Mana Takatāpui - Five artists in the Deane Gallery

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Media Release: January, 2011.

Five artists activate the Deane Gallery for the Outgames Visual Arts Programme

Mana Takatāpui: Taera Tāne (29 January–10 April 2010) is the first new exhibition in the Deane Gallery in 2011. This show explores perceptions of gender and male sexuality in Māori and Pacific Island cultures and is part of the Outgames Visual Arts Programme (www.wellingtonoutgames.com).

Deane Gallery curator Reuben Friend has brought together five male artists of both Māori and Samoan descent, Hoteera Riri, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Tanu Gago, Fear Brampton and Richard Kereopa. These artists work across a range of media and this varied exhibition includes sculpture, poetry, video work, photography and performance.

The Māori term takatāpui traditionally meant an intimate bond between people of the same sex. In recent decades the word has been appropriated by gay communities to provide a means of understanding gay culture in Aotearoa New Zealand. Mana Takatāpui is therefore a defiant statement of acceptance and pride in homosexuality, and specifically male sexuality.

Friend comments, “This show explores what it means to be takatāpui in Aotearoa today. Collectively, these artists form a nuanced picture of the challenges and successes of gay culture in Aotearoa and the Pacific Islands. In particular, their work reveals the fluidity of gender roles, which shift and change within different cultural and social environments.”

Central to the show is the work of Auckland-based artist Hoteera Riri (Te Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui). Riri has created four lifelike sculptures of Māori drag queens which are presented in the centre of the gallery space. In these works Riri references photographer Fiona Clark’s seminal exhibition Go Girls, shown at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth in 1975. Clark photographed Māori and Pacific Island drag queens on Karangahape Road in Auckland, documenting an underground culture in what was then a hostile, homophobic environment.

Riri was friends with many of Clark’s subjects and his new sculptures depict these characters as aging and fragile; they can be read as symbols of respect to these early gay activists in New Zealand.

Alongside this exhibition, City Gallery will host the regular Open City event on March 18, 6pm. The galleries will be open late and there will be music, art and performance inspired by the show.