“Kotahi te kohao o te ngira e kuhuna ai te miro ma, te miro pango, te miro whero. I muri, kia mau ki te aroha, ki te ture, ki te whakapono; Through the eye of the needle pass the white threads, the black threads, and the red threads. Afterwards, looking to the past as you progress, hold firmly to your love, the law, and your faith.” – King Potatau Te Wherowhero.

Commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by Ngāti Paoa, the Waiheke Community Art Gallery is offering insight into traditional Māori art with a contemporary twist in twin exhibitions opening tomorrow night.

Through consultation with Māori elders, the kaupapa of the exhibition came together with the support of Waiheke Local Board, Waiheke Rotary and the Chenery Trust, in what is a first for the art gallery.

Te Kohao O Te Ngira – the Eye of the Needle, is a Waitangi Day showcase which references the island’s Hauraki and Tamaki connections. The accompanying exhibition, Grid, features work by Australian and New Zealand artists exploring and challenging the title theme through drawing, painting, light, installation, printmaking and weaving.

Curators of Te Kohao O Te Ngira, George Kahi, cultural advisor to the gallery, and Sylvia Nelson collaboratively developed the kaupapa for the exhibition to commemorate this historic occasion, and to reference locality and identity.  

“This is the first time the gallery has presented a Treaty of Waitangi exhibition and we hope the community will find the exhibition engaging and informative in highlighting our history,” Sylvia says.

The Treaty was signed by Ngāti Paoa rangatira from Waiheke, Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata at Karaka Bay on 4 March and 9 July 1840.

The exhibition title draws on the words of Potatau Te Wherowhero (the first Maori king from 1858 to 1860) spoken to his son, Tukaroto Matutaera, who became King Tawhiao Matutaera Te Pukepuke (1860 to 1894). They spoke of strength and beauty through both unity and diversity.

Individual threads can break, but woven together they gain strength, as with traditionally woven tukutuku panels. Northland weavers led by Maureen Lander have worked alongside Waiheke weavers from Piritahi Marae to create a major collaborative installation that links the Treaty exhibition to Grid, showcasing how the traditional inspires the contemporary.

Waiheke artists participating include Denis O’Connor, Virginia King, Chris Bailey, Paora Toi Te Rangiuaia, Anton Forde, Jeanine Clarkin, Sid Marsh, and weavers from Piritahi Marae.

Auckland-based artists
include Lorna Dickson, Fiona Pardington, Emily Karaka, Stanley Palmer, Andrea Hopkins, Nigel Borell, Dion Hitchens, Luke Jacomb, and Charlotte Graham.

Grid has been curated by Katherine Kennedy from Sydney, a former intern at the gallery in 2015 who curated the exhibition Core in 2016 and managed the Pavilion Gallery at Headland in 2017.

While on Waiheke last year Katherine developed the theme for Grid, captivated by the work of the Pa Te Aroha (Bay of Islands) and Waiheke weavers, observing the link between the traditional art form and the works of contemporary artists.

Grid features high-profile Australian artists Imants Tillers and Michael Kempson and Aboriginal artists Terrence Combos, Tony Albert and Jody Graham – all of whom use the grid in their arts. Alongside this group are New Zealand artists Robert Fraser and Veronica Herber, Michelle Mayn and Karyn Taylor.

On Saturday 17 February, the last weekend of the exhibition, the gallery will host an evening with Emily Karaka at the Owhanake Barn from 5pm, where she will be interviewed by Dean Ogilvy about her calling as a painter. Tickets for this special event are $25 per person and can be booked online through the gallery website.

Te Kohao Te Ngira – The Eye of the Needle and Grid open tomorrow, Friday 19 January, at 6pm. www.waihekeartgallery.org.nz

Don’t forget to have your say on the future of the Artworks Precinct by filling out the online survey that closes this Sunday.  Visit www.shapeartworks.org.nz for more information.

• Safia Archer’s weekly arts diary

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