Jo Diamond and Peter Shaw, ‘Curators’ Statement’.
Encounters between people of different cultural backgrounds always provide opportunities for ongoing critical engagement. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, such early encounters had repercussions that remain with us today. Artists brought, innocently or not, their own cultural baggage to their subject matter. One such example is Francis Dillon Bell’s New Zealand Bush (c.1845), which turns out to be far more than a mere botanical record. This, like so many other paintings included in Te Huringa/Turning Points, can be seen to have multiple and sometimes unexpected additional meanings.
A great many of the works have their origin in deep contention. This resulted from disputes over land that were the inevitable consequence of colonialism. In our time, these disputes gave rise to protests including Land Rights hīkoi and, more recently, have prompted hopeful participation in partnership deals between Māori and Pākehā. This exhibition provides a huringa, a turning point in our ability to view art critically.
It offers an ideal opportunity to give some emphasis to a Māori viewpoint without excluding non-Māori points of view. This is reflected in our two different curatorial approaches, one Māori, the other Pākehā. If this is seen as controversial, we make no apology. It mirrors the complex, convoluted history of race relations in this country. Curatorially, we offer it as a koha towards a more thoughtful engagement with paintings held in the Fletcher and Sarjeant Gallery collections.
Each work is arranged in a thematic framework, not in an effort to fit it into a rigid category but to suggest pathways for consideration and to provide sometimes unexpected links between paintings which might not otherwise be thought of as connected. Since it first opened at the Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui, in 2006, Te Huringa has received important and memorable pōwhiri from tangata whenua. We have been honoured by these events. They encourage and inspire us to continue with the exhibition and the publication of this book. Ngā mihi mahana mō ēnei tautoko.