ARTISTS Robyn Kahukiwa, Keri Kaa, Patricia Grace, Janet Pōtiki, Irihapeti Ramsden, Mihiata Retimana, Lee Retimana, Tungia Baker, Wendy Howe, Hinemoa Hilliard, Ngapine Tamihana Te Ao, Eranora Puketapu-Hetet, Kataraina Hetet Winiata, Veranoa Puketapu-Hetet, Rea Ropiha, Stephanie Turner, Kōhai Grace, Ami Crawford, Raiha Te Hiko Waaka, Melanie Cullinan, Jolie Marianne Gunson, Grace Warren, Waireti Rolleston, Diane Prince, Hana Pōmare, Maxine Montgomery EXHIBITION COORDINATOR Rosemary Fullerton-Smith PARTNERS Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre; Fisher Gallery, Pakuranga OTHER VENUES Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre, 16 April–4 May 1986; Fisher Gallery, 4 May–June 4 1986
Karanga Karanga was a milestone for City Gallery Wellington and for New Zealand art. This group show was the first collaborative exhibition of contemporary art by Māori women. The show consisted of fifteen works produced by 27 Māori women artists combining painting, weaving and sculpture. Karanga Karanga was nationally significant for its multimedia, multi-venue approach: the Wellington show linked with associated exhibitions at the Gisborne Museum of Culture and Heritage and the Gus Fisher gallery, then situated in Pakuranga, Auckland. Collectively these three co-operative exhibitions showcased the work of 70 women artists.
The centrepiece of the Wellington exhibition was a giant ‘cloak’ that curved around a central pole in the gallery. Named Taranga after the mother of Māui-pōtiki, the cloak was made from mussel shell, feathers, flax and toi-toi. The artists who worked on the cloak included Janet Pōtiki, Patricia Grace, Robyn Kahukiwa and Kōhai Grace. Taranga was conceived of as a pou tokomanawa, an ancestral image which forms the central support pole of a meeting house, and images of it feature prominently in media coverage of the time.
The Wellington iteration of Karanga Karanga was organised by Haeata, the influential Māori Women’s Art Collective. Established in 1983 and based in Wellington, members of Haeata included Keri Kaa, Patricia Grace, Robyn Kahukiwa and Irihapeti Ramsden, all of who produced works within the show. Karanga Karanga was the first major visual art exhibition organised by Haeata; the collective have since acknowledged Anne Philbin, Wellington City Art Gallery’s director, as an important figure in their history for her support of Māori women’s art.
‘The exhibition is called Karanga Karanga because like the karanga—the first call, made by women to visitors to a marae it is, we believe the first time Māori women have invited the public to an exhibition of their work…’ Janet Pōtiki told The Dominion in 1986.
Karanga Karanga formed part of what has since been called the Te Māori upsurge: in 1984 the Te Māori exhibition toured the United States before returning home to great acclaim. Te Māori heralded a renaissance in the wider reception of Māori culture, however the exhibition featuring traditional Māori art and taonga did not include any Māori women’s art forms including cloaks or weaving. Te Māori also did not respond to Māori art as a current practise. In contrast Karanga Karanga was an exhibition where Māori women represented themselves, their own culture and concerns.
The public programme included daily demonstrations and weaving workshops in the gallery.