The Contemporary Māori Woman - Maiden Aotearoa

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Media Release: May, 2011. 

New exhibition Maiden Aotearoa announced for Deane Gallery

The Deane Gallery within City Gallery Wellington is committed to addressing current issues in the work of Māori and Pacific artists. The Gallery’s new exhibition Maiden Aotearoa (21 May–26 June) continues this project by presenting work which looks at the representation of Māori women in society today.

Maiden Aotearoa brings together four female artists of Māori descent: Sarah Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Tūhoe), Aimee Ratana (Ngai Tūhoe), Vicky Thomas (Ngāti Kahu, Ngā Puhi, Irish, Welsh) and Suzanne Tamaki (Ngāti Maniapoto, Tūhoe, Te Arawa). Their work collectively questions colonial depictions of Māori women. Often these representations took the form of the archetypal ‘dusky maiden’—a mysterious and docile figure, often peculiarly draped in Grecian clothing but placed within a recognisably New Zealand landscape.

This exhibition asserts a stronger, empowered position for the contemporary Māori woman. Vicky Thomas’ work is influenced by blacksploitation movies of the 1970s. In her work Self Portrait #3 the artist poses as the famous movie character Foxy Brown, and stares confidently out at the viewer.

Artist Sarah Hudson is interested in the history of photography of Māori subjects. Through her research she discovered photographs of her own whānau on nineteenth century postcards. In this context, they had been depicted as nameless figures, without context or agency. In her work for Maiden Aotearoa Hudson has shrouded images similar to these in ghostly black veils. Her re-working of found images points to the damage done by European photographers in their early depictions of Māori women.

Maiden Aotearoa will be accompanied by two public events: a discussion between all of the artists at 2pm May 21 and a lecture by Dr Jo Smith, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, at 12:30pm June 10.