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A lock of hair

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

A collaborative exhibition about traditional Māori hairstyles, hair types and hair adornments is currently at Pātaka Art + Museum.

Rangimarie Jolley and Sian Montgomery-Neutze have both been part of the Hine Pae Kura and Toi Wāhine Māori female artist collectives and have exhibited together numerous times. They were compiling lists of Māori words and terms for specific subjects for another project when they started coming across some that neither of them had ever heard of, and some they had, that were being used in a different context − all about hair. This was the spark for new exhibition IHO, which explores traditional terms for Māori hair through dramatic portraits and accompanying written works.

IHO has a lot of meanings. Rangimaire explains that in the exhibition it refers to a lock of hair. It also has links to the term Ngā Kōrero tuku iho, ‘as in something that is passed down through the art of storytelling. It was one of the initial terms we came across.’

More than 60 people are involved in the project including models, artists, photographers, and writers of poems and prose. Working with such a large group of people can be challenging but Rangimaire says, ‘I think the biggest highlight has been working collectively to contribute to the development of our mātauranga Māori. For many of us, this project has been about reconnecting ourselves with, and exploring the complexities of, our taha Māori.’ Almost all of them are from or based in Porirua. Rangimarie says Pātaka’s connection to the community was a major reason why the exhibition had come to the Porirua gallery.

Rangimaire wrote about Urukehu, meaning red. The model for the image is Te Arahou Huia who ‘has this stunning, vibrant, ethereal look about her,’ and a ‘glorious, long mane of straight red hair.’ But rather than write about red hair specifically, Rangimaire’s poem is about indigeneity and connection to the land through blood. She says Te Arahou embodies this, and for her, it evokes ‘some magical creature who's just climbed out of the belly of the earth.’


Pātaka Art + Museum, Porirua

Until 14 July


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