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Zena Elliott & Tia Barrett: Muramura of Protest

February 4, 2023 @ 10:00 am February 28, 2023 @ 4:00 pm

Image of Ira Weherua-Kore (Non-Binary Gender), 2022
Zena Elliott

Zena Elliott & Tia Barrett: Muramura of Protest

4 – 28 February 2023

Opening: Saturday 4 February, 2 – 4pm

Muramura of Protest is a collaborative and multidisciplinary exhibition that highlights the importance of having a presence and voice from a mana takatāpui and wāhine position. This exhibition campaigns for the right to exist and glow brightly as our authentic natural selves. 

Muramura of Protest is a loud and gentle exhibition that explores the relationships between gender identity and Māori culture. The creative works speak through diverse visual languages that unpack patriarchal practices and belief systems. Offering an inclusive environment of Whakairo, moving image, painting and experimental sound that provides a sense of belonging. 

The kupu muramura means vivid with colour. Within the context of this exhibition, Zena Elliott and Tia Barrett employ the notion of vividness to express the visibility of their Māori culture, creativity and identity through an immersive creative encounter.

Installation view of Muramura of Protest
Muramura is a visual representation and gentle reminder of where life started, inside the whare tangata. A safe, tapu, and beautiful space that holds glowing potential and the building blocks of an individual’s unique mātauranga Māori journey. At this stage in our lives, our minds have endless opportunities, and all of our dreams can be made true. Social constructs haven’t conditioned us yet. The compositing of whenua, water and close-up imagery of the mouth and face footage creates a reimagining of inside the whare tangata from a lens of opportunity and optimism. 

Layering vivid tones of mākurakura (magenta) are used to symbolise tapu bloodline and whakapapa, which all Māori have and connects us back to whenua me o ngā tūpuna. The karakia performed as spoken word poetry is to set good intentions and protect the exhibition’s kaupapa. The taonga pūoro ngā tumutumu (wood and river-stone musical instruments) and underwater sounds from a hydrophone are overlayed to create sounds that are inspired by the inside of the womb.

About the Artists

Zena Elliott (Ngāti Awa, Te Whanau ā Apanui, Te Arawa, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāti Raukawa, Whakatōhea, Tūwharetoa) is an established Waikato based multidisciplinary artist positioned within a contemporary painting and whakairo art practice. Zena’s creative works stimulate discussion about gender fluidity, visibility, cultural identity and popular culture. Elliott has shown in the ground-breaking 2020-21 exhibition staged by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki ‘Toi Tū Toi Ora’ curated by Nigel Borell. Elliott has artworks held in national and international public and private collections. In 2022, Elliott was commissioned to create a painting named ‘Kotahitanga’ for the 100th year celebration of the Matangireia, Māori Affairs Committee Room at the New Zealand parliament in Wellington. 

“I am an established artist and PhD candidate at the Auckland University of Technology. My research is a practice-led enquiry into the impacts of colonisation on takatāpui / wāhine kaiwhakairo. The kaupapa is based on lived experiences within the domain of whakairo, education, social and cultural societies and the broader contexts that have formed my mana takatāpui kaiwhakairo position. My creative practice navigates the complexities of patriarchal attitudes towards gender-specific art practices that have been put in place within Te Ao Māori. The study shines new light towards the darkest corners of society, the forgotten, excluded and erased. The research makes visible the precious, mystical, and sacred of the other. Creativity is a sought-after gift handed over through intergenerational talents and is not defined by sex or gender.

My greatest challenge is not only attempting to dismantle the patriarchal influence on Māori women within the domain of whakairo but more so carving out time, space, and place for people like me. People born differently or do not fit within the western norms of sex and gender. This enquiry is a thought-provoking artistic dialogue that discusses relevant contemporary social and political issues that are transformed into a creative reimagining of whakairo practice. This approach celebrates and offers new pūrākau that addresses current issues and debates about takatāpui and its place within Te Ao Māori. Through a carved and painted visual pūrākau, my work provides new perspectives and insights that deconstruct colonial gender ideals that have affected the visibility and validation to exist as takatāpui within Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā social and cultural contexts. A reconstruction process enables the voices of those who have been silenced, erased, and categorised as abnormal to be seen and heard.

My grandmother gifted our whānau her knowledge about colour and how it is alive and has mauri. Colour is an important aspect of my creative art practice. I have been incorporating fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark and neon colours into my work since the mid-1990s. The artworks that feature in Muramura of Protest are part of a wider critical discussion of gender identities and roles relating to my creative research. The whakairo piece ‘Be Brave, Be Courageous, Be You’ is my creative expression that encapsulates the diverse cultural and social representations of sex and gender that are articulated through patterns of diverse variants of genealogy and identity that portray the individual characteristics of one’s cultural identity.”

Tia Barrett (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mamoe, Te Rapuwai, Waitaha, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tamainupō) is an emerging Waikato based moving image practitioner and photographer. Barrett’s art practice is primarily grounded in celebrating her wāhine Māori identity and deepening her connection to the whenua me o ngā tūpuna through a lens based practice. Barrett is a recent graduate of the Masters of visual arts programme at the Auckland University of Technology. Her thesis title is ‘He Pounamu Ko Aū: Celebrating my mana wāhine Māori narrative’. Barrett holds a Bachelor of Arts – Major in Screen and Media from The University of Waikato and a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication from Massey University.

28 Clarence Street, Devonport
Auckland, 0624 New Zealand
09-963 2331
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