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Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Mata Aho Collective’s first work, Te Whare Pora (2012), is on display at Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi until 22 March.

Mata Aho Collective, Te Whare Pora, 2012, installation view, Enjoy Public Art Gallery

Established in 2012, the Mata Aho Collective is made up of four female Māori artists; Erena Baker (Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangātira), Sarah Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe), Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) and Terri Te Tau (Rangitāne ki Wairarapa).

Te Whare Pora was created while the collective were artists-in-residence at Enjoy Public Art Gallery in Wellington. The gallery became a contemporary whare pora (a house of learning), where they slept, ate and worked together on the project. Made from 20 deconstructed and reconfigured faux-mink blankets, the 10-metre high work flows down the wall and pools across the floor. The fabric is brushed in long strokes to create contrasting tonal depth. ‘The faux mink blanket speaks of a kitsch aesthetic reminiscent of velvet paintings, once popular for their renditions of the dusky maiden. Now common on marae throughout the country, the “minkie” has come to represent warm, plush beds within the wharenui.’

Mata Aho Collective, Aotearoa New Zealand. Kiko Moana (installation view at GOMA, Brisbane) 2019. Polythene tarpaulin, cotton thread, 400 x 1100 cm. Collection: The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

In 2016 Mata Aho was invited to create a piece for the documenta14 art exhibition in Kassel, Germany. They created Kiko Moana, an 11-metre installation that uses 60 slashed and sewn tarpaulin. The texture signifies ripples of water, hinting at a taniwha residing underneath. Kiko Moana was then acquired by Te Papa's Curator Mātauranga Māori, Matariki Williams, and in 2018 it was shown in the Royal Academy's Oceania exhibition in London.

This month the Dowse Art Museum launched Embodied Knowledge/Can Tame Anything, which documents the 2018 exhibitions Can Tame Anything (which featured works by Mata Aho Collective alongside other female contemporary artists) and Embodied Knowledge (sculptural works made by women artists). Edited by Dowse Senior Curator Melanie Oliver, the book is a collection of writing covering the mid-1980s through to today and aims to 'make visible histories of feminism, critical theory, and installation art practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.' It includes an essay on Mata Aho Collective by art writer and curator Hanahiva Rose.


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