Nose to the sea

PACIFIC ENCOUNTERS: Six iwi based artists’ tribal narratives based on their connection with the sea is the theme of collaborative artwork, Rangiiwaho - Ihu ki te Moana (Nose to the Sea). The work is installed in what was once a library in Brtain’s National Maritime Museum, now the Sackler Gallery, home to Pacific Encounters. Pictures supplied
Ihu ki te Moana.

Two bookcases left behind in a library that was converted into a Pacific encounters gallery at London’s National Maritime Museum now contains 10,000 years of history from the easternmost edge of the globe.

Works by iwi-based artists Steve Gibbs, Kaatarina Kerekere, Ihipera Whakataka, Jual Toroa, Kay Robyn and Jody Toroa, who have tribal connections to Rangiiwaho (a hapu of Ngai Tamanuhiri), embody that history in a collaborative installation called Rangiiwaho - Ihu ki te Moana (Nose to the Sea).

Two central panels in the upper layer of the installation are made up of Kaatarina Kerekere’s works, Fragmented Land. Composed of copper, acrylic and painted timber, the work speaks of guardianship of the land, ocean and people; catastrophic first encounters with explorer James Cook’s crew, and colonisation. The painted pattern also reflects the legacy of navigational knowledge.

On the shelf at the foot of each panel is a glass specimen jar. Each jar contains a small silver sculpture of a stylised figure. Called Terms of Trade, one jar refers to the encasement of indigenous people while the other, Plant Protectors, underlines the role of guardianship of the environment.

The upper layer of the adjacent bookcase features Jody Toroa and Kay Robyn’s tukutuku panels made from natural fibres. It also contains Ihipera Whakataka’s fibre-based works of papawhariki (boiled and dyed harakeke), muka (stripped, boiled and dyed flax fibre), woven taniko; paua shells; a puhera (receptacle) and three plaited pieces with stones and shells that refer to the tenacity of birds that build their nests on the beach.

Based on ancestral figures in Ngai Tamanuhiri’s wharenui, Jual Toroa’s backlit, laser-cut, cobalt blue designs bookend the upper layer of both sections of the bookshelves. The figure to the left holds a laser-cut, Perspex hoe (waka paddle). The other holds a fish. A kakahu (cloak) is draped around the figure’s shoulders. The ancestral figure in the neighbouring bookcase also holds a fish while the figure on the right clutches a budding sprig to represent connections to the land.

Gibbs’ blue paintings comprise the bottom layer of both bookcases. They feature hoe reimagined as fish with the carved faces of tipuna; stylised he tipua a he taniwha he tangata (the eyes of tipuna), and two submerged wharenui,

“This is a history of the transnavigation of the Pacific,” says Gibbs.

“It talks about the stories of Kupe coming down the Pacific and includes (voyaging waka) Horouta and Takitimu and a portrait of our great grandparents who were born, and lived, in the Muriwai region. The idea of the blue transparency was to suggest water. The concept was to make the installation look like an aquarium.

“The paddles are still travelling around the world hence the migratory fish in the painting. They’re still moving.”

The hoe Gibbs’ imagery derives from were the starting point for a voyage into an ongoing relationship between four British museums and the people of Ngai Tamanuhiri and Rangiiwaho.

The installation, Rangiiwaho - Ihu ki te Moana, is named after a location at Whareongaonga. On October 12, 1769, days after the first catastrophic encounters with Maori, the Endeavour was becalmed off Whareongaonga. Rangiiwaho people paddled out to the stumpy scientific vessel to exchange taonga with the crew but their focus was Tahitian navigator Tupaia, says Gibbs.

A number of hoe and a cloak were among the exchanged or gifted items explorer James Cook took back to England. Study of these and other hoe in institutions around the world are part of Gibbs’ PhD study. In 2014 that study took the Toihoukura Maori visual arts and design school associate professor to Britain where he began his analysis of the designs on the hoe that had been preserved for more than two centuries.

British Museum staff later visited Gibbs and associates in Turanga. The relationship led to an invitation to install artworks in the converted maritime museum’s former library.

“Part of our kaupapa is to establish relationships with the museums that house our taonga,” says Gibbs.

“We established a mechanism titled Konohi Ora (the living faces of our ancestors) to foster ongoing relationships with our own museums and international museums.”

A significant objective in his study is to trace the process in which painted designs were transferred from hoe to heke (rafters) inside meeting houses. It is hoped these relationships will help bring those taonga home.

“They are stored in drawers,” says Gibbs.

“We want to make them visible again. This is a bit bigger than being Maori. It’s about being human.”

Two bookcases left behind in a library that was converted into a Pacific encounters gallery at London’s National Maritime Museum now contains 10,000 years of history from the easternmost edge of the globe.

Works by iwi-based artists Steve Gibbs, Kaatarina Kerekere, Ihipera Whakataka, Jual Toroa, Kay Robyn and Jody Toroa, who have tribal connections to Rangiiwaho (a hapu of Ngai Tamanuhiri), embody that history in a collaborative installation called Rangiiwaho - Ihu ki te Moana (Nose to the Sea).

Two central panels in the upper layer of the installation are made up of Kaatarina Kerekere’s works, Fragmented Land. Composed of copper, acrylic and painted timber, the work speaks of guardianship of the land, ocean and people; catastrophic first encounters with explorer James Cook’s crew, and colonisation. The painted pattern also reflects the legacy of navigational knowledge.

On the shelf at the foot of each panel is a glass specimen jar. Each jar contains a small silver sculpture of a stylised figure. Called Terms of Trade, one jar refers to the encasement of indigenous people while the other, Plant Protectors, underlines the role of guardianship of the environment.

The upper layer of the adjacent bookcase features Jody Toroa and Kay Robyn’s tukutuku panels made from natural fibres. It also contains Ihipera Whakataka’s fibre-based works of papawhariki (boiled and dyed harakeke), muka (stripped, boiled and dyed flax fibre), woven taniko; paua shells; a puhera (receptacle) and three plaited pieces with stones and shells that refer to the tenacity of birds that build their nests on the beach.

Based on ancestral figures in Ngai Tamanuhiri’s wharenui, Jual Toroa’s backlit, laser-cut, cobalt blue designs bookend the upper layer of both sections of the bookshelves. The figure to the left holds a laser-cut, Perspex hoe (waka paddle). The other holds a fish. A kakahu (cloak) is draped around the figure’s shoulders. The ancestral figure in the neighbouring bookcase also holds a fish while the figure on the right clutches a budding sprig to represent connections to the land.

Gibbs’ blue paintings comprise the bottom layer of both bookcases. They feature hoe reimagined as fish with the carved faces of tipuna; stylised he tipua a he taniwha he tangata (the eyes of tipuna), and two submerged wharenui,

“This is a history of the transnavigation of the Pacific,” says Gibbs.

“It talks about the stories of Kupe coming down the Pacific and includes (voyaging waka) Horouta and Takitimu and a portrait of our great grandparents who were born, and lived, in the Muriwai region. The idea of the blue transparency was to suggest water. The concept was to make the installation look like an aquarium.

“The paddles are still travelling around the world hence the migratory fish in the painting. They’re still moving.”

The hoe Gibbs’ imagery derives from were the starting point for a voyage into an ongoing relationship between four British museums and the people of Ngai Tamanuhiri and Rangiiwaho.

The installation, Rangiiwaho - Ihu ki te Moana, is named after a location at Whareongaonga. On October 12, 1769, days after the first catastrophic encounters with Maori, the Endeavour was becalmed off Whareongaonga. Rangiiwaho people paddled out to the stumpy scientific vessel to exchange taonga with the crew but their focus was Tahitian navigator Tupaia, says Gibbs.

A number of hoe and a cloak were among the exchanged or gifted items explorer James Cook took back to England. Study of these and other hoe in institutions around the world are part of Gibbs’ PhD study. In 2014 that study took the Toihoukura Maori visual arts and design school associate professor to Britain where he began his analysis of the designs on the hoe that had been preserved for more than two centuries.

British Museum staff later visited Gibbs and associates in Turanga. The relationship led to an invitation to install artworks in the converted maritime museum’s former library.

“Part of our kaupapa is to establish relationships with the museums that house our taonga,” says Gibbs.

“We established a mechanism titled Konohi Ora (the living faces of our ancestors) to foster ongoing relationships with our own museums and international museums.”

A significant objective in his study is to trace the process in which painted designs were transferred from hoe to heke (rafters) inside meeting houses. It is hoped these relationships will help bring those taonga home.

“They are stored in drawers,” says Gibbs.

“We want to make them visible again. This is a bit bigger than being Maori. It’s about being human.”

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