Rachel Buchanan: Rei – A whānau history of Aotearoa art
Rei is a taonga gifted to me by my cousin Mary-Anne Crompton and carved by Mary-Anne’s husband Steve Myhre. I received Rei – a pounamu pendant– on the day that my new book, Te Motunui Epa, was launched at Puke Ariki Museum. Te Motunui Epa is about five interconnected, 17th century panels that once formed the back wall of a pātaka in north Taranaki. Last November, many of my relatives travelled to Ngāmotu to celebrate the book, the magnificent carvings and our shared tūpuna. On the morning of the launch we gathered to practise our waiata and that was when Rei appeared. Steve explained that the pounamu had the quality of chatoyance. A band of light moves beneath the surface of the pounamu, creating a beautiful, milky lustre. The kōrero connected with this gift flickers across realms of pain, generosity, reciprocity and renewal and these are the concepts that guide the whakapapa I will share in this lecture – a whānau history of New Zealand art that begins with the Motunui Epa and traverses the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries to find deep connections and continuity between the world of our old people and the work we Taranaki artists are making today.
Dr Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) is a historian, curator and archivist. Her new book, Te Motunui Epa (BWB Books, 2022), is the co-winner of the 2023 Ernest Scott Prize and a finalist in the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (illustrated non-fiction). Rachel is deeply honoured to also be a finalist in Te Waka Taki Kōrero|The Māori Literature Trust’s inaugural Keri Hulme Award.
Gordon H. Brown is an artist and freelance writer on a wide variety of New Zealand art topics. He has a Diploma in Fine Arts from Canterbury School of Art and between 1960 and 1977 he worked in various significant libraries and art galleries. The author of the classic Colin McCahon: Artist and An Introduction to New Zealand Painting 1839–1967, he was awarded the OBE in 1980 for services to art history.
In 2002 Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University established the Gordon H Brown Lecture series to further art historical scholarship in New Zealand. Recent lectures in the series have been delivered by Lana Lopesi, Albert Refiti, Conal McCarthy, Christina Barton, Damian Skinner, Rebecca Rice, Nicholas Thomas, Deidre Brown, Ngarino Ellis and Jonathan Mane-Wheoki.