City Gallery

Past event

Tai Ahiahi///Tai Awatea: Curating Contemporary Māori Art

10:00am–5:00pm Fri 8 – Sat 9 September 2017

This symposium will consider how exhibitions of contemporary Māori art have been curated and how they might be curated in the future. Ranging from marae-centred projects to the Venice Biennale, it will address early and ongoing self-organisation by artists' collectives and agencies as well as the work of specialist Māori-art curators. Through two dimensions—Tai Ahiahi (reflections) and Tai Awatea (foreseeable directions)—it will explore philosophies and politics, pathways and pragmatics, expectations and responsibilities, ambitions and limitations.

Speakers include Mario A Caro (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Brett Graham, George Hubbard, Robert Jahnke, Ngahiraka Mason, Darcy Nicholas, Piri Sciascia, Huhana Smith, Taarati Taiaroa, Awhina Tamarapa and Tim Walker.

The registration fee includes morning and afternoon tea on both days. Lunch is by attendees' own arrangement. (There are many options within close walking distance to the Gallery.) The concession rate applies to students, and Community Services and SuperGold cardholders.

Tai Ahiahi///Tai Awatea has been organised by Peter Brunt, Chris Bryant-Toi, Robert Leonard, Conal McCarthy, Garry Nicholas, Megan Tamati-Quennell and Anna-Marie White, as a joint project by Toi Māori Aotearoa, City Gallery Wellington, and Victoria University of Wellington. It is supported by Creative New Zealand and Te Māori Manaaki Taonga Trust.


What is curating and how and where has it intersected with and framed contemporary Māori art? Where can curating go and what must it leave untouched? Before there were curators, and Māori artists organised their own shows, how were these shows put together? And what is the ongoing role of such self-organised exhibitions? How did museums start to work with contemporary Māori art in the absence of specialist curators? And how has the emergence of such curators changed the game? What are the pathways and pitfalls offered by international shows? And where to from here?


10–10.15am  Visual Mihi
The Symposium Committee

10:15–2pm What Is Māori Art? / What Is Curating? (Papers)
Convenor: Chris Bryant-Toi
What are the forms of Māori art, what are the forms of curatorial practice, and how do they intersect? Where can curating go and what must it leave untouched?

10.15–11am  Robert Jahnke on Māori art

11–11.15am  Morning tea

11.15am–12pm  Taarati Taiaroa on a typology of Māori art exhibitions

12–1pm  Lunch

1–2pm  Mario A Caro on indigenous curating

2–3pm  Phase 1: Māori Curating Māori (Interview)
Convenor: Chris Bryant-Toi
Before there were curators, Māori artists organised their own shows. How were these shows put together? And what is the ongoing role of such self-organised exhibitions?

Darcy Nicholas

3–3.30pm  Afternoon tea

3.30–4.30pm  Phase 2: Museums Curating Māori (Panel)
Convenor: Conal McCarthy
This session focuses on three groundbreaking exhibitions which were the product of collaborations between Pākehā and Māori museum professionals:

Piri Sciascia on Te Maori (1984–7), Tim Walker on Kohia ko Taikaka Anake (National Art Gallery, 1990), and Awhina Tamarapa on Ngā Puna Roimata o Te Arawa (Museum of New Zealand, 1993)

4.30pm  Wrap

5.30–8pm  Track and Feel
Dionysos Avramides, Powerpoint and Plug, and Te Kupu, The Good Taste Selector


Phase 3: Māori Curators (Interview)
Convenors: Robert Leonard, Megan Tamati-Quennell and Anna-Marie White
How has the emergence of Māori curators changed the game? Where to from here?

10–11am  George Hubbard interviewed by Robert Leonard and Megan Tamati-Quennell

11am–12pm  Ngahiraka Mason and Megan Tamati-Quennell interviewed by Anna-Marie White

12–2pm  Lunch

2–3pm  The International (Panel)
Convenor: Peter Brunt
What are the pathways and pitfalls offered by international shows? What difference do international shows make?
Mario A Caro, Brett Graham and Ngahiraka Mason

3–3.30pm  Afternoon tea

3.30–4.30pm  The Future (Panel)
Convenor: Huhana Smith
Where to from here?
Mata Aho Collective, Nathan Pohio, and Tracey Tawhiao

4.30–5pm  Wrap​

If you're travelling to Wellington for the symposium, you might also like to come along to Tuatara Open Late at City Gallery on Thursday 7 September, 5–10pm. Art, music, films, books, wine, beer, food.

About the Participants

Dionysos Avramides is a Sydney-based Cypriot Australian visual and sound artist.

Peter Brunt is Senior Lecturer in Art History at Victoria University of Wellington, where he teaches Pacific art. He is co-author of Oceanic Art, and co-curator of an upcoming exhibition on the art of Oceania at the Royal Academy, London.

Chris Bryant-Toi is a contemporary Māori artist, curator and tutor at Toimairangi Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Under Ngā Puna Waihanga, he was a founding artist member of Te Taumata Art Gallery, Auckland, and later served as its Exhibitions Coordinator and Corporate Liaison Officer. He is a member of Te Rōpū Kaiāwhina Taonga for Museum Theatre Gallery Tai Ahuriri, Napier.

Mario A Caro is a contemporary-art researcher, curator and critic who has published widely on contemporary Indigenous arts. His academic work complements his endeavours to promote global cultural exchange. He was curator at Alaska House, New York, and is currently curating an exhibition of Pacific Rim Indigenous artists for the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center. He is a Lecturer in the Art, Culture, and Technology Graduate Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Brett Graham is an artist whose work has been included in exhibitions all over the world, including the 2007 Venice Biennale, the 2006 and 2010 Biennales of Sydney, and Sakahàn, the 2013 survey of international indigenous art at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. He has also produced major public artworks throughout New Zealand.

George Hubbard has, since 1981, organised art exhibitions, written about indigenous art, designed postal stamps, and worked with artists and musicians in New Zealand and Australia. His exhibitions include Choice! (1990) and Stop Making Sense (1995).

Robert Jahnke (Ngai Taharora, Te Whānau a Iritekura, Te Whānau a Rākairo o Ngāti Porou) is an artist, curator and writer. He principally works as a sculptor, although he trained as a designer and animator. His work focuses on the dynamics of intercultural exchange and the politics of identity. He is Professor at Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University, Palmerston North.

Robert Leonard is Chief Curator at City Gallery Wellington. His exhibitions include Headlands: Thinking through New Zealand Art (1992) and Mixed-Up Childhood (2005). He curated New Zealand’s representation for the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2015.

Conal McCarthy is Director of Museum and Heritage Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. His books include Exhibiting Māori (2007), Museums and Māori (2011), Museum Practice (2015), and Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Curatorship (forthcoming, 2018).

Ngahiraka Mason is a contemporary-art curator based in Hawaii. She was formerly Indigenous Curator Māori Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Recent exhibitions include Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand and Middle of Now | Here, the inaugural 2017 Honolulu Biennial.

Darcy Nicholas is a Māori artist. He has curated and toured major exhibitions internationally. He was Creative Director for Maori Art Meets America (2005) and Māori Art Market in 2009, 2011 and 2014. He has been Executive Director of the Wellington Arts Centre and Central Regional Arts Council; Assistant General Manager, Iwi Transition Agency; and General Manager Community Services, Porirua.

Garry Nicholas is CEO of Toi Māori. He works in arts leadership, management, and governance. He is interested in developing indigenous-art exchanges through residencies, exhibitions and internships.

Professor Piri Sciascia affiliates to Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu. He was the executive officer organising the Te Maori exhibition in the United States and New Zealand. In 2016, he retired from Victoria University from his position as Deputy Vice Chancellor Māori.

Huhana Smith (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Raukawa) is an artist and curator, and is head of Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University, Wellington. She was Senior Curator Māori at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa until the end of 2009. She is on the International Advisory Team for the Humboldt Forum, a new museum development in Berlin, opening 2019.

Taarati Taiaroa (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Apa) is an Auckland-based artist, educator and writer with a research-based practice that utilises archives to investigate small narratives, site, print and exhibiting histories. A graduate of the University of Auckland, Taiaroa holds Masters degrees in both Fine Arts and Museums and Cultural Heritage and is a lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Arts, Manukau Institute of Technology.

Awhina Tamarapa (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga) is a former Curator Māori for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington. She is Principal Advisor Culture and Exhibitions for Horowhenua District Council and Teaching Fellow for the Museums and Heritage Studies Programme, Victoria University of Wellington. She has been involved in developing Piriharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre—a new cultural heritage community centre in Foxton, Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom—as an exhibition developer for its Māori Museum and Gallery.

Megan Tamati-Quennell (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Mutunga) is Curator of Modern and Contemporary Māori and Indigenous Art at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington. With a career that spans twenty-eight years, she has been at the forefront of many developments in her field, which she describes as ‘art made on the margin between indigenous and the mainstream’.

Tim Walker is a consultant working with arts organisations, government departments, iwi, and tourism operators. He has had three decades experience in the art-gallery sector, as a curator at Waikato Museum, senior art curator at National Art Gallery/Te Papa, and director at The Dowse. He is chair of Toi Whakaari, the NZ Drama School.

Anna-Marie White (Te Ātiawa) is a doctoral student at Victoria University of Wellington, researching histories of contemporary Māori art. She was previously Curator at the Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, specialising in identity politics in New Zealand art.