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Art celebrates whakapapa and culture

Issue: Volume 98, Number 18

Posted: 28 October 2019
Reference #: 1HA1Ah

An exhibition that showcases Aotearoa’s best NCEA Toi Māori art was held in Wellington during the school holidays.

Artist: Robb Edmonds, Ngā Puhi; Year 13, Otahuhu College.

Artist: Robb Edmonds, Ngā Puhi; Year 13, Otahuhu College.

The national Ringa Toi Student Exhibition 2019 celebrated the work of secondary school students working towards NCEA art, Levels 1–3, with a focus on Toi Māori.

Launched in 2016, the annual exhibition showcases a range of Māori art forms including toi whare pora (weaving), toi matihiko (digital), toi mātātuhi (printmaking), toi waituhi (paint, ink, drawing), toi matarau (multi-media) and toi whakairo (carving).

The exhibition is coordinated by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

Alex Bidois, NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Māori, says Toi Māori is a vehicle to enhance student achievement and encourage retention at school by promoting mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori, while accelerating Māori learner success.

“Toi Māori provides an important outlet to tell our stories (kōrero pūrākau) and express what it means to live in te ao Māori. Showcasing young artists encourages creative expression about our culture and history, while celebrating the survival of traditional art forms,” Alex says.

Expressing self and culture

Sean Wipatene’s woodblock print was selected for Toi Ringa. The Year 10 student at Wellington College says it’s important to be able to express himself through the art he does at school.

“This helps me learn more not only about my family but also about my culture and the importance it holds in my life. I also think it’s important that everyone has a way of expressing themselves and their culture, whether through art like myself, or through other forms.”

Sean (Taranaki/Te Ati Awa) says his print is significant to him in many ways, as it not only represents his immediate family, but also his ancestors (tūpuna) and the future. His toi whakairo (carved woodblock) for the print also linked him with his ancestors, who would have carved wood in similar ways.

“The art teachers at Wellington College were very focused on our whakapapa (genealogy) during the making of the woodblock. The print contains a whole range of different images and designs that represent my whakapapa.

“I felt it was very important to incorporate many different aspects of both sides of my family. For example, I added a koro design on the tui—that represents my paternal grandad – this design also sits on his gravestone. I added a feather next to Mount Taranaki, which is a symbol for Parihaka, where my marae is. The shape on the right side of the print is the Treaty of Waitangi with a Union Jack in the centre. This holds importance as my great grandfather signed it,” Sean explains.

Inspiring teacher acknowledged

This year’s Ringa Toi exhibition, which featured 120 exhibits, acknowledged the late Craig Callaghan, a former whakairo teacher at Gisborne Boys’ High School who inspired NZQA to create Ringa Toi when he saw the opportunity to celebrate and promote Toi Māori. Craig was involved with NZQA for 10 years as a national moderator for whakairo, and a member of the whakairo whakaruruhau (advisory group).

“I understand that Craig was passionate about the storytelling potential of Toi Māori. Artwork has been an important way of telling stories since the earliest times, with a unique ability to cross national and cultural borders,” the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said at the launch event in Wellington on 24 September.

“Toi Māori, like much of the best artwork, allows us to transcend time. Through it, artists can express their identity, recall their history and mark their place in the world. Like many outstanding teachers, Craig didn’t just educate and support his students, he inspired them,” he said.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:30 am, 28 October 2019

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