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Connection through whenua

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

A new exhibition in Wellington brings together artworks and stories that explore te taiao.

Whenua Ūkaipō Connectedness has been created to celebrate the United Nations 75th anniversary and offer a cross-cultural dialogue on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The exhibition weaves together Māori, Aboriginal, Kanaka Maoli, Samoan, Fijian, Indian, and Pākehā perspectives on te taiao (the natural environment) and sustainability.

Seventeen artists, whose practices span harakeke weaving, sculpture, photography, floral works, painting, poetry, and Māori traditional music, have been invited to engage one of the United Nation’s seventeen “Sustainable Development Goals”, such as “climate action” or “reduced inequalities”. Each artist brings their connections to whenua, as both a source of sustenance and a foundation for belonging, to the exhibition. Their works offer contemplation on individual and national roles in achieving the goals set by the UN. The artists include Sheree Willman (AZ #84), Tiffany Singh (AZ #79, #68) and Margaret Aull (AZ #62).

The exhibition is curated by Piri Cowie (Kāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) who says she has centred a kaupapa Māori approach and a strong theme of connectedness/herenga within the exhibition. The lead artwork Toa, an uku sculpture by Baye Pewhairangi Riddell (Ngāti Porou), holds the stance of a Kaiwero or a “challenger”. The sculpture is made from clay sourced from Riddell’s family land on the East Coast of the North Island. Piri says the sculpture “is symbolic of the warrior qualities of courage, honour, respect, protection of whanau, and perseverance, while laying down a challenge to consider the stand we are making for te taiao today”.

Whenua Ūkaipō Connectedness received a special commendation for the inclusion of indigenous voices in discourses, on Sustainable Goals, from Fabrizio Hochschild-Drummond, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Commemoration of the UN 75th Anniversary.

At the Public Trust Hall, Stout St, Wellington from 31 October.

By Lucy Wormald

Images courtesy of Coexistence Wellington for Whenau Ūkaipō Connectedness Art Exhibition.

Margaret Aull in collaboration with Leilani Kake (Digital), Elizabeth Gray (Tāonga

Pūoro), "Toi is Rongoa", 2020

Tiffany Singh & Ella Brewer, "Namgyalma // Long Life", 2018

Kanaka Maoli Artist - Lehuanani C. Waipā Ah Nee, "Kanaloa Errected", 2015

Baye Pewhairangi Riddell, "Toa", 2019


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