Maungauika Trilogy is an art installation that leads the viewer down a dark corridor to the edge of Te Pō (the night), the passageway to the spiritual realm. Entering the gallery we encounter a silent, crypt-like cavern where nine silhouetted figures slowly stir, seemingly caught in limbo between a place of light and a place of darkness. Here artist and choreographer Moana Nepia positions the audience in a transitory space between life and death to present a Māori interpretation of the Polynesian concept of Te Kore.
Often described as the void, Te Kore literally means ‘the nothingness’. However, this Māori notion of ‘nothingness’ is inherently charged with vast potential. To use a scientific analogy to explain this paradox, the Māori creation story compares Te Kore to the period of time immediately preceding the Big Bang—an absent yet fertile space that gave birth to the universe. Another analogy which operates along similar lines of logic is the conception of a child. In this instance Te Kore takes on the role of the womb, and Te Pō the stages of foetal development.
Te Kore can therefore be understood as an incubation space, a nurturing void that enables life to exist where previously there was ‘nothing’. The slow moving figures in Maungauika Trilogy occupy this void. Dancing in the shadows of Te Pō, they straddle the doorway between the realms of night and day and it is possible to imagine that they are new beings, still in incubation, waiting to emerge from the void into the world of light (Te Ao Mārama). Conversely, they can be viewed as tired souls returning back beyond the veil of the night to be embraced by the darkness of Te Pō once more.
In a philosophical sense Te Kore represents the belief that light can emerge from an intense period of darkness. It is a message of hope, one that has particular resonance as people come to terms with the devastation left in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes and the Pike River Mine disaster. The display of Maungauika Trilogy at City Gallery Wellington is dedicated to the memory of those who have recently passed back beyond the veil of the night. Moe mai rā koutou rā kua wheturangitia i te korowai o Ranginui.
Moana Nepia has a distinguished history as a choreographer and visual artist. Graduating with First Class Honours in Fine Art from Wimbledon School of Art, London, Nepia has performed with major classical and contemporary dance groups around the world including the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Harris Mantafounis Contemporary Dance Company of Athens, Vienna Festival Ballet and the English National Opera. He has also taught for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet and choreographed for numerous companies in New Zealand and abroad. In 2009 he curated Ka Mau Te Wehi–Conversations in Maori Dance an exhibition examining Maori dance as a contemporary expression of culture and identity at ST Paul St, Auckland University of Technology.
Moana Nepia and curator Reuben Friend in conversation
Saturday 16 April 2011, 1pm
Watch This Space—Footnote Dance and Moana Nepia
Saturday 14 May, 12.30pm