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Infinite potential

By Sophie Carter

The Māori proverb “Iti noa ana, he pito mata” (a small portion will produce a harvest) refers to the uncooked portion of the kūmara, which when replanted and nurtured will grow.

Turumeke Harrington in her studio

Drawing on this proverb in her latest exhibition, He pito mata, I’m energetic, Turumeke Harrington asserts a fresh energy that might perhaps inspire anyone whose potential has been underestimated. Growing up, the Wellington artist felt that Western education treated potential “as a goal to be met, a resource to use up.” By contrast, according to the Māori world view, potential is “neither good nor bad, but rather neutral and all-encompassing.”

Turumeke Harrington, He pito mata, I'm energetic!, The Dowse Art Museum, 2022-2023

In He pito mata, I'm energetic! Harrington draws on several Māori creation stories including that of Te Kore, the void of unlimited potential, and that of Tāne-mahuta’s separation of the earth and sky to give humans space to thrive. Harrington gives her viewers such space in this large-scale, interactive exhibition, allowing them to make their own path through a forest of bright green silk curtains using her own “stylised interpretation of the tī kōuka (cabbage tree).”

“I just want people to take any feeling from the space,” says Harrington, and she incorporates an eerie soundtrack into the exhibition for this purpose.

Turumeke Harrington, Untitled, installation view from The Dowse Art Museum, 2022-2023

Placed around the makeshift forest are homely features; futon mattresses on steel daybeds, and bone-shaped wool rugs – intertwining nature and the marae. Tie-down straps are also part of the display, woven with Harrington’s name throughout. “I am named after my tupuna, Ema Turumeke, and enjoy carrying this whakapapa literally through the materials.”

Harrington holds Bachelor degrees in Fine Arts from Canterbury University, and in Industrial Design from Victoria University, and received a Master of Fine Arts from Massey University in 2022.

Harrington still finds new ways to challenge herself. “The exhibition in this finished form feels very much like a starting place, a lot of ideas and work to build from.”

He pito mata, I'm energetic! finished showing at Dowse Art Museum in Feb 2023.

First published in Art Zone #93


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