Maori involvement & the Wairau Māori Art Gallery

These questions and answers are a work-in-progress. If you need more information on any topic, or can’t find the answer you need, please contact us here.

Has the Māori art gallery always been part of the art centre?

Absolutely. Māori art has always been integral to Whangarei’s Hundertwasser Art Centre project.

When Hundertwasser chose the old Harbour Board building to re-design in his own style, he declared his new concept would be an art centre that would include a gallery of his own works and a gallery dedicated to Maori art (as well as an education centre).

When WDC owned the earlier Hundertwasser Art Centre project they formed a special independent Māori advisory panel to develop the concept for a Māori gallery space. The highly regarded Māori artists and scholars who became that Panel went on to formulate a concept for New Zealand’s first curated and dedicated gallery for contemporary Māori fine art.

When the newly elected WDC dropped the project mid-2014, the Māori Advisory Panel remained and re-committed themselves to working with community-led group Prosper Northland Trust to get the art centre built without council funding.

They are now known as the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board and are a vital component of the HUNDERTWASSER ART GALLERY with Wairau Māori Art Gallery project.

You can listen to an interview on Waatea News about the Wairau Māori Art Gallery here.

What is the Wairau Māori Art Gallery?

Hundertwasser always envisioned the building including a large component of Māori art.

The Whangarei HWMAC will include the Wairau Māori Art Gallery, exhibiting works of our most gifted Northland Māori artists alongside works of national standing, loaned from collections of major public art museums including Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery.

The Wairau Māori Art Gallery – taking up one entire floor of the HWMAC – will be the only permanent and curated national gallery dedicated to contemporary Māori Art.

In 2012 a special Māori advisory panel – which became the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board – was established as a requirement of the Vienna-based Hundertwasser Non- Profit Foundation to honour the artist’s wishes for a dedicated Māori gallery in the HAC building.

The project has been extremely lucky to attract a group of distinguised scholars, artists and kaumatua, who will consult extensively with Māori about the creation of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery.

The Board will advise on the curatorship of art and exhibitions in keeping with the harmony, spirit and philosophy of Māori culture.

From the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board:

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga hau e wha, tena koutou, tena koutou tena koutou katoa.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser became so closely attuned to Māori during his life time that the concept of a gallery for exhibiting Māori art has been included in his final design for a Cultural Centre. The Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board that was established in 2012 has been working towards this end. We have named the gallery Wairau which is the transliteration of the word Hundertwasser which means One Hundred Waters in English.

The Wairau Māori Art Gallery, will have exhibitions of the best of contemporary Māori artists from all parts of New Zealand many of whom will be Toi Iho artists. This is the trademark of authenticity and quality Maori art and artists. These Māori artists will be role models for students, Maori and national and international visitors to Whangarei. In addition from time to time, indigenous artists from other countries will be invited to exhibit their work in the Wairau Māori Art Gallery. For the first time visitors to Whangarei and New Zealand will be able to see the best quality Maori indigenous contemporary works on permanent display in one place, the Wairau Māori Art Gallery, Whangarei.

Te toi whakairo, ka ihiihi, ka wehiwehi, ka aweawe te ao katoa.
Artistic excellence makes the world sit up in wonder.

Elizabeth Ellis, Chair of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board  –
Patu Hohepa, Manos Nathan, Lisa Reihana, Allen Wihongi, Taipari Munro, Shane Cotton, Ngahiraka Mason and Dr. Benjamin Pittman.

You can listen to an interview on Waatea News about the Wairau Māori Art Gallery here.

Who are the members of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board?

Elizabeth Ellis CNZM, JP (Ngāpuhi, Ngati Kuta, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Takimoana, Ngai Tane) has been the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board Chair since its inception in 2012. Elizabeth is also Chair of Toi Iho Charitable Trust, the trademark of authentic high quality Māori art, and Chair of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki’s Māori cultural advisory group, Haerewa.  She is a recipient of a Te Waka Toi Award for a lifetime contribution to Nga Toi Maori and Maori culture.

She is a graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland, who served on Creative NZ’s Council for 12 years including nine as Chair of its Māori Arts Board, Te Waka Toi. The NZ representative on the Pacific Arts Council for 10 years, she was also a trustee of the Arts Foundation of NZ.  The former Education Review Office Area Manager was also Commissioner of Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay for three years.

“This outstanding initiative will be a means of promoting Māori artists and advocating for high quality Māori art and expressions of culture. It will build a positive profile for all Māori, serving across all hapu and iwi in New Zealand, and will form an invaluable global link with other indigenous communities. We are pleased to offer our support for this project.”

Dr Benjamin Pittman (Ngati Hao, Te Parawhau, Ngati Hau) joined the Wairau Mãori Art Gallery Board in July 2015 and represents the Board at the weekly Project Action Team meetings in Whangarei.

A painter and educator born in Whangarei, Benjamin was the first Mãori graduate to hold BFA and MFA(Hons) degrees from Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland. Resident overseas for 32 years in Sydney and 2 years in Kaua’i, he returned home to Northland and his ancestral lands in January 2013 to focus on painting and writing. Benjamin is Te Ara Whakarei, a Lifetime member of Toi Iho.

A great-great grandson of Patuone, Benjamin is Chair of Ngati Hau Trust Board; Te Pouwhenua o Tiakiriri Kupupa Trust; Tai Tokerau District Mãori Council; New Zealand Mãori Council; a member of the Whangarei Mãori Executive; Hapu kaikorero for Ngati Hau on TIMA and Chairman of Ngati Rahiri Mãori Komiti. He also holds various degrees from University of NSW, UTSydney and CISydney.

Dr Patu Hohepa (Ngāpuhi, Te Mahurehure) is the former Māori Language Commissioner and Professor of Māori at Auckland University, he is an internationally respected cultural tohunga, and is regularly consulted by indigenous leaders in Australia, the Pacific, Canada and America. He has served as a trustee of numerous boards in the arts, education, health, heritage and forestry sectors. He is a recipient of a Te Waka Toi Award for strengthening Te Reo Rangatira. Patu is a Kaumatua of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki’s Mãori cultural advisory group, Haerewa, and a trustee of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust, Whangarei.

“I know Ngāpuhi will see the Hundertwasser Art Centre as bringing mana of the highest standing to Northland. This Centre, and the proposed Māori Art and Culture Museum, will enhance what is already being made into a beautifully landscaped, scenic part of Whangarei.”

Shane Cotton ONZM (Ngati Rangi, Ngati Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) is one of New Zealand’s most important living painters. He is a graduate of Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury. He has received prestigious awards including an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate, the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship and the Seppelt Contemporary Art Award, the Te Waka Toi Award Te Tohu Mahi Hou, for New Work. Shane served on Te Waka Toi, the Mãori Arts Board of Creative New Zealand and is Te Ara Whakarei, a Lifetime member of Toi Iho.

Shane’s work has been exhibited in major international shows nationally and internationally and his work is held in collections around the world.

“This project is the best thing that could happen to artists and the people of Whangarei.”

Lisa Reihana (Ngāpuhi, Ngati Hine, Ngai Tu) is an internationally acclaimed multi-media artist. A tertiary educator for twenty years, she initiated Manukau Institute of Technology’s moving image department and is now Tohunga-a-Toi at Unitec’s School of Art. She is a member of Auckland Art Gallery’s Māori cultural advisory group, Haerewa. She is a graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland and of UNITEC. Lisa is a recipient of a 2015 Te Waka Toi Award, Te Tohu Toi Ke for making a positive difference to Nga Toi Mãori and an Arts Foundation Laureate Award. Lisa is Te Ara Whakarei, a Lifetime member of Toi Iho.

Lisa is the next New Zealand representative of the Venice Biennale 2017. Lisa’s installations express Mãori cultural values and aesthetics from an urban experience. She reinterprets oral histories and customary lore for a collective contemporary consciousness.

“The Hundertwasser Art Centre is an unique opportunity for Whangarei. The Māori Art Gallery will provide a global platform for our local artists, right at the gateway to Northland.”

Allen Wihongi (Ngāpuhi, Te Uri o Hua) was Te Runanga-a-Iwi-o-Ngāpuhi’s general manager for iwi development. Allen spent over 35 years in education. He lectured at tertiary arts institutions for 10 years and was head of Northtec’s School of Applied Arts. A Tohunga Whakairo, Master Carver and decorator of meeting houses, he is also a trustee of Northland’s Culture, Heritage, Arts Resource Trust (CHART). Allen is te Ara Whakarei, a Lifetime member of Toi Iho.

“Hundertwasser harboured a genuine respect for Mãori art and culture. By ensuring that there is a place within this project for Māori, he has taken this respect beyond mere lip service, thus guaranteeing and safeguarding Māori status as tangata whenua.”

Ngahiraka Mason, Māori Art Gallery advisor, (Ngai Tuhoe, Te Arawa, Ngati Pango) was the Indigenous curator at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki for 20 years and is now a Curator of the Honolulu Biennial 2017 based in Hawaii. The Art Historian’s recent exhibitions include Modern Māori (2011) and Turuki Turuki! Paneke Paneke! (2008), Five Mãori Painters 2015. She has served as a Te Māori Manaaki Taonga Trustee.

“A Māori Art Gallery within the Hundertwasser Arts Centre is visionary and timely.”

Taipari Munro, Tangata Whenua advisor to Hundertwasser Art Centre (Te Uriroroi, Te Parawhau, Ngati Taka, Ngati Wai, Ngati Korora, Te Waiariki, Ngati Pukenga, Ngati Te Tawera) is a member of Whangarei District Council’s Te Karearea Mãori committee. He also Chairs the Whatitiri Māori Council committee and the Ruarangi Block Trust.

“This project will contribute greatly to building recognition for Te Tai Tokerau as a region of history and culture along with great artistic skill and quality.”

We also wish to acknowledge the tremendous support of two highly respected colleagues, Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (Ngāpuhi/Te Aupouri/Ngati Kuri) who passed away October 2014 and Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Ngāpuhi)who passed away September 2015. They are greatly missed.

Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (Ngāpuhi/Te Aupouri/Ngati Kuri) was Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts. Formerly director of Te Papa Tongarewa’s art and collection services, he was regarded as a pioneer of contemporary Māori and Pacific art history.

Jonathan taught the history of 19th and early 20th century Viennese art and architecture, including Hundertwasser, at the University of Canterbury. He has served on the councils of Creative NZ and the Royal Society of NZ and is a governor of the Arts Foundation of NZ. Jonathan long admired Hundertwasser’s art.

“He had a strong affinity and empathy with the Māori way of life. This project will bring an iconic work of architecture to Whangarei which will be a magnet for cultural tourists.”

Manos Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Ngāpuhi) was one of New Zealand’s leading ceramics and clay artists. Dargaville based, he exhibited extensively worldwide and his works are found in public collections including the British Museum, Museum of Scotland, the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Seattle’s Burke Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa. Manos is Te Ara Whakarei, Toi Iho is a Taonga Tuku Iho.

Manos was a founding member of Nga Kaihanga Uku the national clayworkers’organisation of Aotearoa and a founding member of Te Aitinga, the visual arts committee of Toi Mãori Aotearoa. A member of NZ Historic Places Trust’s Mãori Heritage Council, he was inducted into Massey University’s College of Creative Arts Hall of Fame 2010.

“Along with my admiration for Hundertwasser as an artist and architect, I have a deep respect for his ecological commitment to the preservation and restoration of our planet’s natural habitats.”

Why was the name 'Wairau' chosen, and whom by?

The Māori Advisory Panel chose the name Wairau for the contemporary Māori Art Gallery. This is their explanation of the name:

“We support this initiative because this extraordinary artist had a deep love of Māori, as shown by his inspirational concept of having a Maori Art Gallery inside the Hundertwasser Arts Centre.  

“As a result we have named the Māori Art gallery after him. Hundertwasser in Te Reo Maori means Wairau, which means ‘one hundred waters’ in English.

“The Gallery will have exhibitions of high quality experienced contemporary Māori artists and indigenous artists on permanent display.”

What about the Hihiaua Culture Centre?

The beautiful and perfectly-sited Hihiaua Culture Centre is an architecturally designed complex proposed for the Hihiaua Peninsula at the Southern end of the Town Basin.

The project is the vision of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust (HCCT), which is to create a high quality centre of excellence to display, demonstrate and promote Whangarei’s Māori culture, traditions and arts.

All organisations involved with promoting the Hundertwasser project have always voiced their strong support for the Hihiaua project. The two projects complement each other and care has been taken to ensure that there is no cross-over or competition between the two in terms of display or design.

Many Hundetwasser supporters believe the Hihiaua project, which is yet to start raising their required capital, will have a much better chance of gaining funding once the HWMAC is underway, as the increased interest in Whangarei (and increased visitor numbers) will strengthen its case.

The new PNT proposal for the HWMAC requires the WDC to spend more than $5 million less than it had included in the Long Term Plan for the old HAC project, so a positive case could well be made for WDC funding for Hihiaua to be included in the LTP.

While there is no formal agreement between PNT, the HCCT and WAMT, there is open dialogue between the three Trusts and in the case of WAMT and HCCT there are Trustees in common.