Toi Māori from Govett-Brewster Collection creates new exhibition

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A new exhibition of Toi Māori from NPDC’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection opens on 5 August, spanning more than 50 years of contemporary Māori art practice.


Te Hau Whakatonu | A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings includes works by Māori artists represented in the gallery’s permanent collection, alongside two new commissions by Ngahina Hohaia and George Watson as well as Brett Graham’s Cease Tide of Wrong Doing, 2020, which the gallery is fundraising to add to the collection.


It seeks to celebrate and activate Toi Māori from the collection,” says the exhibition’s curator Taarati Taiaroa (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Apa).


“The gallery’s modest holding of Toi Māori reflects its exhibition histories, relationships with artists and shifting priorities, and this exhibition is a means to set a foundation to help inform the forward focus of Toi Māori at the gallery and in the collection.”


The exhibition is the first to be curated by Taarati, the Govett-Brewster’s Ringahāpai Kaitakatū Ngā Toi Māori / Assistant Curator Contemporary Māori Art, since taking up the newly established role last October.

The title, Te Hau Whakatonu, was given by Te Ingo Ngaia, a member of the Māori leadership group for the gallery, He Whiringa Toi. Hau is the vital essence, life force, breath, to be heard. It is the sign of life - that something is living.


The sub-title A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings is a phrase used by Māori rights advocate and leader Moana Jackson to describe whakapapa and storytelling in the Māori intellectual tradition.


“He Whiringa Toi works with the Gallery team to prioritise our Māori artists, works and stories and this exhibition and associated conversations are important steps in growing our tribal presence and voice in the Gallery, and in the wider community,” says He Whiringa Toi Chair Wharehoka Wano.


Gallery Ringatohu/Director Dr Zara Stanhope says the exhibition is a valuable reflection point for the gallery’s permanent collection.

“We take seriously the priority of ensuring ours is a living Collection, which supports the activation of a perpetual series of beginnings for works as society changes. This project is a significant reflection on how the collection continues to reflect lived meaning for artists, communities, and those who engage with the Gallery now and into the future.”


The exhibition is supported by range of other activities including a series of whaiwhakaaro – public conversations led by invited community members, cultural leaders, and artists.


Opening weekend also features a free events programme as a number of exhibiting artists activate kōrero between works through the Gallery spaces.


On Saturday 5 Augusts there are conversations with Ayesha Green and Tia Ranginui (10.30am); Brett Graham and Ngahina Hohaia (1pm) and Darcy Nicholas and Wharehoka Smith (2.30pm). On Sunday 6 August join exhibition artist Ayesha Green to create a picture book drawing inspired by your memory.


Te Hau Whakatonu | A Series of Never-Ending Beginnings runs 5 August 2023 to 11 February 2024 at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.


Caption: Ngahina Hohaia, Roimata Toroa, 2006. Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Photography (detail) by Bryan James.


Fast Facts:

  • Govett-Brewster Art Gallery opened in 1970, funded by a bequest from local woman Monica Brewster (nee Govett), with the Len Lye Centre opening within the Gallery in 2015.
  • The Gallery has won numerous architectural and design awards and is recognised for its exhibition programming.
  • The Gallery is owned and operated by NPDC and attracts more than 70,000 visitors a year.
  • The Gallery also runs an art and design store, an art-house cinema, and holds regular education and public programmes relating to the exhibitions and contemporary conversations.