MAORI Art Curator MaC I At the Centre: on the Margins, A Memoir

Nigel Borrell arrangement of Hodges image with Mark Adams contextual shot below
 Māori at the Centre: on the Margins. A MEMOIR
© 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 express permission. Details for writing to Dr Panoho are as follows: 

blueskypanoho@icloud.com

The opinions expressed are Rangihīroa's and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

 

NZ Arts Industry statements of support for curating

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
NGĀ   WHAKAWHETAI

'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

Presentation
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.

Cliff.


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!

arohanui
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).

Continue reading “MAORI Art Curator MaC I At the Centre: on the Margins, A Memoir”

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

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

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

Oxford Definition of ‘indebtedness’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Adams, Kawanui, Whatitiri, 26 October 1998

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

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

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

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

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

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