters catalogue that accompanies the current AAG show  


M a C   I I I

MAORI art Curator: At the Centre, on the Margins
+ Jim Vivieaere (1947- 2011) Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014)



r@ngihiroa, 6 Tahitians, revised on Pukepoto whariki II, 2017




© Rangihīroa Panoho and PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 2016-2018.
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The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.



Pū : (noun) exponent, indice, power.

Rū: (verb) to shake, quiver, (noun) earthquake, seismic


In the last few posts I started introducing my Māori and Pacific curatorial legacy. I began asking questions about who controls what is presented in our museums, our galleries and in our publications in Aotearoa. How is this information being presented? What is being protected? What do the gatekeepers see is at risk? My view outside a curatorial or academic position is largely that of an observer. My reference points are my diaries, my correspondence, my personal experiences involving reflection in the field, and the areas of enquiry that now attract my interest.


We live in a highly territorialized world...involving the staking of claims to geographic space, the “production” of territories, and the deployment of territorial strategies. In everyday usage, territory is usually taken to refer to a portion of geographic space that is claimed or occupied by a person or group of persons or by an institution.

Continue reading “BULL MaC III”


rau kaponga maroke hangehange

All images and text by rangihīroa unless otherwise indicated. Copyright: PIHIRAU Productions Ltd 2018

See my latest MaC VII post ‘How we belong: Te Parawhau and the Mangrove Tree’

This post considers the connections between a native tree and a Northland hapū through the naming of one of their community buildings. It explores the importance of the local natural environment and its role in shaping an architectural metaphor.

This post is dedicated to our NZ Native insects, fauna and natural species. New Zealand is reputed to have a pure natural environment. I gave a kōrero on this at NYU in 2004 in relation to Tourism NZ's '100 % Pure' campaign (begun 1999) that traded heavily on Aotearoa's international reputation as clean and green. My argument then was that this spin resonated a long term crown desire to determine, support and perpetuate cultural authenticity in Māori visual artforms in New Zealand as well. You can read about that centrist vision in my book MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory (Batemans, 2015). See Raruraru ki te Puna 'trouble at the spring', chapter VI, 2015: 138-173. My current writing and design in this area in 2018 concerns research on Tāne Mahuta 'spiritual force associated with the forest and with creation' and also on ngā uru manawa 'mangrove forests'.


'...each time we contemplate raiding nature's pantry, aim always to enhance mana. If we cannot be sure that we are doing more good than harm to the world in which we live, simply do not intervene...When we fell trees or catch fish, we accept that we must wipe out more mana than we generate...aim to generate more than we destroy.'

John Patterson, Pacific Parables: Learning from Māori Tradition, Steele Roberts Publishers, Wellington, 2014: 25

In the natural world, many of our species are suffering from the environmental impacts of long-term exploitation by New Zealanders and by tauiwi, of our lands, our forestries and our coastal and inland water resources. I have a passion for Te Ao Tūroa, the natural world of Aotearoa, spent 15 years growing natives on a small lifestyle block in the Kaipara (North Auckland) and would like to return to create a home and a new natural environment somewhere in Te Tai Tokerau 'the North'. My connections and my environmental interests are in sync with the hapū to whom I belong. Te Uriroroi\Te Parawhau (Ngāpuhi\Ngāti Whātua), west of Whāngārei, have been involved in a lengthy struggle with local government and with local business for the protection and rangatiratanga 'sovereignty' over their taonga, the Whatitiri Springs, once renowned in the North for their purity and for their abundance. So when I chose to focus on the kōkopu 'the native fish' in a 2016 exhibition it was to highlight the same struggle with systems and industries that pollute and over-exploit the waterways and threaten not only their health but (in some cases in Aotearoa) their very existence. I hope my love of the land is not just kōrero pāpaku, 'shallow talk' like the diminishing levels of our precious aquifers, and of our puna and awa like the Waipao. Instead, my hope is that some of this focus which can be found in my book my exhibitions and my art will encourage others to also become active in loving te ao tūroa and speaking up for and on behalf of Papa. It is the American poet Gary Snyder's belief that humans have an obligation to speak up for those, '...without a voice - the trees, rocks, rivers, bears - in the political process.' For Māori we speak up for these resources because they are our relatives. The Whanganui concept of their river as their ancestor helps convey the symbiotic relationship that ngā tāngata whenua have with the environment:

 Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.
River they are standing around pelting your face with roses

They are kissing you with kind words

I listened to the stories...

Much of my thinking about precious water and matapuna ‘parent springs’ comes from my affiliation with Te Uriroroi and their role as kaitiaki whenua over the Whatitiri Springs at Porotī, outside Whāngārei in Te Tai Tokerau. I have found their campaigning for the protection of this special resource inspirational. Their concerns have always been connected with the mauri of the water and its health. It is the constant and overwhelming demands that farming, horticulture and commercial interests are making on what is a limited resource that have brought these hapū and iwi grievances out into the public arena. The Māori concept of describing the land and waterways as involving a relationship is not unusual for indigenous peoples who have inhabited their lands for lengthy periods of time. The Japanese concept of satoyama where people attempt to live in harmony with their native environment is in keeping with a more sustainable Māori concept of whakapapa where one is a relative of all the natural elements with which one lives. What one does to the environment one does to oneself. We are children of both the domains of Tangaroa (the seas) and Tāne (the land) as Te Roroa kaumatua Hare Paniora has explained,

Na ko ēnei ki au ka kite atu te hononga ki te moana me te ngahere o Tangaroa ki a Tāne. Na te mea moku ake ko mātou i roto i te ao tūroa ko matou a tamariki, o te moana, o te onepū, o ngā roto, o ngā awa, ngā ngahere ngā moana.  Ko mātou i haere tonu ana te Rangi nei ko matou ke ngā tamariki. 

Hare Paniora, The History of the Kauri, Waka Huia, TVNZ, 2010: 1.41

The role of kaitiakitanga ‘guardianship’ of resources makes a lot of sense when thinks about it from the point of view of the child/parent relationship. Parents nurture the children through their provision of life and resources and children are respectful and are in awe of the power of the parents, their wisdom and of their power and of their beauty.


Mark Adams, Kawanui, Whatitiri Springs, 26 October 1998. From Panoho, MAORI ART, History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, and the chapter Rarararu ki te Puna ‘Trouble at the Spring’,  2015: 139.


rangihīroa, Waikoropupū Springs, Golden Bay, Takaka. 2016

When I think about other special sites,  outside Whatitiri, that still possess the possibility of protecting their wai Māori, pure water, Waikoropupū in Te Wai Pounamu is the puna that comes to my mind. As with all the precious aquifer fed waters in Aotearoa it is now a site for conflict over ownership, usage and issues of protection. The broad areas of surrounding land that the springs draws on for its headwaters is in contention as commercial and farming interests are looking to draw on the same sources feeding the puna.

Currently there is an application for a water conservation order for Te Waikoropupū Springs which has been lodged with the Minister for the Environment. Check this link to see the progress being made on helping save this important New Zealand cultural and ecological wāhi tapū: https://www.epa.govt.nz/public-consultations/in-progress/te-waikoropupu-springs/

For anyone wanting to understand Māori belief systems (i.e. tikanga – ‘the Māori way of doing things – from the very mundane to the most sacred or important fields of human endeavour‘, Chief Judge Joe Williams 1998:2) I recommend looking  at the evidence presented by tāngata whenua to the tribunal. You will read about the importance of maintaining the mana, the mauri and the tapū of the waters. It will become plain that the Māori perception of the natural environment is based on whakapapa and whānaungatanga ‘family relations’ that exist between human and natural elements. In these tātai all things are connected. Kotahi tonu te wairua o ngā mea katoa. There is a oneness of spirit in all things. Waikanaetanga ‘equilibrium’ is based on the balanced relationship between the different areas and personas of te ao tūroa. It is also surely based on the idea of reciprocity of not just taking but also letting nature rest and recuperate (see role of rahui) and not treating resources with greed but rather with care and respect. This is at the heart of ngā kupu ‘manaaki whenua‘.

What the struggles around the guardianship of ngā puna o Whatitiri me Waikoropupū raises is the importance of restoring our relationship with the environment. There is growing support in the world for the vital role indigenous peoples perform in raising the consciousness of a planet intent on exhausting its resources and polluting te ao tūroa.

It’s pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction. 

                     Noam Chompsky, Two Row Times, 5 November 2013                                  


rangihīroa, ko te puawai o te rengarenga, 2016

Mai i te pānga tuatahi maio te ao whānui, me tā rātou tiro manene, ko te tino arotahi a ngā kōrero aro haehae i ngā mahinga toi tāngata whenua, ko te motuhenga o ngā taonga-ā-iwi. Arā anō hoki ētahi Māori me ā rātou whāinga tōrangapū, whāinga ahurea rānei, e uta ana i te whakaaro haratau ki ngā mahi toi a te Māori. E wewete ai ngā herenga whakaaro nei, me tiki atu tētahi o ngā whakataukī i waihotia mai e Ihenga, koia hoki tētahi huarahi hei āta whakaaro atu ki te ariā whakaora tikanga. He mea whai tikanga ngā wāhanga katoa o te tipu o te rengarenga, mai i tōna whānautanga, ki tōna hemotanga atu. I tēnei tuhinga, ka tirohia te arotahi noa atu ki te pūawaitanga o te toi Māori, me ōna anga haratau, ā, ka whakatītinatia te whakaaro tērā pea kāore e tika ana ki tā te Māori titiro.

International (Westem) critical discourse with First Nation artforms, from its first encounters, has often featured a concern on the part of those outside the culture with the authenticity of the tribal object. Orthodoxy in our artforms is equally a self imposed
position by Māori on other Māori servicing various political and cultural objectives. A whakataukī left us by Ihenga becomes a way of exploring the notion of cultural regeneration outside these boundaries. All parts of the rengarenga lily’s life cycle, referred to in Ihenga ‘s proverb, are recognised as integral to it’s survival. This essay considers the concentration on simply the flowering of Māori culture and its classical templates as an unnatural and untenable activity.’


  • A Search For Authenticity; Towards a Definition and Strategies for Cultural Survival.” He Pukenga Kōrero: A Journal of Māori Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North 2.1 (1996): 20-25.
  • This is an adapted version of a paper presented at “Toi Oho ki Apiti” conference, Massey University, in 1996. It uses the rengarenga lily, and an ancestral proverb offered by Ihenga, a Te Arawa ancestor, visiting whānau in Kaipara, as a metaphor for survival. It looks at authenticity as an imposition on Māori culture. ‘A Search For Authenticity…’ challenges the belief that visually Māoriness constitutes classical manifestations which must be referenced to demonstrate ethnicity.



rangihīroa, harakeke, Hōtoke, 2018



Hutia te rito o te harakeke
Kei hea te kōmako e ko
Kī mai kī ahau
He aha te mea nui i te ao
Māku e ki atu
He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

If the centre shoot of the flax is pulled out
Where will the bellbird sing?
If you were to ask me
What is the most important thing in the world
I would reply
It is the people, the people, the people.

he whakataukī no Te Aupōuri



rangihīroa, harakeke ‘phormium tenax’, sourced Piha (detail), Hōtoke, 2018




rangihīroa, wharariki ‘phormium cookianum’, St Lukes, Ōwairaka ‘Mt Albert’, Tāmaki, Hōtoke, 2018




rangihīroa, kōrari, wharariki, Pak n Save Ōwairaka ‘Mt Albert’, Tāmaki, exterior wall, 2018



Some will probably chuckle at the provenance of some of my native plants and perhaps have reservations about the authenticity of their location: Te Atatū, Ōwairaka, Te Auaunga, St Lukes…I am deliberately interested in natives not just in hau kāinga/tribal environments but also those struggling away and often thriving in the normal contexts in which many New Zealanders today live. Where one lives, where one researchs, where one works, where one travels, where one shops, where one rests in the city or its environs one finds these plants co-existing often in quite unsympathetic contexts. This is real or this is really native New Zealand as much as the less disturbed wildernesses to which we love to escape to and to enjoy and to marvel. The built environment is also a component in te ao tūroa and I am very interested in how Tāne has been contained or isolated into islands of habitat or parts of the local urban environment and compartmentalised in the home garden. What might one make for example of this image taken from a major Auckland shopping centre where mamaku is flourishing in the middle of concrete and tarseal? What does might it say about how natives are surviving? Does it prompt an awareness, perhaps a sensibility of environment, as we rush off to buy something and pass it on the stairs? Or how might one feel in Te Auaunga, the park planted heavily with natives, where enormous overbridges (running into and away from the Waterview tunnel) carry rumbling Auckland traffic overhead?


rangihīroa, mamaku ‘cyathea medullaris’ and concrete, St Lukes, Ōwairaka ‘Mt Albert’, Tāmaki, 2018


rangihīroa, native plantings, Te Auaunga, exit/entry over bridges from Waterview tunnel, Tāmaki, 2018




rangihīroa, pūtangatanga, 2017



rangihīroa, pūtangatanga, 2018




rangihīroa, rau karamu, 2018


rangihīroa, rau karamu,  hōtoke, 2018


rangihīroa, kōhūhū, 2016



rangihīroa, aka manawatawhi, 2017




rangihīroa, rau aka manawatawhi, 2017





rangihīroa, puawānanga, ‘native clematis’, 2016




rangihīroa, pihirau, uru manawa ‘mangroves’, Te Atatū,  9 June 2018

Pihirau, meaning ‘hundreds of shoots’, was given by our ancestor Kōwhai Tito as a name for the whare kai on the Tirarau mārae at Tangiterōria (halfway between Whāngārei and Dargaville) on the west coast of the North Island of Aotearoa. A deeper discussion is provided regarding the background to this nomeclature in an upcoming blog for Pihirau Productions Ltd.



rangihīroa, manawa ‘mangrove’ seedling, Te Atatū,  9 June 2018


rangihīroa, te tapuwae o te manu, he pukeko, Te Atatū,  9 June 2018



rangihīroa, uru manawa ‘mangroves’ with shoots visible in foreground, Te Atatū,  9 June 2018




rangihīroa, , Te Atatū,  9 June 2018

 The tī is a special tree and a resonant metaphor for my Te Uriroroi affiliation at Porotī. It was there (west of Whāngārei on the way to Kaikohe) that a special ceremony was held to marry our ancestors with Waikato women. The cutting of the tī was the sign of the tomo ‘marriage negotiations’. As always there are different versions of wānanga. I note here the inversion of the syllables tī poro: the verb meaning, ‘to cut short, abbreviate, shorten

The possible ancestral play with words is a fitting pun making sense of the cessation of whawhai in the rohe. The raids of southern tribes on Whāngārei (Ōparakau, Parihaka, 1828) in retaliation for the raupatu conducted by Hika and our ancestral leaders on Tāmaki, Waikato and the Hauraki peoples was being brought to a more diplomatic conclusion. To cut the tī makes both symbolic and literal sense of the cutting of the strife between the various hapū involved.


rangihīroa, tī, Purerua peninsula, Taumarere, 2017, (still from video clip) available on Instagram


rangihīroa, , Te Atatū peninsula, Tāmaki makaurau, 9 june 2018

A tī image singled out, from a recent walk along the Te Atatū waterfront, for a short dialogue. For those sceptical regarding nature speaking. It’s not so much that nature talks perhaps more that we listen.


Conversation with Mr Tī  10 June 2018

I was told that toetoe was the proud one spurning the love of pingao as she wistfully sought his plumes across hot ancestral sand. But that wānanga is wrong isn’t it Mr Tī?

Te Atatū is where the light reaches over Ōwairaka and Maungawhau casting shadows that stand. But you demanded I document you early afternoon. There was a rustle in your bright green leaves. Knowing the conditions you casually explained, ‘the light is more flattering’. Heroic you said. ‘I want frontal, central, imposing and if the shoot doesn’t give it, use photoshop. More than the North-Western motorway I am Te Atatū.

Oh please. ‘Don’t worry Mr Tī, there will be no rivals.’

I followed your client brief to the t…and harakeke is at your feet and proud kākaho (toetoe stem) has been banished to the edge of Waitematā’s cloak. Oh and one more thing: a small detail I feel compelled to confide.

There was silence for quite a while. Impatient, I squinted looking up at the raspy, textured pale brown trunk that led the eye towards the sun. The cabbage tree murmured a single ‘ae’ but softly this time, so softly one could barely hear it above the high pitched chirp of the mātātā ‘fern birds’ amongst the wīwī. I looked up and realised his head was beginning to shake again. His leaves were clattering in the nor-wester that coerced the marshland grasses. I cleared my throat, perhaps a little self-consciously now, ‘If you look closely at the photo there are karoro (gull) moving around your crown. They were squawking and laughing at me trying to get a good shot, I said. Coyly he whispered with what sounded strangely like a smoker’s cough, no, they are admirers and they were singling me out.



rangihīroa, toetoe (kakaho – stem), Te Atatū peninsula, Tāmaki makaurau, 9 june 2018

Toetoe is a large coastal tussock grass that ostentatiously features beautiful creamy white plumes on long stems. Toetoe is also the name of an ancestral settlement connected with Te Uriroroi, Te Parawhau and Te Uri o Hau of Ngāti Whātua on the Whāngārei inner harbour. The nomenclature celebrates the grass that straddles the domains of Tāne and the nearby realm of Tangaroa.

The flowering of Toetoe continues from spring to late summer so by the time I documented this group the plumes were well past their prime. Regardless, they do give one a sense of the distinctive vertical showiness that lent itself to the plant being imbued by ancestors with a quality of vanity and self-preoccupation. In the story of pingao and kakaho ngā tūpuna create a story of lovers where the golden sedge grass must crawl over hot sand to get close to kakaho. The showy coastal grass plant is too focused on his own beauty to notice these advances. The profound and delightful conclusion to this wānanga is that the children of Papatuānuku intervene in this unsuccessful stand-off. Reconciling the two pingao and kakaho are brought together as binding and upright panels in the ancient Polynesian technique of tukutuku ‘latticework’ found within the historical whare tupuna.

'A Rangitane version of the story tells of pingao living among the seaweed children on the fringes of the sea. From her home she looked up to the land and saw the handsome kakaho dancing on the sand dunes. Each time the kakaho made his appearance pingao became more and more enamoured. Finally she asked permission from Tangaroa to leave the sea and meet her lover. Tangaroa granted permission with words of warning that she would never make it. However, driven by blind love, she left the seaweed and crawled across the hot sand. As she struggled up she began to call to the kakaho - but he was only interested in himself. He was in love with his own shape and form and he did not answer pingao's calls. In desperation she called back to Tangaroa, who could do nothing but shower her with spray. And there on the sand dunes, the pingao remains to this day.' 

Pingao: The Golden Sedge, compiled by Averil Herbert and Jenny Oliphant for Ngā Puna Waihanga, 1991: 5

Note: this plant is not to be confused with the introduced pampas grass (a noxious weed) which is a major problem throughout Aotearoa. The strongest distinguishing feature, for me, with pampas is the purple tinge to its flower head and the difference in the feel of its leaf.


rangihīroa, whau, Te Atatū,  9 June 2018

The whau is a special coastal shrub in the history of the Ngāpuhi/Ngāti Whātuā hapū Te Parawhau in Te Tai Tokerau. The short lived shrub has a large bright green heart shaped heavily veined, serrated edge leaf and gorgeous creamy flowers followed by a spiky seed capsule. The body of a tupuna Te Tirarau was covered with this leaf to preserve the tinana on its return from a duel with a Ngāti Wai ancestor and a water drowning. When he arrived back in our rohe the leaves were peeled off (with the epidermis) leaving the imprint of their veins across the underskin (possibly the dermis) of the tupuna. This precipitated the renaming of the people para ‘skin’ whau ‘Entelea arborescens’.



rangihīroa, pare kawakawa [a reference to the funerary wreath worn by male and female mourners in Te Tai Tokerau], 2018




rangihīroa, wai kawakawa, 2018






rangihīroa, e wha ngā rau kawakawa, 2018




rangihīroa, kōwhai, 2016. This native puawai is a favourite with native birds like the tui


rangihīroa, kōwhai, 2018

‘He mauri te reo Māori nō Aotearoa māu, mā tātou katoa’ ‘MAKE TE REO MĀORI AN ESSENTIAL PART OF NEW ZEALAND FOR YOU, FOR US ALL’. Ānei te kupu kōwhai. Te ingoa o te rakau ātaahua me te kara ne! Te tui e hiakai ana ki te puāwai o te kōwhai ne. Titiro ki te putiputi ka waiho ia ki te kaka.
‘KŌWHAI’ IS THE WORD MĀORI USE FOR THE BEAUTIFUL NATIVE FLOWER AND FOR THE COLOUR YELLOW… Have some fun with the language and try the pepeha app https://lnkd.in/gTmURAs

rangihīroa, ātā kōwhai ‘in shadow’, 2018




rangihīroa, taki toru, he kōwhai ‘groups of three’, 2017


rangihīroa, he rākau kōwhai, Te Auaunga, 2018



rangihīroa, kūkū, 2017





rangihīroa, black ferns, 2018




rangihīroa, te rau kaponga ki runga i te rau mouku, 2017



rangihīroa, kōura and fern, 2016






rangihīroa, mānuka that dances down a slope, 2018




rangihīroa, mānuka ‘leptospermum scoparium’, Kaipara, 2010


rangihīroa, mānuka, Kaipara, 2010

rangihīroa, ngā puawai o te mānuka, Te Auaunga, 2018







It is your spreading habit. You just seem to get everywhere. Picking up gossip like the aerial roots that hang landless absorbing the faintest whiff of moisture. Cast in on the roughest surf and carried salt laden through the air. A Chinese whisper. A secret carried all the way from Hawaiki. I want your shade. I long for your dappled light and the laughter of the bees in summer that hum news over your blood red blooms. But I can’t bring myself to rest under your canopy. I can’t get a straight answer out of you. You always seem to be throwing out directions and recanting. You are the ultimate no one story is the right story.


rangihīroa, pōhutukawa ‘metrosideros excelsa’, south-west face Maungakiekie, 2017




rangihīroa, pōhutukawa, Red BeachWhangapāraoa 2017



rangihīroa, puāwai pōhutukawa, 2017



rangihīroa, rimu, northern face, Maungakiekie, 2018



rangihīroa, te pāpākiri o te rimu ‘the bark of the rimu, northern face, Maungakiekie, 2018


rangihīroa, te pāpākiri o te rimu ‘the bark of the rimu, northern face, Maungakiekie, 2018


rangihīroa, te pāpākiri o te rimu ‘the bark of the rimu, northern face, Maungakiekie, 2018



rangihīroa, nikau, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2017



rangihīroa, tōtara, Ōwairaka, 2018



rangihīroa, te matauri o te tōtara ‘silhouette’, Ōwairaka, 2018


rangihīroa, koromiko, hebe, Ōwairaka, 2018


rangihīroa, koromiko, hebe odora, Ōwairaka, 2018


rangihīroa, te kapua o te whare atua, 2018




rangihīroa, Tāne whakapiripiri ‘Tane that draws us together within his shelter’, 2017



This post is regularly being updated with visual material fed from other platforms like Instagram  and  facebook

If you are interested in other sites that have more conventional records of Ngā tipu o Aotearoa (i.e. native flora and fauna) try their web site which has comprehensive databases where you can do detailed searches:



Rangi’s Art


Auckland based I am devoted to researching Asia Pacific visual\culture and this feeds into my writing, my art practice, my music & my curating.



Other original imagery and writing can be viewed on the following links:





Rangihīroa Panoho, Āku Maunga Hāere (My Travelling Mountains), 2015, acrylic inks and paint on paper, 3901 x 1267mm revisits an earlier work. This series tells the story of the travelling of New Zealand’s resources overseas whether as a tangible or as a financial product. This series was first displayed at the launch for the book MĀORI ART on display at Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, AUCKLAND in June 2015 (catalogue here). It was shown with some of the other framed works on display on this site (see below photographs by Sameshima and Adams). Āku Maunga Hāere is also the name of one of the chapters in the book MĀORI ART and relates to some of the key issues discussed in that section of the publication.


Rangihīroa Panoho, Te Wairere a Miru (Wairua Falls), 2013, acrylic inks and watercolour on board (IOU exhibition, TIVOLI, Waiheke April 2016)



DETAIL, Omiru te wairere, 2013, acrylic inks on board



Rangihīroa Panoho, Pao pao te wai, Waipao te awa, acrylic on canvas, 2016 (IOU exhibition, TIVOLI, Waiheke April 2016)

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.


Rangihīroa Panoho, Kōkohuia, 2015, acrylic on board (IOU exhibition, TIVOLI, Waiheke April 2016)




Whiti/Fiji, the cross over, Navigator Series, 2013, acrylic inks and gold on board, photo: Haruhiko Sameshima (IOU exhibition, TIVOLI, Waiheke April 2016)



                                             Hoturoa holds out the Korotangi, photo: Haruhiko Sameshima (IOU exhibition, TIVOLI, Waiheke April 2016)




                WORK IN PROGRESS

bi disk under construction




Bi-disk/kaka pooria, drawing, acrylic inks on paper. Private collection. [Comparative material]



‘Love letters’ under construction

ALOHA, 2014-2016



                                                 ALOHA under construction


                                               ALOHA under construction



                                               ALOHA (1st two letters), acrylic inks on framed ply

























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







MAORI ART Curator IV, Books on ‘MAORI ART’: Reading Augustus Hamilton


© Rangihīroa Panoho and PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 2016-2018.
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 or the Director of PIHIRAU Production's express permission. Details for writing to PIHIRAU are as follows: 


The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

Reading A U G U S T U S  H A M I L T O N

104 years on: the book on   M Ā O R I    A R T
that is always open


(this is an updated version of an article written for a LinkedIn audience in 2013 after documenting the Christ Church yard, Russell with Mark Adams. We were returning to Tāmaki, 22 September 2013, after photographing the Kaitaia Gateway (photo: Mark Adams, Pihirau collection),   in Te Ahu Heritage Museum, Kaitaia for MAORI ART . I realised I needed this essay as a point of reference in the ‘Future Flowerings’ essay, MAORI ART Curator II so I have decided to publish it ahead of schedule. This essay helps explain the longer legacy of trying to write a history of Māori art and it has within it a range of lessons for current generations of writers wanting to write Māori art. It could be considered an extension of ideas covered in ‘Future Flowerings’. This post on the pioneering Dominion Museum ethnologist helps better prepare the ground for a discussion regarding intellectual/curatorial territory and the ongoing delineation of space in the Polynesian Art/museum world – the focus of the next post: Beware the Bull, MAORI  ART  Curator III).

Leo White, Christ Church (built 1836) and urupā, Kororāreka, 1939, National Library of New Zealand (Reference WA-04554-G)


Down the end of a central access path to one of New Zealand’s oldest surviving ecclesiastical buildings – Christ Church, Kororāreka – resides a plump, largely unadorned, funerary stone. Its two simple bronze plaques facing the path remember Augustus Hamilton, (1853-1913). He died a century ago in the summer months researching church records in the North. The kohatu sits as if on outdoor museum display duty. Its own pedestal reminds the viewer a tribute worthy of study lies above. 5 carefully machined marble blocks hold the massive weight. A plaque in English reads indifferently to another in te reo below – the predicament of translation. The Māori text sits horizontally on the face of a plinth block facing out towards the path. The English plaque describes the deceased ‘Director of the Dominion Museum, Wellington, [as] ‘An Eminent Student of Māori Lore, A lover of Nature, an Earnest Seeker after Truth.’

r@ngihiroa, Bust (collection: Te Papa Tongarewa) of Augustus Hamilton by Nelson Illingworth created in 1908, five years before Hamilton’s death, against patterns used in his Art Workmanship of the Māori Race


Mark Adams, Gravestone of Augustus Hamilton, Christ Church, Kororāreka, 22 September 2013

Although he died at the early age of 50 (while researching in Northland) this particular, now relatively remote, graveyard seems an entirely appropriate resting place for the scientist with a passion for Māori art. Local Māori gifting the land in the early nineteenth century required the church cemetery allow for the burial of both Māori and Pākehā alongside one another. One can pick out the resting place in White’s image. Follow its perspectival entry point leading along the path to the west face of the church. In the left background of the image sits the slightly rough, pocked top edge of Hamilton’s grave. It is positioned against another pou whakamaharatanga ‘memorial.’ A lofty Celtic medieval cross emblazoned with the nomina sacra IHS – the Greco Roman abbreviation for Jesus – stands out. It is dedicated to prominent nineteenth century Hokianga rangatira Tamati Waka Nene.

The Mark Adams photograph below details the accidental connection between the two. Is it perhaps more the interest of the eye behind the lens that sets up a dialogue. His view is at right angles to that of White and deliberately explores the different visual dynamic aesthetic in the two memorials from very different eras. In contrast to the vertical of Nene’s cenotaph Hamilton’s colleagues selected a more rustic block low to the ground. There is no religious iconography only the bronze text that celebrates a great man. The graves seem odd visual neighbours.

If Nene’s gravestone is the tallest in the yard Hamilton’s feels the most voluminous and textural. It also stands out because it features an odd rustic appreciation of natural materials in a colonial churchyard that celebrates very conservatively crafted marble. It is different from the other older conventionally designed shapes planted in thin, weather-worn slabs of marble. By contrast it’s surface is largely unmodified apart from its face, its reverse and its plinthe. The stone still looks as if it has just been hewn from its rockface. Marks showing its original surface have been left on its top and its side faces. These tell-tale signs, commissioned by members from the New Zealand Institute who funded the funerary stone, seem part of the intended impression. Hamilton was a great man. Hamilton was a New Zealander. Hamilton was someone whose monumental achievements are foundational. Like the rock, his legacy will stand the test of time.

Not coincidentally the grave is located in Kororāreka near Ōkiato ‘Old Russell’, the earliest capital of New Zealand (1840-1841). This is a fiercely nationalistic site. Although the intentions of those who gifted its land are clear the site seems to speak another narrative. It bears the wounds of Māori and Pākehā differences within its white picketed fence boundary. There are signs…


…both outside and inside the church, within speaking distance of Nene’s grave, that colonial rule was extremely fragile, and at times violently contested, as in 1845. A number of Māori and Pākehā died defending Kororāreka from ancestral cousins Kawiti and Heke and their sacking of the small town in 1845. The church was one of three protected by attackers. Ironically the church commemorates in a plaque within sailors who died defending the site. Visitors can, and still do, quizzically poke fingers into the musket ball holes (above image) that pock the weatherboard walls of the protected heritage church. As with other sites like ominous Ruapekapeka, involving powerful Northern leaders like Kawiti, it doesn’t take much to imagine the resistance. Despite the symbolic presence of Nene guarding Christ Church today this was not an early, uncontested seat of colonial power.





Mark Adams, Graveyard, Christ Church, Kororāreka, 22 September 2013


There is as much point trying to ignore Hamilton’s funerary rock at Christ Church as there is his publication Art Workmanship of the Māori Race. Many books on Māori art have not performed as well as that by Hamilton. I have watched a number suffer the indignity of the bargain bin. However, it would appear that Art Workmanship of the Māori Race continues to be a collectable classic even after more than a century since its original publication. I have a copy myself, one of a number of reprints by Holland Press in London. It was a koha ‘gift’ from colleagues at NYU where I was running a couple of workshops in conjunction with the Departments of Anthropology and Film and Religion. It still carries the label within it, ‘Oceanic Primitive Arts 88 East 10th Street.’ Were he alive Hamilton might well be chuffed. There is an awareness of his work even in the Atlantic facing Big Apple.



Augustus Hamilton, Maori Art, published New Zealand Institute, Wellington, 1901. Collection: Otago University Research Heritage   http://otago.ourheritage.ac.nz/items/show/9967



It is still the largest book yet produced on Māori art. It continues to dominate its territory as a benchmark. It is some 439 pages long. Its page dimensions are 312 x 243 mm. It has in its original published form red cloth boards with gilt Maori design on spine and front board. It has 65 plates (including 7 in red and black of rafter patterns). It is not unusual to see original books carrying inscriptions indicating gift presentation.


Collection: Otago University Research Heritage

     Kowhaiwhai patterns, Hamilton, Maori Art



Shane Cotton: The Hanging Sky, Christchurch Art Gallery in association with Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2013



Books on Māori art and Māori artists though, from the turn of the twenty first century, also appear to be getting bigger and more lavish. Mark Amery makes some interesting points regarding the effort by the Christchurch Gallery to market The Hanging Sky: Shane Cotton. Interestingly the writer who questions the mural sized images by the Māori artist in the show praises the scale of the book as a better way of seeing or experiencing the artists work. It’s specifications are proudly outlined – ‘192 pp., hardback, foil-stamped cloth cover, blue edge page edges, 72 full colour plates, 390 x 294 mm; weight 4.10 kg.’ I can vouch for the last measurement when I tried to lift the publication from its perch on an Auckland Gallery bookshop shelf a few years back. To put the Cotton book in perspective, although its page dimensions are larger, it is more than half the size of Hamilton’s work.


New Zealand institutions and a number of overseas museums have now curated large complex and important landmark exhibitions of Māori art. Te Māori was one such pioneering exhibit in both its prestigious American and New Zealand museum venues. I mentioned, in the last essay, Taikaka Anake Kohia ‘contemporary’ Māori art exhibition in the early 1990s referencing size (i.e. the largest), as a marketable point of difference. Eventually some institution is going to create a bigger, larger publication on the artform. However, the important issue (in case there is concern with this focus on scale) is not so much the size of the thing as the foundational nature of Hamilton’s original work. His publication remains a starting point.

In 1913 the ethnologist HD Skinner in his obituary to Hamilton in the ‘Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand’ made an important claim. It may very well help explain a legacy of aesthetics and formalism that has hitherto not been fully understood in its New Zealand context. Skinner describes this formalist bias as deliberate, admirable and even scientific.

Hamilton was, Skinner said,


a collector and systematizer…of objects throwing light on the life, industry, and art of the ancient Maori... In a stimulating chapter on Maori art, Max Hertz affirms it the chief defect in Hamilton’s work that he advanced no theory as to its origin or affinities. But in truth this avoidance of all theory was one of his greatest merits. It is not rash to say that the bulk of the writings on Maori ethnology have been warped by the influence of preconceived theory. It needed strength of purpose to resist an influence which thus flowed in from every quarter. Hamilton knew that facts enough had not yet been recorded to form the basis of scientific theory, and he resolutely set himself to the accumulation of facts. It is from such a groundwork that students of the future will be able to venture with some certainty into the region of hypothesis.


Hamilton (right) at Whakarewarewa pā, Rotorua in front of Tene Waitere’s waharoa ‘carved entrance gateway’ that led to the model settlement. Image: MONZ. Neich had a lot to say about Hamilton beginning with his Masters thesis on Ngāti Tarawhai carving. Often one finds the author in his theses and subsequent writing (see Carved Histories AUP, 2001) remarking on Hamilton’s patronage of Māori Art. Hamilton, Neich believed, viewed himself as an expert and the authority in Maori Art. I discuss aspects of this directed legacy (i.e. cultural paternalism) in MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory.


I share with Skinner an acknowledgement of the foundational nature of what Hamilton created in his work on Māori art. I have difficulties with the substance of Hamilton’s thesis but I accept that it was pioneering work and that it has been influential. Importantly one can only admire the scale of Hamilton’s vision. He was ambitious for Māori art at a time when few others had the drive to seek such an understanding or made any kindred attempt to accumulate, centralise and control a growing national collection of Māori material. This energy and commitment gave the former Director of the Dominion Museum the right to try to establish a foundational narrative.

Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) once said of his Espozione Missionaria exhibition of indigenous objects (including sacred taonga from the Pacific in the Vatican collection) that it:

...is and will remain like a great, an immense book; every object is a page, a phrase, a line in this book…the Espozione Missionaria will close, but the furnishings will not disperse, they will remain as the Museo Missionario, as a school, as a book, which is always open.


Hamilton’s book, and the vigorous curatorship that drove it, continues to remain open, available and collectable.



Next Post is going back to the future  M A O R  I   A R T  CURATOR III (Bull MaC III)

As promised this is a memoir looking at two key figures read as central in Māori academic and Pacific curatorial history in this country as Maori Art Curator: at the Centre on the Margins (MaC) continues.

Beware the B U L L,  M A O R I   A R T   C U R A T O R  III





















MĀORI ART CURATOR II, Future Flowerings


Future Flowerings, MaC II

© Rangihīroa Panoho and PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 2016-2021. 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 or the Director of PIHIRAU Production’s express permission. Details for writing to PIHIRAU can be found on the opening page of this website. The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.



Every artform in the world springs from its local puna ‘fount’. Toi Tāhuhu [new Māori art history] is no exception. It involves the study of visual objects flowing from tataara te puna o Hawaiki... 

Dr Rangihīroa Panoho, Maori Art, History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, Batemans, 2015: 25
commemorative lei aroha
rangihīroa, pare puarangi, 2017
‘Toi Te Mana. A History of Indigenous Art from Aotearoa New Zealand’. This seeks to write the first comprehensive history of Māori art and investigate the relationships, continuities and commonalities between the art of the ancestors and their descendants using specially-developed art history and Kaupapa Māori methodologies.
                                                                                                            Dr Ngarino Ellis, UoA
We are familiar with studies within Māori art history on meetinghouses, tā moko...Your book is in dialogue with a lot of your mentors, other art historians who have written about Māori art or who have commented on it in a way that has influenced its history. I thought the book was ahistorical, and absolutely brilliant in those terms, but was so much more...I thought it was an artist's philosopher's book. It is not just what you have written, it is what you have made.

Dr Peter Brunt, VUW, discussing Rangihīroa Panoho's'Maori Art' at 'Writing Maori Art', City Gallery, Wellington
...[Toi te Mana] will set an international precedent as the first comprehensive indigenous art history created by and with indigenous peoples, and aims to help redefine art history in a global context.

                                          Dr Diedre Brown, UoA
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Māori museum and gallery appointments included: Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Waikato Museum’s first Māori curator, in 1987. Te Warena Taua, assistant ethnologist at Auckland Museum, in 1989. Paora Tapsell, curator at the Rotorua Museum of Art and History, in 1990. Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, first curator Māori of Christchurch’s Robert McDougall Art Gallery, in 199[2].

Dr Paul Tapsell, 'Māori and museums – ngā whare taonga - Increasing Māori involvement in museums, 1987 to 2000', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 22 October 2014
Nations and peoples are largely the stories that they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths they will free their histories for future flowerings.

Nigerian poet Ben Okiri

One way ‘taste’ is articulated to the public is a careful rewriting of histories. Here it is not what is said that is of importance but rather that which is not. More particularly that which is deliberately left unsaid, or those people that are deliberately left out, is equally important. The unsaid is muted counterpoint and in Aotearoa ignoring, blocking, ridiculing, editing out, cutting off (whether blatantly or subtly) increasingly becomes the normal way of dealing with anyone deemed outside the group, anyone deemed to be professional competition, anyone perceived to be exploring narratives outside those endorsed or approved by the prevailing institution(s).

It was rather a shock at Jonathan Mane-Wheoki’s tangi at Piki Te Aroha mārae 19 October 2014 to hear an Auckland academic announce a new Māori art history was being written and would soon be published. The surprise had nothing to do with the $635,000 award gained from a research fund originally led and secured by Mane-Wheoki (with Brown and Ellis). Rather, it was the claim being made so openly by Dr Peter Shand, Jonathan’s successor at Elam School of Fine Arts, that something was entirely new simply because a privileged clique had decided that this was so. When Shand made his announcement my book Māori Art: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory was just nine months away from publication.

Since its launch, 11 June 2015, the only thing the book has not received is public recognition from some quarters of academia. Brown (an architectural historian) and Ellis (who trained in law) can pretend Maori Art doesn’t exist and that somehow by employing, ‘specially-developed art history and Kaupapa Māori methodologies’ they are tilling new soil. Both a recent University of Victoria conference importantly remembering Mane-Wheoki and a Te Papa post rather hopefully note (I reference the latter here), for example, that, ‘Toi Te Mana…promises to rewrite Māori art history since 1840, giving it both a scholarly foundation and increased public accessibility.

Underneath all the semantics (i.e. about Maaaori methodologies, specially developed indigeneity and scholarly foundation, specially self-selected committees that selectively apportion approval and dish out public funding, public access) and promises the same old plant is being cultivated with the hope that grafting branches and re-naming the same old tree is going to grow something new. The Brown and Ellis claims have no substance and they and their backers’ efforts to re-market and dress up the same art history (or worse wreck it and put it under another discipline) are not altruistic but rather about gatekeeping. Renaming or re-branding the same old research and the same old concepts will not make the plant grow or flower other than it always has. Toi Tāhuhu (i.e. what I have already described in my pioneering 1988 and 2003 theses and in my 2015/2018 book as Māori art history – see definition above) is neither new nor ‘emerging’. It has already been seeded. It has already been grown. It has already been written and celebrated a number of times in the very same institution now making this fictitious claim.

I say ‘celebrated’ and acknowledged because that is what theses submission, graduation and recognised teaching, research and professing in the field signifies. I began my tertiary studies in Art History in 1980 because I was passionate about Māori art. I didn’t realise my research, exhibitions and lately my publication was going to pose such a threat. The University of Auckland, to which Shand, Brown and Ellis all belong, is the same place in which I trained and in which I later lectured. It is the same institution that knew about the ground-breaking work (MA Matchitt thesis, 1988/PhD ‘Maori Art in Continuum’ thesis, 2003) I had been conducting on Māori art decades before my successors published and long before they concocted their fable about inventing something new from a uniquely Māori or indigenous point of view. Let me refresh their memory. Here’s Auckland Museum ethnologist Dr Roger Neich, co-supervisor of the PhD thesis ‘Māori Art in Continuum’, advising UoA in 2003 that:

This thesis introduces important new ways of interpreting the development of traditional and contemporary Maori art within a culturally specific paradigm. It leads to thought-provoking criticism of current art historical approaches to Māori art and constitutes probably the first sustained critique of the modern development of Māori art from an authentic Māori point of view. This is a much needed and timely perspective on Māori art.

That was 2003 and it can be safely assumed that back then I was covering much the same ground (i.e. Toi Tāhuhu) currently being claimed by people working in the specialist field (I will look more closely at their ambitious claims in an upcoming post) I helped pioneer, research, curate, teach and write. As to the question of whether Maori Art needs the endorsement of an institution like UoA or its research gatekeepers. It looks to me like the work (i.e. the PhD) has already been achieved and endorsed (by the institution and also by others). That matapuna in turn has fed into an even bigger awa – the book. Neich’s comment in his report was that, in his opinion, the candidate was, ‘…demonstrating that he is critically reviewing and developing his ideas [i.e. in alignment with his supervision]’. I am confident this refinement developed further with the translation of theses, and other avenues of research, into my discussion of Toi Tāhuhu within the book.

Events over the past 2 years have helped open up ‘greater public accessability’ to Toi Tāhuhu. Members of whānau, hapū, iwi and the arts and academic community were present at the launch of Māori Art at Te Uru in June 2015. It’s follow-up IOU: Māori Art the book + exhibition, Tivoli Gallery, Waiheke Island (March/April 2016) attracted further local interest. More widely it would have been difficult for New Zealanders involved with the arts to miss out on or not acknowledge buzz that had occurred. There was national media coverage (TVNZ, national/Maori/student Radio interviews, newspapers,  a number of NZ periodicals and other social media platforms) as well as a national (Māori) and an international (Māori/Pacific) book award. What is it these people don’t feel they have witnessed? What else are they going to ignore? All of the achievements and events, rightly celebrating Maori Art, are covered in the publisher’s facebook site https://www.facebook.com/maoriartbook/

It’s also a bit hard to not acknowledge other members of the museum, literary and academic world responding, in public forums, so supportively to the publication. On 3 October 2016 Toi Tāhuhu was openly assessed at ‘Writing Māori Art’, City Gallery, Wellington by curators Robert Leonard and Megan Tamati-Quennell and Victoria University art historian Dr Peter Brunt along with a local arts community audience. Even Jenny Harper, Director, Christchurch Art Gallery (along with the other judges including Maia Nuku, Associate Pacific curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY) acknowledged the international award Maori Art received. The book has experienced favourable and, at times, unfavourable critical reviews and regardless they are all openly viewable and publicly acknowledged. Leonard’s comment introducing the book to the Wellington audience of ‘Writing Māori Art’ helps clarify what all this polarising (i.e. the approving/ disapproving) may mean. His mihi reads well with Okiri’s initial challenge that sometimes we must tell ourselves stories we may not like but which we must nonetheless acknowledge:

His work at the University of Auckland laid the groundwork for Maori Art. This book is Rangi’s magnus opus and it is a book like no other. It is a big ambitious, encompassing project, it addresses basic questions about the frameworks through which Maori art has been, can be and should be discussed. It is a provocative piece of work which necessarily has its fans and its critics but it is something that anyone who seeks to work in this area will now have to contend with. It changes the landscape.’ 

But what is it then that some in the New Zealand arts community have such difficulty contending with? At least two responses from the floor (‘Writing Māori Art’, City Gallery) that night may help clarify sources for the discontent. Sculptor Shona Rapira-Davies and Curator/writer Derek Schulz respectively (both observers of my work for two or more decades) responded:

There are other Māori art writers...but they wrote from [within] a European paradigm. This is the first time...you wrote it from the interior out. And such a thing...is so risky and very frightening and I see you there and I see you being pummelled. But also understand the fulcrum is where you were at and where you are still. It is a place where not many people like to be because it is easy for other people to shoot you. But in order for the rest of us to understand a little bit more about the interior that is Māori somebody has to take the shots for that because it’s a completely different view from what is normally viewed as art history.
Rangi’s work comes out of a very turbulent era of New Zealand cultural history. The two cultures started to separate and that was precipitated a lot by a Māori drive to re-establish its own cultural identity. Rangi has taken enormous hostility from the Headlands show [1992] right through to the mid-2010s. This book is part of a maturing and an acceptance that we do have two very different cultural identities in this country. I suspect huge things are going to come out of that new relationship. I think those years [i.e. since 1992] were pretty awful to live through but good things can come out of that new relationship.
rangihīroa, This is War Stripped of Everything But the Truth…2017

The comments/prophesies are affirming but also uncomfortable and very disturbing. The memories Rapira-Davies and Schulz raise are difficult ones. However, there is truth and a certain reality in them and both commentaries do help explain narratives out there dealing with/to my writing, my curating and my presenting. I have had to radically accept and absorb the turbulence and the opposition. My thinking is that if one is able to struggle with difference and hostility there is indeed the more valuable, more enduring potential for the new relationships, about which Schulz speaks, and for future flowerings.

The arts is a fiercely contested area in this country (as if that hadn’t occurred to you by the time you read this second post!) and it is, at times severely censored. Shona alludes to the role of fulcrum/target and Derek acknowledges both self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) and an enormous hostility that grew out of my writing for the Headlands catalogue in 1992 (see my upcoming post MaC V, ‘Headlands Unpublished’). However, the fallout from espousing Toi Tāhuhu, from advocating a Māori position, the ‘interior’ view of which Rapira-Davies speaks, is not just my issue – it is now, whether some people wish to acknowledge it or not, a collegial issue. I believe in Okiri’s argument that a lack of honesty in accordance with fact or reality returns a distortion of truth to the wider community, to its health and to its future wellbeing. It is not just my publication and my reputation that pays for mistruths, everyone pays. What follows then are some thoughts about how we tell ourselves stories and how that plays out in two texts published by the the arts/museum community in Aotearoa.

The unspoken elements left out in historical editing (i.e. some of the extracts introduced at the beginning of this post) have nothing to do with ignorance or misinformation on the part of the writers.  Rather, facts are deliberately withheld and anyone holding another point of view is portrayed as illogical, weird or worse ignored. I placed an excerpt of my published definition of a new Māori art history above the claims by Ellis and Brown to demonstrate the veracity of my argument: I have already written, past tense, a new Māori art history. Other accounts, ignoring the existence of Toi Tāhuhu, are rarely about individual authorship, they are collectively devised. Facts get muddled, a minimum of effort goes into locating simple dates and details. The reasons for this have to do with the will of an author not open to more fairly presenting a balanced assessment. Too much appears professionally at stake. The hero of the central account always remains radiant, always in key focus, always of key and praiseworthy interest.

A recently resurrected essay by senior academic Wystan Curnow (republished by editors Tina Barton and Robert Leonard in 2014) involves just such a narrative. It references my earlier mentioned essay ‘Maori at the Centre on the Margins…’ for the MCA Headlands catalogue in 1992 (an essay Leonard described as provoking, ‘…a twitchy Francis Pound to use a whole book to respond’). Curnow’s ‘Sewing up the Space Between’ (a reference to Pound’s publication ‘The Space Between’) makes the good, clever guy the local celebrated Pākehā art historian. Agreed, Francis Pound (1948-2017) was a good writer and he was a good thinker. I enjoyed working alongside him as my colleague and I don’t begrudge the melodious introduction Curnow bestows, ‘Among art writers…there are few I value more…’  [Someone who is described as] possessing liturgical lyricism and high-wire rhetoric…Linguistically and intellectually… [the said art historian’s] resources are formidable… [Later the same is described as a ferocious defender…]

But in the left corner weighing in… the ‘other’ is the dumb Māori…He is someone employing simplistic, unfair and improper judgements and someone whose writing possesses ‘fault.’ This castigating, polarising technique (see Schulz’s prior comment regarding the years 1992-2015) is a little worn by the time Curnow tries it on. It is his duty, he is obligated, he, ‘has to say’ that the local art historian’s, ‘…eloquence has to compete against, and is sometimes destroyed by, the voice of a polemicist who is forever personalising the larger issues looking for someone to praise or blame.’ Having just praised eloquent, cultured Pound (and having cast me as destructive polemicist) the writer then goes on to query (possibly blame) Pound casting him too as a polemicist (perhaps a lyrical, no doubt, a “good” polemicist).

rangihīroa, the good polemicist, 2017

This confusing taciturn characterisation is amusing primarily because, as with that of others who have also felt it their tasteful duty to protest, Curnow overlooks his own polemics while criticising someone else for committing the same hara. His comment attempting to differentiate himself then with, ‘Polemicists seek one another out’ rebounds a little. Te hokinga mai nei ‘this returning’ has to do with the binary evident in his own approach that presents the same blunt force colonialism vividly described in my original Headlands essay. What Curnow leaves out is any kind of useful, positive voice that I (or the ‘other’) might have (remembering the topic at its heart is really the underlying issue of cross-cultural dialogue). A little too eager to focus on the ‘forever’ voice of the polemicist from 1992, Curnow misses the point that rivers flow (3 year gap between publication and response) I had already moved on. It surprises me that after ¼ of a century others are still hanging around the Headlands matapuna. They clearly have not moved on. Instead of the ‘other’ being able to create new ideas it would appear that the ‘other’ is fixed, immovable and incapable of anything but the crudest reactions.

Thomas McEvilley, Art and Otherness, 1992

I would argue that the western hegemony, that McEvilley references, has also had an effect on Māori who privilege orthodoxy and who in a keenness to conserve and preserve legacy venerate their own versions of classicism.

Curnow, and the current editors of the excerpt from the older essay, are then a little out of touch. By the time the Govett Brewster in New Plymouth in 1995 had published his work I had already developed thoughts in a number of different directions. I was testing arguments around appropriation in several cross-cultural panels and guest lectures (NZ, Pacific, Australian Aboriginal) organised for the School of Design, Wellington. Meanwhile at the City Gallery, Wellington and later as a keynote address for the ‘Post-Colonial Formations Conference’, Griffith University, Brisbane (8 July 1993) I presented a paper ‘How will the Bellbird Sing?…’ in conjunction with some music recently recorded with pioneering Niuean rap artist Phil Fuemana. The korimako kōrero was a deeper exploration of why I believe Māori design is an intangible cultural legacy that involves both physical and spiritual connections to its ‘m(ā)tua’ culture(s).

Between 2004 and 2005 this belief was fluidly in sync with that of an international team (a partnership involving UNESCO, Paris and the Hemispheric Institute, NY) I joined. We were exploring a new definition of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ receptive to input from indigenous scholars around the world. Our team (blame Julio, the photographer, I’m not sleeping honestly!) worked under the pioneering Mexican anthropologist Dr Lourdes Arizpe and Dr Diana Taylor (Head of NYU Performance Studies) and was helping contribute to an ICH manual advising NGOs. Working primarily with Hispanic colleagues from the Americas I was rethinking the earlier 1993 paper in relation to Intangible Cultural Heritage in a roundtable discussion at an 2005 Encuentro in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I remember comandeering the rito (the central metaphor in my 1993 paper) from a local harakeke plant, that sat in the garden of a guarded high rise apartment compound, to help bring my roundtable kōrero alive!

All these presentations could fairly be considered both a development on and a further clarification of the original kaupapa begun in the Headlands essay ‘Māori at the Centre: On the Margins’. The work included a 1993 paper (published by Routledge, London), two ‘Bridging Cosmologies’ workshops (a discussion of my thesis and the issue of authenticity in Māori art for the Departments of Anthropology, Film, Religion at NYU) and a paper (‘Letting the Trojan Horse in…’) presented  at Comité international d’histoire de l’art CIHA (International Congress of Art Historians), Montreal in 2004.  My purpose in providing this detail is to clarify while academics would like my views on appropriation to sketchily remain in 1992 they never did. I moved on, others did not.

Poorly disguised polemicism is one of a number of techniques (not enough space to explore a broader range here) employed in the New Zealand art world to keep others outside the controlling group. American art historian Thomas McEvilley, in Art and Otherness, believes positing criteria through ‘special’ narratives is a deliberate strategy on the part of the roopu (i.e. ‘the controlling group’) to maintain control. Is it not fitting that McEvilley suggests we need to examine our motivation in constructing and demanding these hegemonies?

'All value judgements [i.e. regarding beauty and taste in art], being historically conditioned, are partly motivated ideologically and these are susceptible to social change, but it is to the advantage of the controlling group to posit its own criteria as eternal and universal.’ 

Exposing this discrepancy the writer then goes on to inclusively suggest, ‘... we have to criticise our own tastes and to see that certain elements in them are local and temporary and have hidden motivations that are not necessarily honorable ...’

Thomas McEvilley, Art and Otherness

An example of this ‘posited criteria’ about which McEvilley speaks is a 2011 extract by art historian Conal McCarthy (University of Victoria). He employs the same central/marginal (major/minor, right/wrong) binary Curnow uses but does so obliquely. Indirectness comes as a result of his utilising other voices to say what he himself seeks. This layered approach (sometimes covering information opaquely) tends to bury his intention a little. Bear with me (the verbosity is purposeful and will require some patience here) as I work through his text making its structure and key underlying ideas a little more visible. I am aware many reading this post may not understand New Zealand’s local museum politics nor recognise a wider intention: a revisiting the vital contribution regional New Zealand has made to the visual arts.

McCarthy’s approach is very much in sync with that of the current UoA gatekeeping described above. What he is doing is gathering, and therefore controlling, the narratives dealing with Māori exhibitions and Māori display culture dating back to the nineteenth century. The people who control your stories control you. The tone of his publications is informative but conservative and fully in line with the institution for which he worked. Their kaupapa privileges ideas about ‘authenticity’ and a series of protocols developed throughout its 19th , 20th  and 21st century (Museum of New Zealand) institutional history. It is a centrist account relying on nationalism and a conservative tribalism that tends to place a tight lens on the past – as it applies to Māori. Given the singularity of focus and the conflict of interest found in an institution publishing and funding a book about itself, the conclusions McCarthy draws are entirely open to debate. However, a reader may struggle to locate any vigorous enquiry into these texts. Are New Zealanders really happy having their museological narrative so centrally laid down? And what role might, or should, the regions play in such an account?

The ‘Case Study: Collecting and Exhibiting Māori Art’ concerning the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui is covered then in a small segment of Museums and Māori: heritage professionals, indigenous collections, current practice, Te Papa Press, 2011. Here the book’s publisher claims the construction of an entirely ‘new’ history of curating Māori embracing both the largest and the smallest collections. There are really good things about this work. Its breadth of content, the range of collections, their diverse location and the broad time scale (considering the volume of material) attempted is astounding. It is indeed entirely new in its scope and a very welcome addition to public knowledge in this area. McCarthy also assembles a huge range of imagery that has never appeared in a singular location like this. This is important foundational work that is a preliminary step to opening the area up.

However,  Te Papa Press does make a number of assertions and here the author, at times,  struggles to deliver. There is a discomforting superficiality, perhaps directed interest, in the attempt to cover smaller institutions and in the central discussion of Māori curators. Those in the Wellington museum profession, and those belonging to his former employer and to the publisher of the book, perform very well with large amounts of detail and focus.  The tiniest or the smaller regional galleries – not so much. The operation of these adjusted lenses become problematic when the wide angle focus involving regionalism actually requires greater detailed attention.

It’s worth having a look here at a more focused account of the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui by Mina McKenzie, former Māori President of AGMANZ and Director of the Manawatū Museum, that more fairly introduces the institution and sets the scene. The Māori shows run by the Sarjeant are, in McCarthy’s account, treated more as a reaction to the blockbuster show touring the United States. McCarthy’s reference to my curatorial contributions (as with the previous 2007 book Exhibiting Māori and the shonky chronology above devised by Paul Tapsell) is a postscript in a chapter entitled ‘After Te Māori’.

Some might consider the view from the margins quite differently. Former Sarjeant curator Derek Schulz (in a 1989 Art New Zealand article ‘The Gallery at its Limits’) more broadly positions the Sarjeant’s aggressive Māori exhibition programme, during the seven years  briefly covered by McCarthy 1984-1991, against a background of national indifference (amongst critical commentators and a number of institutions) to contemporary Māori art. Schulz notes,

...the Gallery and its Director's record over the last seven years in providing hospitality for Māori artists and their work. This has not been without risk to reputation. Upwards of seven major shows have been pushed through in that time, yet, even now, prominent European commentators are not interested in work that takes its bearings from grassroots Māoritanga.

Māori art is not, nor ever has been, simply about sacred, ‘authentic’ ethnologically endorsed taonga Māori. It is a much more eclectic, changing artform seemlessly and messily involving both past,  present and future. I can remember following Matchitt (my MA thesis topic – Buck Nin, left, Matchit, centre, son Maia filming WAR inside Dome, Sarjeant) to a lecture bravely espoused at the University of Waikato in 1987.  His kōrero entitled, ‘Where to from Te Māori’ challenged an audience enthralled with the traditional. How could they not be? This was the period of te hokinga mai ‘the returning’ of Te Maori to New Zealand galleries. For a moment of time there was enormous local pride in traditional Māori art affirmed by prestigious American institutions. It was an exciting time for those, like myself, studying Māori art. I was doing a thesis on Matchitt but I was also a kaiarahi ‘guide’ along with lots of others for the Auckland Art Gallery version of the exhibition.

So it was against this kind of background that Matchitt unpopularly was critiquing the ethnologically endorsed Rotorua School and offering comment on other national organisations replicating and endlessly copying the past with little inspired thought about experimentation, creativity and the future direction of the artform. This position helps put McCarthy’s Te Papa-centric ideas about museum history in perspective and within a broader continuum involving a more appropriate contemporary and a more panoramic national (i.e  including the regional) context. Dilating the focus helps enlarge what McCarthy (and others) may be deliberately playing down.

McKenzie, writing for an Australian readership, is useful here in relation to the focus on Te Māori.  She situates the show more properly within a longer continuum and within a much more inclusive context.

While Te Māori served to change attitudes to the interpretation of traditional Māori material cultural property, it had not addressed the place of contemporary Māori art within the context of either Māori or the 'fine arts' communities. Whatu Aho Rua takes the next vital step in bringing together traditional and contemporary Māori art within the context of art gallery and presenting it as a continuum within Māori society.

McCarthy’s Sarjeant account makes no such claims about continuum but rather allocates a subsidary role beginning in 1984 with Te Puawaitanga o te Kākano (a collaborative show with Paratene Matchitt and the organisation Ngā Puna Waihanga over which he was President). The name appears a homage to anthropologist Sidney Mead’s seminal Te Maori essay employing a plant metaphor to talk about the ‘flowering of the seed’ cycle in the art. There is however greater subtlety here. The show and its work, by living Māori artists, is not a theoretical construct about Māori art in some classical renaissance, it is referencing ‘the’ current flowering – te puwaitanga kei roto i te whare o Rehua – within the walls of the Sarjeant Gallery.

McCarthy then goes on to mention the Sarjeant is host in 1985 to an exhibition exploring collections of ‘contemporary’ Māori art. Curiously he will not name it – does he know/not know, perhaps the details are not at hand? The show, Contemporary Works by Māori Artists from Public Collections, and its purpose are clearly outlined by a heritage historian (see MaC I) documenting Sarjeant history.

This exhibition and supporting catalogue highlighted the woeful attention to collecting in this [i.e contemporary Māori] area (with the exception of the work of Ralph Hotere) across the country.

One of those key areas of disinterest in living Māori art had been some of Wellington’s institutions. Artists complained about very poor treatment by the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts (established 1882) and by the Dominion Museum anthropologist W.J Phillips (inheritor of an ultra-orthodox legacy begun by founding ethnologist Augustus Hamilton – see MaC IV) who made public statements denigrating toi hou rangatahi. A diplomatic Cliff Whiting, while not naming (my additions in parentheses) the people, names the issue and centres it in Pōneke:

Two or three people said Māori art was dead; some of us had an exhibition in the 1960s [NZ Fine Arts Academy] and a well known anthropologist [i.e. W.J Phillips, Dominion Museum, Wellington] said “This is not Māori art.” In actual fact, what they were really saying is that what is hung in museums and a few houses around was their idea of what Maori art should be...(1) 

We're still recovering from what museums and ethnologists did to Māori art in terms of restricting the breadth and creativity of what was seen as Māori art.(2)

(1)Darcy Nicholas, 7 Māori Artists, 1986: 10
(2)Ian Christensen, Cliff Whiting:He Toi Nuku, He Toi Rangi,    

McCarthy’s editing of the Sarjeant account is selective. He follows a conservative trajectory largely because his is essentially an institutional account emerging from within a national context, funded and published by the Museum of New Zealand. The editing of the Sarjeant’s Māori exhibition legacy resonates aspects of this heritage. It next references a travelling exhibition Te Ao Marama [: Seven Māori Artists] deliberately positioning it alongside the bigger, more important, attraction, Te Māori, finishing its American tour and beginning another around New Zealand museums (including the Auckland Art Gallery and the National Museum) at the time. I quote the passage in its entirety highlighting portions useful to my commentary:

This exhibition [i.e ‘Contemporary Works by Māori Artists from Public Collections,’ 1985] was followed by the largest and most successful project of all, Te Ao Marama: Seven Māori Artists, a touring exhibition with an accompanying book. By this time, Milbank was addressing Māori staffing issues and had appointed Te Rangihīroa Panoho as an education and public programmes officer. Panoho effectively became a curator of contemporary Māori art and developed three significant exhibitions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first Cultur[e] [/] Response: Two Views in 1988, was a controversial take on the issue of pākehā artists such as Gordon Walters 'appropriating' Māori symbolism, an issue further explored in the Headlands exhibition at the National Art Gallery a few years later.  The second was Whatu Aho Rua in 1989, which explored the interweaving of change and tradition through contemporary and traditional elements in Māori art, and was staged alongside a current exhibition called Te Ao Māori, which was developed in consultation with writer Witi Ihimaera.  

Though art exhibitions without large numbers of old taonga, these shows were accompanied by the sort of opening ceremonial that was starting to become standard practice at museum exhibitions. The idea with these exhibitions, as Milbank remembers it, was, 'putting together Māori material from museums seen as artefacts, letting it be seen as art alongside contemporary art, and looking at the links between traditional and contemporary.' The third exhibition was Te Moemoea no Iotefa: The Dream of Joseph in 1990-1991, which was the first time New Zealand audiences were exposed to a significant display of contemporary art by Pacific Island artists based in New Zealand.

A number of areas in the above exhibition history, are either incorrect, are too casually underplayed or they are deliberately overplayed. Firstly, I was initially an Extensions Officer (Curator). It was Conal who was the Education Officer for the National Art Gallery. I worked with him on a number of presentations connected with the NAG Headlands programme (19 and 30 September and 4 October 1992). Regarding position, there was no ‘effectively became’. The Whanganui Council officially acknowledged me as Curator in 1989. The reference to Te Ao Marama as the ‘largest and most successful project of all’ is highly unlikely and is coming from another individual(s) with a vested interest in the show. The photograph supplied to McCarthy of Te Ao Marama, in its original Whanganui context, puts the story in perspective. The show is small occupying one of the side wings of the gallery (there were 5 possible spaces including the central dome). McCarthy mentions Darcy Nicholas’ 7 Māori Artists as accompanying the show. However, there is no reference to the exhibition Te Ao Marama  nor any acknowledgement of the Sarjeant Gallery in the book. This ommission is despite the fact that 37 objects illustrated in the publication appear to be the inventory for the show. The book, it seems, came out after the show and without the usual Sarjeant logo, directors foreword, acknowledgements…and would almost certainly have been published separately in 1986.

‘After Te Māori’, both the title and the space devoted to the concept in McCarthy’s book, suggests Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery is an afterthought. The artists involved in Te Ao Marama read as part of a wider national scheme intent on following up on the international success of Te Maori.  And while some artists and the Director Bill Milbank did talk this way about the show what is achieved in Whanganui is far more important than simply contrapuntal, knee jerk reaction in the regions. Rather Whanganui was actually, for a brief window of time – the 7 years McCarthy covers – literally re-centring Māori exhibition culture with modest resources and the enormous energy Schulz earlier queried. What I am suggesting here is this re-alignment deserved far more careful and detailed attention by the Wellington based art historian. The Māori curatorial history at the Sarjeant is every bit as important as the more successful phases of Māori curatorial history that were to occur later in the capital’s central institutions.

Milbank, in the previously referenced statement in 1988, puts responsibility back on Māori artists with particular reference to Te Maori. The tone of his text (i.e. altruistic ‘their’) suggests the Māori community driving this focus in line with a core belief he espoused that the gallery was merely responding to the energies of community. However, neither the Sarjeant nor its Director’s response was ever entirely passive. The genuine openness, Milbank defines, to Māori involvement (including myself) and the support of an amazingly generous Whanganui District council helped sustain, for nearly a decade, a remarkable focus on collecting, exhibiting and travelling ‘contemporary’ Māori art. You don’t find McCarthy talking this way because the grim reality for the geo-political centre, earlier on in the 1980s, was, that besides Te Māori, there were no such sustained (emphasis on equivalence here) foci on ‘contemporary’ Māori visual culture in New Zealand’s Metropolitan centres. Returning to McEvilley’s earlier thoughts about collective control, a fairer account of the Sarjeant’s Māori curatorial history doesn’t really fit in with the centrist criteria he is positing.

Opening ones institution up to greater scrutiny, regarding weakness, is not kosher. In relation to McCarthy’s omission, of information surrounding Contemporary Works by Māori Artists from Public Collections, I had experienced first hand the state of these holdings. I regularly visited and viewed many of these collections, including the National Art Gallery (McCarthy’s former employer), during and after the period referenced by the show. In fact, the lack of support for Māori art in collections (with the exception of Ralph Hotere whose aesthetic and subject matter was often close to that of venerated Colin McCahon) led to the Sarjeant asking me to develop a policy for building up a better, more balanced Māori art collection. The research enquiry into national collections of Māori art and the attempt to develop a strategy locally, to address the gap, was years ahead of its time. Further, the wider disinterest from the centre, rather than simply the more obvious desire to replicate the success of Te Māori, more pragmatically explains why Ngā Puna Waihanga, ‘The Māori Artists and Writers Society’, not only bother but feel comfortable with Whanganui as prime portal for their visual culture.

When artists did get a rare opportunity at this time to work in the National Art Gallery, Buckle Street, Wellington the content could be extremely critical of the centre. Matchitt’s Te Wepu in the Huakina installation (see also my description in Te Papa Press essay in previous link), 1986, a resurrection of a poorly conserved battle flag (in the National Museum, allegedly torn up for rags by cleaners) flown by nineteenth century separatist leader Te Kooti Rikirangi in wooden assemblage, was portentious. Rather than selecting the types of objects displayed downstairs in Te Maori as his muse Matchitt deliberately chose a genealogy rejected by the national institution. ‘Te Wepu’ (Matchitt’s inspiration),  the whip that Te Kooti promised would be applied to the land, was far too resonant of nineteenth century Māori rebellion and of a rejection of colonial authority.  Matchitt’s seditious battle pendant and the wooden structures that resonated ramparts and fortifications in Huakina ‘to raise up, to elevate’ could easily be interpreted as conceptually mapping out late twentieth century space. Everything about the rough untreated pine and demolition timber of Huakina is rupturing and piercing the primacy inferred in the more classical taonga on display downstairs.

What Matchitt had back in Whanganui was a space where he and his grassroots Māori arts community were welcome and supported for the next 5 years after which Ngā Puna Waihanga moved on to the National Art Gallery to do a large group show. I find the phase of time prior to this exhibition (curator Tim Walker’s 1993 Taikaka Kohia Anake) resonant in a kupu whakarite spoken by the Waikato King Tawhiao.  Suffering his own isolation in Te Kuiti the Tainui leader understood deeply the mana of rivers and saw the West Coast colonial settlement as he matapihi o Niu Tureni, ‘the window of New Zealand.’  From 1984-1992 [1] the Sarjeant’s Māori art programme  was indeed this window for Māori and museums.

Perhaps the most powerful measurement of the importance of the Sarjeant shows, that McCarthy fails to deliver detail on, has to do with how others (see for example indigenous commentators like Hetti Perkins and Mina McKenzie) in the media and within the profession assessed them both during their display and subsequently. Despite McCarthy’s claims regarding Te Ao Marama there is no ongoing evidence for its scale nor its critical importance. This is of course a very difficult expectation to place on any exhibition created in the regional areas of New Zealand. Whanganui is not geographically central, it lacks the larger financial and human resources of major New Zealand city galleries. It is heavily reliant on sponsorship for the survival of its shows and there is huge pressure to create great content that will attract interest and wider support. The past and the ongoing response to two Sarjeant shows (WAR & Te Moemoea) and a more truthful rendition of their achievements, that McCarthy tends to underplay, may then surprise some.

Your work with the Whatu Aho Rua exhibition established your reputation in Australia as the most innovative curator of contemporary Māori art in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Julie Ewington, to present keynote address, ‘Contemporary Culture and Curators’ conference, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 18 September 1994

'Following its initial Australian success at the Adelaide Festival, this major exhibition of Māori art will inform and excite Sydney audiences with its diversity of artistic practice drawn from current and historical Māori culture.'

Ivan Dougherty Gallery, University of New South Wales, Press Release, WAR, 1-29 August 1992

In Australia Whatu Aho Rua was seen (at least for a couple of years) as a flagship show for new innovative work in contemporary Māori art curating from Aotearoa. This takes the show well outside McCarthy’s willingness to acknowledge a less important earlier show. Both the 1989 Whatu Aho Rua and Te Ao Māori (and the 1990 Te Moemoa no Iotefa with over 350 objects) occupied the entire floor space of the Sarjeant Gallery. They were exhibited in recognised Australian galleries. WAR received supportive critical reviews in national and regional media including Art and Australia, Art and Asia Pacific, Art Monthly Australia, Art Link, The Canberra Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, Art New Zealand, The Chronicle, The Dominion.

Te Moemoea travelled to Auckland and Wellington’s premier art galleries. It was covered by TVNZ, and Radio (National, South Pacific, Student Radio). If success is measured by attendance and positive responsive feedback all venues suggest the exhibition was one of the more popular shows in New Zealand in the summer of 1990/1991. I only have data for the City Gallery, Wellington while Auckland Art Gallery was a much larger venue. In Poneke 13, 502 attended. Attendance at its’ Wednesday night series was up 80% and its school programmes attendance increased by 500%. The gallery, especially with its’ Education Staff promoting and marketing Te Moemoea, established a new Pacific audience and a living community involvement within its space.

Whatu Aho Rua and Te Moemoea no Iotefa were critically received by the art gallery and museum profession in their time. WAR was in demand (6 different venues) on both sides of the Tasman. It travelled to the Dowse Art Gallery, Lower Hutt shortly after it was the feature show of the 1989 AGMANZ annual conference held in Whanganui and the Ngā Puna Waihanga annual hui held at Ratana Pā, Turakina that year. In 1992, I redesigned its floor plan, with a brand new catalogue, new essay and revised inventory. Streamlined with 55 objects, some newly selected, it opened at the Kaurna Gallery of Tandanya, National Aboriginal Arts Centre for the Adelaide International Arts Festival before touring to the Canberra School of Art Gallery, Australia National University and lastly to the Ivan Dougherty Gallery, University of New South Wales.

Later in 1992 Whatu Aho Rua returned finally to the the Whanganui Regional Museum (a key partner in its lengthy development and a major source of its taonga). As with Te Ao Marama Whanganui hapū, kuia and elders and Māori artists accompanied the show at its different venues. Māori communities in Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney responded to it (i.e. as kaiarahi and in ngā roopu kapa haka) as the show made its way around the three Australian centres. It’s te hokinga mai was welcomed by artists, tāngata whenua, institutions and the local public in Whanganui. These events carried on over a lengthy 4 year time span (beyond McCarthy’s timeline for the Sarjeant, well into 1992) another indicator of the degree to which many institutions, artists and commentators believed in and actively supported it. Underplayed.

These Sarjeant exhibitions were not just nicely selected collections of artefacts they were shows deliberately testing their audience. A Dominion review, Wellington 1991, suggests to its readership a depth (behind Te Moemoea no Iotefa) that moves beyond the straightforward, the singular, the traditional, the orthodox and the obvious:

Cross-currents crackle around the latest exhibition at Wellington's City Gallery. People who like to keep art in neat pigeonholes... will probably find Te Moemoea no Iotefa (Joseph's dream defeats them. Rangihīroa Panoho...has curated a lively exhibition which aims to be a lot more than a showcase for artists with a Pacific Island background who are working in New Zealand. It is that, but it's also a visual essay about cross-fertilisation. 

Margot Porter, 'Visual Essays of the Pacific', The Dominion, 20 July 1991
Te Moemoea No Iotefa invitation, City Gallery, Wellington, 1991

Nor did an interest in these exhibitions stop with the timeline McCarthy offers. Rather these Sarjeant shows continue to be critically acknowledged and remembered today. In the voluminous Art in Oceania (Thames and Hudson, 2012), covering Pacific Art, one of the contributors art historian Dr Peter Brunt in Part VI, ‘Contemporary Pacific Art and Its Globalization’, Art in Oceania: A New History, succinctly saw the value of Te Moemoea to the Pacific community in Aotearoa as:

The first exhibition to focus on contemporary Pacific art in a civic gallery in New Zealand was Te Moemoea no Iotefa...The exhibition thematized the presence of Pacific culture in New Zealand society, introduced community-based arts like tivaevae into the contemporary gallery, and canvassed the work of migrant artists like Fatu Feu'u, Johnny Penisula, Michel Tuffery and others, only then beginning to garner serious public attention. But it was the title that was the most prescient about its own historical significance. The title was borrowed from the title of a tivaevae it showed, and refers to the biblical story of Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers, eventually to rise to a position of power in the Pharoah's court. Joseph's dream turns out to be an allegory of the moment of recognition when, as an exile, he reveals himself to his brothers as the important person he has become. The ambiguity of the allegory lies in the question of whether recognition in Egypt or escape from Egypt (if we can pardon the Orientalism) is the preferable goal.

What further measures of success then does an exhibition need to be properly acknowledged? McCarthy perhaps offers an answer to that question when he begins his next (final) paragraph, outlining the Sarjeant’s contribution to Māori exhibitions,  further positing criteria:
Use Only Old Carvings

r@ngihiroa, Use only ‘OLD’ carvings, 2017

Though art exhibitions without large numbers of old taonga, these shows [i.e the exhibitions Whatu Aho Rua and Te Moemoea no Iotefa] were accompanied by the sort of opening ceremonial that was starting to become standard practice at museum exhibitions. 

Actually both shows had large numbers of ‘old’ taonga in them. As to the insinuation that ‘old’ carvings (the kind I drew on from the Whanganui Regional Museum and many other collections) are a more important measurement of…is it the authenticity of Māori visual culture being referenced here? The rather singular focus of orthodoxy on simply the ‘old’ and the ‘authentic’ is one of the key reasons I developed ‘a new Māori art history’ that describes Māori art in continuum (see 2003 PhD) – Toi Tāhuhu.

The chapter Raruraru ki te Puna ‘trouble at the spring’ (pp.138-173) in Maori Art is devoted to unpackaging the idea that centralising thought processes, protocols and resources (the DNA of a number of Wellington institutions and the Rotorua School set up under a law passed by parliamentarian Sir Apirana Ngata) is not necessarily helpful to nurturing creativity within an indigenous culture. Copying ‘old’ carvings, stringently using them as models in art, conserving and maintaining them in storage and presenting them in permanent displays may solve the problem of potential loss of visual legacy but it does not solve more pressing concerns. How, for example, does an indigenous visual culture maintain floriferous creativity through a winter of colonisation? How does an indigenous visual culture maintain floriferous creativity, more naturally, outside the centre?

The next post looks at the legacy of the Dominion Museum Director Augustus Hamilton and his book MAORI ART as Maori Art Curator: at the Centre on the Margins continues.

Upcoming Mac entry, ‘Reading Augustus Hamilton’
Augustus Hamilton, bronze bust, collection Te Papa Tongarewa set against illustrative drawings from his MAORI ART
















































































MAORI ART Curator I, Maori at the Centre: on the Margins

 at the Centre: on the Margins. A MEMOIR
© Rangihīroa Panoho and PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 2016-2018.
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 or the Director of PIHIRAU roduction's express permission. Details for writing to PIHIRAU: 


The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.




'There have been no focused strategies, no foundational initiatives, no convergence of influence or development of critical mass created by the sector to provide contemporary Māori art curators with opportunities to evolve our curatorial practice further. Most of the expansion of contemporary Māori art curatorial practice I would submit has been self-seeded and created by the art curators themselves....

It is clear that the curatorial field I inhabit has not been actively grown when my curatorial position is one of only two dedicated contemporary Māori art curatorial positions in the country. I am probably the most established, having a curatorial career that spans 26 years and in a position that progressed from an initial 10 month internship founded at the National Art Gallery in 1990 to what is now the Curator of modern and contemporary Maori & Indigenous art at Te Papa.'

Megan Tamati-Quennell, Curator of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art at Te Papa Tongarewa, 2016

'In 198[8] the gallery employed Rangihīroa Pan[o]ho, the first Māori to be employed as a curator in a New Zealand art museum (and also the first Māori to secure a [Masters] Art History degree) as a member of the staff. In 1989 he curated the ground-breaking exhibitions Whatu Aho Rua, which was shown at the Sarjeant in conjunction with an already formed contemporary artists show called Te Ao Māori. In 1991 Whatu Aho Rua was reconfigured by
Pan[o]ho and was toured by the Sarjeant with full escorting support from Whanganui Iwi to four important venues in Australia before closing at the Whanganui Regional Museum. Also in 1990 he curated the spectacular and ground breaking Te Moemoea No Iotefa, which went to Wellington and Auckland. This exhibition was the first to bring together traditional Pacific Island craft with contemporary craft and the work of contemporary Pacific Island artists.'

Chris Cochrane, Heritage Assessment for the Whanganui District Council, Sarjeant Gallery, 2012: 19

'I flew to NZ to visit Mr Panoho from Tonga (where I was working on gender and art) and saw his outstanding Te Moemoea No Iotefa. The exhibition was well orchistrated, each room had its own logic and functionality. The artworks were diversely discursive, often providing alternative cultural critiques to contemporary idioms and issues of appropriation. The veracity of the exhibition was clearly due to his ability to establish a relationship of trust with the artists.' (1)

'Panoho works primarily in the field of taonga and contemporary Māori Art, theory, criticism and cultural studies. This is a demanding field that forces him to always be on the cutting edge - which he is - with a careful balance of historical depth, agile insight and sagacious theory into relevant current issues. Panoho's catalogue texts (e.g Whatu Aho Rua and Te Moemoea no Iotefa) are a good case in point; they challenge the way Western art historians think about the context of art and suggest that we stop canonizing contextual categories and move towards a better understanding of contexts that brings "traditional" and contemporary Māori art more forcefully into play.' (2)

Jehanne Teilhet-Fisk, Professor Emeritus, Visual Arts Program, University of California, San Diego, writing to Art History Department, University of Canterbury, 10 February 1992 (1) and the University of Auckland, 11 October 1996 (2)

‘We are contemporaries. We did Art History together in the early eighties at the University of Auckland. After completing his Masters...thesis on Paratene Matchitt Rangi joined the Sarjeant Gallery in 1988 working as Curator Māori. He was part of a new wave of young art museum curators at that time which also included Greg Burke, Tina Barton and myself.'

Robert Leonard, Chief Curator, City Gallery, Wellington, 25 August 2016

Writing ‘Maori Art’ presentation City Gallery, Wellington. Panoho (far left) Robert Leonard (Chief Curator – rear left) Elizabeth Caldwell (Director – rear right) and panel members Megan Tamati-Quennell (Te Papa) and Dr Peter Brunt (Victoria University), 25 August 2016



Curator: that was the guy carrying the hammer’, Interview, Rangihīroa Panoho and Fred Graham, Auckland Museum, 2016

Gould Street, Russell, 17 Nov. 1986

Tēnā koe Rangihīroa

I read your letter with interest and noted that it's a thesis on Para Matchitt. He is an important Māori Artist and earlier on in our careers we worked jointly on a number of projects. I congratulate you and hope you succeed in giving all a true picture of the man...

I wish you all the best with your work and hope we meet sometime.


Ōwairaka, 14 August 2017

Te Whanakao tou maunga
Oraka tou punawai
Kereu tou awa
Ko Kaiaio tou hapū
Ko Te Whānau-ā-Apanui tou iwi

E Cliff, moe mai, takoto mai rā ki te poho o Te Atua. Hāere, hāere, hāere. Hāere ki Hawaiki nui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao. Aroha ki tou whānau pani.

Ka hinga te rakau rangatira, he kauri. I whakarongo au ki te paopao o tou tinana ki te papa ngaore o Pukauakua te pā o Te Ponaharakeke. Ae, ngāueue ana te ngahere. E Ihowa ka mahuetia koe ki ngā peka aweawe me ngā rau e whiti ana hei uwhiuwhi mo ngā manu e noho ana kei runga. Pakaru te ruruhau, e koheri ana te hau kawa ki te kete aronui. Nā reira, takoto mai e Cliff, kia tangihia koe e ō iwi. Ka ngaro koe, te kaihautū, te toi rangatira Māori, te kura whakahirahira o ngā uri o Pou, te mauri o te whenua, te mauri o te tangata, haere! Haere rā!

nā Rangi

When looking at this image of Clifford and Paratene in Hamilton in 1966 I didn’t, until recently, think of curated shows. When I spoke to senior Māori artist Fred Graham in 2016 about this early period his recollection of the role was that, ‘The curator was the guy carrying the hammer.’ Too young for this era I was to feel its influence decades later, in 1986-1988, when travelling the country as a Masters student in art history doing a thesis on Paratene Te Mokopuorongo Matchitt. I have a vivid recollection of stepping through the same assembly hall doors in 1987. Inside that space there were more signs of the curatorial act than Graham conceded. Here, for the reader, I am quickly resorting to all of the broader permutations of the word curator, cūrāre (14th century Latin meaning), the Scottish concept of the legal guardianship, the Ecclesiastical function of pastoral care or nurture, the Māori concept of kaitiakitanga and so on. I can’t detail any of these concepts here but I intend all of them because I am describing a function that is necessarily atavistic and cross-cultural with a huge range of layers and complexities that make it what is has now become (not only in the world but in Aotearoa and in institutions across the Asia Pacific).

The toenga kai ‘remainders’ of this important exhibition/declaration (i.e. represented in the National Publicity photograph) held years earlier was, on my arrival, still impressive. Four ceiling height carvings by Matchitt in 1965 stood silently stage-side. The large mural Niho Taniwha from the same year presided over the back wall. It was in other words a space that the artist had already delineated and conceptualised. However, most curatorially resonant was a label positioned adjacent one set of carvings. The writing on the wall referenced not just the collection of creative energy and outpouring of collegiality that characterised this central North Island site – Sacred Heart Girls in Hamilton later in 1966. The label (yes singular and significant because I know of no other occasion when the artist took such trouble to spell out meaning in his display committing himself to writing!) also conveyed curatorial care for a central conceptual issue. When I first began curating at the Sarjeant Gallery I remember asking Roger Blackley, Curator of Historical New Zealand Art at the Auckland Art Gallery, for some template suggestions for labels. Perhaps if I, as a student, had looked more closely at this 1966 interior I might have later realised the important foundations already more informally laid. Matchitt was using the label to not only clarify the sculpture but also to talk about the kind of event he evisaged in the Sacred Heart hall and perhaps future exhibition spaces. Whiting and Matchitt were here both involved, as kinsmen, in helping nurture the beginning of a key conceptual shift.

The text describes a changing of the guard and it does so by referencing the story illustrated in Matchitt’s totems of Rangi and Papa separated by their children at the front of the hall. Matchitt’s concern is not simply modernist talk about freedom and enlightenment and tradition giving way to modernity. Matchitt, Whiting and a limited number of others, as curators of this vision, devoted their lives to trying to select, shape and give a particular feel to te wehenga: that Tane whakapiripiri energy that both separates generations and that joins humanity within architectural and conceptual space. Curatorship is the vehicle with which that commitment is explicitly conveyed because the message is too important to leave to the viewer to interpret.

In the postscript to that symbolic departure the two Māori arts and crafts advisors, shown here inside the Sacred Heart hall, look inquisitive, they are working the room, they are touching the artworks (i.e refer back to the kaitiaki ‘guardianship’, pastoral function introduced earlier in this post). Of course they are aware of the camera lens but they also appear genuinely focused on the work of their mates. They are visually engaged with the different design solutions to the same problem: how does one redefine legacy as art? A year later Matchitt was to describe his work (and this applies broadly to many of the rangatahi artists of the time) as a balancing act where the Maori School of thought and the Western School both played on his mind. He said he was never sure how it would turn out. 51 years later (despite some very heavy defining of taha Māori within academic and museological institutions throughout Aotearoa) that Sacred Heart Girls’ Assembly hall prediction continues to remain prophetic, fresh and unscripted ready for someone else to walk through the door and revisit the thought.

I started out wanting to post here something skeletal, perhaps obligatory, regarding my contributions 22 years later as a foundational Māori art curator, to a recent celebration of half a century of Māori curatorial activity dating back to the Sacred Heart moment. It has now been 29 years since I curated shows, which the above colleagues reference. Some might think, perhaps justifiably, I am simply going to recount nostalgia but in resurrecting this past I have no tolerance for posterity or for simply thinking in the past tense. My interests are current. I have never stopped applying for jobs in the curatorial, art museum and art gallery area in New Zealand nor have I stopped imagining shows, for me the dream of Joseph and the role of the curator continues.

One key New Zealand post (2016), recently advertised and specifically in the contemporary Māori curatorial area for which I was not shortlisted, stands out. There was the usual officious note and only after pressing the Director further did I receive a response explaining my writing and my academic research was acknowledged (I had just published an award winning book on Maori Art not long before the job was posted) but no recognition was given to curating. Indeed the word curator had, perhaps too conveniently, slipped away. It (and the pastoral, guarding, shaping connotations of the kupu referenced earlier) is however implied. The suggestion appears to have been that I fall into line and help mentor the successful curatorial candidate.

There is absolutely no question that Dr Rangihīroa Panoho is superbly qualified academically and has an impressive proven track record as a pioneer educator, researcher, scholar and writer in relation to Māori art, recognised in both Aotearoa and internationally...The position of Curator, Māori Art...possesses, in addition to scholarly experience, the key resposibility for Curatorial and Collection Management in the area of Māori art...The gallery looks forward to the possibility of working with Dr Panoho as a mentor figure, thinker and historian who actively contributes in an important way to the field of Māori art and culture.

After reading my ongoing installments (more MaC posts to follow) I leave the readers to judge for themselves whether this is a fair presentation of my career (i.e. the academic not the curatorial) as I recount my role as a foundational Māori curator in this country. Initially this involved drafting the first specifically ‘contemporary’ Māori art acquisition and collection management policy in a New Zealand art gallery (August, 1988) and presenting it on a panel at a national art gallery and museum forum (AGMANZ annual hui, Whanganui, 1989) but also continuing curatorial activity and the ongoing management of a diverse range of shows (existing and proposed) both within and outside the walls of institutions in New Zealand and abroad.

What the 1966 space demonstrates, along with a very important juxtaposition of art alongside taonga also in the 1960s by Paratene Matchitt and John Bevan-Ford, is that there have in fact been many, many foundational acts of cūrāre that have taken place and which continue to hold resonance. As Māori moving in the flow of that legacy we have an obligation to both search for and to understand what comprises ēnei puna koropupū. I would hope that my ongoing legacy contributes to this reretanga ‘flow’. I did not simply stop curating after I resigned (14 August 1991) my position at the Sarjeant Gallery and took up a lectureship (16 September 1991) with the School of Design in Wellington. Rather, initially I honoured, ‘…my commitment to the successful display of the Sarjeant Gallery exhibition Te Moemoea no Iotefa at the Auckland Art Gallery’ (resignation letter) and continued an intensive development of my curatorship in a range of later projects while taking on the new challenge of beginning the lifelong role of educator.

Much to my wife’s bewilderment a sense of curatorial duty still lingered beyond the AAG venue (14 September-20 October 1991). It was the unwelcome guest during my family Christmas holiday in December/January 1992 as I took late night pilgrimages to the tiny office in Whananaki Primary School to plan and fax contracted liason expat Julian Bowron. The seaside escape was my temporary space for creating and checking object lists, catalogue essay changes, floor plans, display furniture, wall colours… for a complete redesigning of Whatu Aho Rua to open at the Adelaide International Arts Festival 3 March 1992. Tandanya requested my continuing involvement. They negotiated with Dr Ray Thorburn and my new employer in Wellington an obligation to return to Tandanya, the National Aboriginal Institute in Adelaide to supervise the unpacking and the successful installation of Whatu Aho Rua which later toured venues in Canberra and finally Sydney.

In Pōneke I was already thinking ahead to a new show which I had begun to formulate during my time on secondment at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum (August 1990) Sydney and as a keynote speaker at the Contemporary Culture and Curators (Julie Ewington, left, and Megan Tamati-Quennell chatting post hui) conference hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 18 September 1994. Both visits gave me a chance to talk to a wider circle of senior curators and with directors and managers of major public and private art collections. These meetings and informal gatherings helped open up a whole other level of possibilities pushing connections often in less prescribed directions. While I had an opportunity to research and study major public and dealer gallery collections of Aboriginal Art my visits to Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide were beginning to flower in other areas:

'It was a great pleasure to meet up with Rangi Panoho and his wife when they were here recently and I enjoyed being able to introduce them to people and places in Sydney. Rangi has made an excellent impression on many people here...Rangi showed us photographs of the Pacific exhibition [i.e Te Moemoea no Iotefa] he is currently working on for the Sarjeant and I thought it looked stunning. Julie Ewington, Curator at the School of Art Gallery in Canberra, was also very excited by the images. We both wish to tentatively express an interest in a reduced version of the exhibition and enquire as to the possibility of a selected version travelling to 2-3 venues in Australia.'

Louise Pether, Director, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, University of New South Wales, Sydney writing to Bill Milbank, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui, 2 October 1990

Contact and kōrero with MCA Chief Curator Bernice Murphy connected me with Aboriginal curator Djon Mundine and Aboriginal artist Fiona Foley, a curatorial connection with historical Parramatta and with a Māori elder who had supported the staging of the Headlands exhibition in 1992. It may have been my discussions with Bernice, these artists, a visit to the Boomalli Aboriginal Art Collective in Redfern and an awareness of my wife’s uncle Sir Kingi Ihaka (uncle Matu)and his attempting to establish a Mihinare base (towards a mārae) in Sydney that suggested an idea. What if there was ‘another’ Hawaiki and it was Aotearoa? What might comprise the similar but ‘not quite the same’ expression of te ao Māori that existed in these Australian urban communities and perhaps in other parts of the globe? Was Hawaiki not simply the last location that we lived? My proposal Hawaiki: Last Homeland was one that gathered together networks and momentum from a number of different quarters.

Luit Bieringa (former Director NAG and a freelance consultant) was a key supporter and helped generate interest from the Ministry of Arts facilitating a number of key meetings including a session at Auckland Museum with myself, Director Rodney Wilson and Exhibition Manager Priscilla Thompson who offered very generous forms of support to the prospective show. Remembering I was working outside the gallery environment and Creative New Zealand – Te Waka Toi were more cautiously interested:

'I have discussed the outline [i.e Hawaiki: Last Homeland] with our Director Ereatara Tamepo, who has recommended we present the proposal to the Board at the next available meeting...[Te Waka Toi have] a keen interest in [the] concept for the Exhibition...Australia is an excellent audience for dialogue on changes and development of indigneous arts of the Pacific, and the Sydney arts audience is acknowledged in its incisive appreciation of culture in change.'

Garry Nicholas, Executive Officer, Te Waka Toi, 16 December 1994

Garry talked about the initial enquiries with MCA (i.e the unmentioned ‘gallery in Sydney’) as looking promising and we also received a letter of recommendation from the Minister of Arts along with initial sponsorship from the Australia/New Zealand Foundation. After leaving the School of Design in 1995 I made a commitment to work on Hawaiki: Last Homeland fulltime as a freelance curator from Auckland. I was very grateful for the generous help I received from a number of institutions and organisations but the timing may not have been good and I found it very difficult, as an individual, to secure major funding and full institutional involvement. I approached the Museum of New Zealand and noted ruefully, in an unsent letter to the Minister of Arts later in 1995, there had been, ‘…no written response, [although I had heard] from one of the staff members that support was declined [because] they [i.e. MONZ] were wanting to do a similar type of project.’

My failure to secure major financial support did not though seem to deter others, particularly Australians, who believed in, and very much wanted to realise, the project. Earnest requests for support were being extended from the distance of Australia. Bernice Murphy’s advocacy of funding (as with that of the Auckland Museum, 14 March 1995) for my exploratory, foundational curatorial work to Gregory Burke (Manager Visual Arts Programme, Creative NZ) met a dead end a number of times but it’s tone shows efforts were being made from the other side of the Tasman to support an ongoing curatorial vision well into late 1996:

'This is a wonderful project, we feel, as conceptualised by Rangi, and we would like to support its development into an exhibition that would be shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 1998. Leon Parosissien [Director] and I considered the concept in outline, and talked it through with Rangi, when he was visiting the MCA...We believed it offered a vivid possibility of ensuring one major project through which we could keep things moving along in our relations with New Zealand...[and] connections leading into the Māori community around Sydney. Cliff Whiting and Eric Tamepo [Te Waka Toi leader] have also been aware of these connections through their having met Sydney Māori elder, Graeme Anderson, at the MCA during the opening of HEADLANDS. In summary, Rangi's project, and its conceptualisation, make it a very exciting and timely one in our view, and we wish to help realise it here as an important event in the programme for 1998 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We respect Rangi, know and value his professionalism and are completely assured of his seriousness and capacities to deliver an exciting and innovative project...'

At that time I was beginning to receive a scholarship, having enrolled in a PhD in Art History at AU (‘Authenticity in Māori Art’). This contact with the department I had trained in was eventually to lead to a part-time, then full-time teaching post in Māori and Polynesian Art for around a decade from 1997. My last meeting with Bernice was a Guide Rangi visit leading her and Leon Parosissien around the Māori Hall, Auckland Museum (5 September 1995). My last correspondence was 10 August 1996.

'I would like to have some discussion with you, if by chance you will be in Auckland this Monday or Tuesday about the Hawaiki project...I am coming to Auckland briefly for the function concerning the Auckland City Art Gallery's new contemporary space this week...I am seeing whether I can meet Paula Savage also, if she will be there, to explore whether we can sort out some path forward. I do want to see how we can assist the progress of your project, Rangi. 

Best wishes.
Kia ora rā
Bernice Murphy
3 September 1995

'Regarding Hawaiki: Last Homeland...I spoke to Nick Tsoutas [Executive Director, Artspace, Visual Art Centre, Sydney] about you and your project (Leon was there also). We agreed that we both would like to do what we can to help you keep your research going - especially helping you on your planned travel to Sydney and NSW. Leon and I...[and Nick] promised to regroup on issues to do with your project (and the Pacific) in a little while, after all the Biennale visitors and opening envents have subsided...'

Bernice Murphy
MCA 10 August 1996

While all this work on Hawaiki had been taking place I also had another offer from Australia. Nevill Drury, Managing Editor/Publishing Manager at Craftsman House, Sydney (at the instigation of former MA thesis supervisor Dr Michael Dunn) commissioned me to write a book on MAORI ART. I had already begun work on the manuscript back in 1993, had a royalty and sponsorship support from Creative New Zealand and had begun working with photographers Mark Adams and Haruhiko Sameshima on the sacred landscapes and buildings that would feature in that publication. My curatorial work began to move more in that direction while I was also still refining Hawaiki. The last full exhibition proposal that I submitted was to the Auckland Art Gallery in 2000 and later to the Gus Fisher, University of Auckland.


Mark Adams, Te Rere a Miru, 6 January 1995. Wairua te  wairere, Wairoa ki te Tai Tokerau te awa, Kaipara te moana

Te Ko Puru: The Blockade (aka earlier Four Waterfalls) was working much more with the themes that I was developing in my writing. It was tribally based but political and specifically oriented to Tāmaki as a location connected with my ancestral families and hapū. It was an exciting exhibition proposal involving the commissioning of mural sized photographs (Studio La Gonda had the equipment to produce this imagery) by Mark Adams and their presentation alongside objects from the Gallery collection. Some of the Adams material featuring my tribal landscape was already part of our collaborative work (i.e large format photographic negatives and a full series of smaller prints) created while doing field research in Te Tai Tokerau for my book MAORI ART. The submission included a 12 page document with a complete inventory of objects, a detailed summary of each individual work and their kaupapa within the show, a preliminary budget and a detailed floor plan for around 30 linear metres of wall space. The list of objects included paintings from the AAG collection featuring waterfalls along with 4 proposed images by Mark Adams that utilised waterfalls. Wairere was my metaphor for earlier Māori geographies, tino rangatiratanga and northern interests in Tāmaki Makaurau. The university response, given later events explained in MaC III ‘BULL’, is irrelevant but initially the project sat with AAG, and its newly appointed Māori curator Ngahiraka Mason, for a number of months meeting (as with Greg Burke earlier) another dead end. Ae, ko te puru. Hei aha.

I continued to work on Hawaiki: Last Homeland and as recently as 13 January 2009 was still hoping to revive central themes (i.e notion of Hawaiki, Polynesian diaspora and redefined concepts of the global mārae) of the show with the possibilities of a post doctoral fellowship and a partnership with the Field Museum. Regenstein Curator of Anthropology at the Field, Dr John Terrell, writing to the Auckland University Vice Chancellor:

'Dr Panoho and I first met at a Pacific Arts Association conference in Honolulu in 1989. Since then, he and I have discussed his ideas and projects on a number of occasions, both in New Zealand and in Chicago. While my own particular field is anthropology, my sense is that he has a refreshing, perhaps controversial, perspective on how to celebrate and, where advantageous, rework Pacific Islands visual culture. I am particularly enthusiastic about the possibility of developing collaborative undertakings with Rangihiroa dovetailing with my own and future projects. Our preliminary discussions in this direction have been a lively and spirited dialogue. The area of enquiry that he has chosen is a particularly fertile one both for Chicago-which has the honour of caring for the only 19th century wharenui in the New World--and for other overseas museum, cultural centers and the like. Once funded his field work in Brisbane, Sydney, London and elsewhere should help change minds and shift current thinking about how the traditions, arts and values of Pacific Islanders can contribute to global understanding and cultural practice. In my opinion, Dr Panoho is the ideal person for the job that needs to be done to bring more of the "The Pacific Way" to the world's attention in the constructive fashion that he and I have been discussing.'

I was involved with various exhibition proposals (i.e Utopia Station curatorium in 2004) that other colleagues initiated during my time at UoA. None of these projects eventuated inside institutions until my curating of IOU in association with my recent publication MAORI ART by Batemans and Pihirau in 2015, its launch at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Art Gallery, Titirangi and its wider exploration in a Creative New Zealand funded IOU at Tivoli Art Gallery, Waiheke Island 19 March 2016. I discuss this new creative direction in the article, Writing the book Maori Art, then painting and curating it as a show

In all of this time then away from the Sarjeant Gallery I have never shied away from serious attempts to curate or from applying for curatorial positions. Indeed it was educator Jonathan Mane-Wheoki’s opinion, ‘…the gallery world needed me’ that encouraged me to renew attempts to apply for positions he supported. Some may read my chronological description of events as a rather mixed, perhaps, entropic effort. It is what it is. I have tried to tell this story as clearly as I have understood it. It certainly raises a number of questions about why the New Zealand gallery/museum world is such a heavily controlled and resistant space. What is being protected? What is in danger of being lost? Who controls the narratives and the way that the objects are allowed to be interpreted and treated? I return to some of these central questions in my next installment where I work with some key ‘gatekeeper’ texts that attempt to cast my legacy in a particular light. COMING UP:





rangihīroa, future flowerings, 2017
































Lasst uns üeber Maori-Kunst sprechen ‘Let’s talk Māori Art’. This is part of the work I do with international clients helping them understand some of the key areas that make Māori a unique global artform. The kaupapa of my kōrero follows aspects of the book ‘Māori Art’ but is specifically related to objects or architecture in the Auckland central city area. I used to walk around Auckland landscapes and cultural collections with students but I find working with the public (individuals or small groups) just as challenging and, in a number of respects, more rewarding. If anyone is interested in looking further at what our small family based company Pihirau offers visit other areas of this site and also look at my other contributions in the publishers public site for the book ‘MĀORI ART, History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory‘: www.facebook.com/maoriartbook/  or you could search  my professional contributions on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/dr-rangih%C4%ABroa-panoho-1a481157/ or my Instagram site www.instagram.com/rangihiroa/ for creative work.