Kōwhaiwhai is sometimes defined as Māori abstract painting. It is characterised by swirling, spiralling patterns evoking whakapapa – designs which simultaneously connect Māori with the natural world.
Europeans first detected kōwhaiwhai on 18th century hoe (waka paddles) before seeing it on the hulls of waka and on the heke (rafters) of wharenui (meeting houses). Since that time a history of Eurocentric appropriation and assimilation has resulted in kōwhaiwhai becoming (not uncontroversially) a signifier not only of New Zealand art but of Aotearoa New Zealand itself.
To open our 2022 programme we are proud to present the work of ten Māori artists. Each of the ten has a practice that explores, develops and engages with a design principle gifted to them by their ancestors. And each proclaims kōwhaiwhai as a taonga that is powerful, relevant and alive in the 21st Century.
HIRIA ANDERSON (Rereahu, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Apakura)
NIGEL BORELL (Pirirakau, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Whakatōhea)
LISSY ROBINSON-COLE (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu)
RUDI ROBINSON-COLE (Ngāti Paoa, Ngaruahine, Ngāti Makirangi, Ngāti Tu)
RUSS FLATT (Ngāti Kahungunu)
RA GOSSAGE (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Ruahine)
MAIA McDONALD (Te Ati Āwa Parihaka, Ngāti Mutunga) Courtesy of ‘Season’
TRACEY TAWHIAO (Ngāi Te Rangi, Te Whakatōhea, Tūwharetoa)
SAFFRONN TE RATANA (Ngāi Tūhoe)
KURA TE WARU REWIRI (Ngāti Pakahi ki Whangaroa, Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu, Ngāti Kauwhata ki Raukawa)