Dr Sandy Adsett is one of the most influential Māori artists and teachers of his generation. He spoke at Te Papa on Saturday 30 October, 2021, at the invitation of Te Papa and Pātaka Art+Museum.
In the 1990s, Sandy Adsett and his Toihoukura students contributed to the creation of Rongomaraeroa, the marae at Te Papa, with Cliff Whiting, during the museum’s development.
Twenty-five years on, Adsett talks about that mahi
mahiworkMāori | Noun, the aspirations held for Rongomaraeroa and the challenges of realising them, the reasons behind some of the creative decisions made, as well as what it might mean to maintain a ‘contemporary marae’.
ARAPATA HAKIWAI: E heoi anō rā, kia ora tātou. Tīmata nei i te karakia:
Whakataka te hau ki te uru
Whakataka te hau ki te tonga
Kia mākinakina ki uta
Kia mātaratara ki tai
E hī ake ana te ata kura
He tio, he huka, he hau hū
Tīhei mauri ora!
Heoi anō, nau mai, piki mai, haramai. Haramai ki runga i tō tātou marae, Rongomaraeroa.
Ki mua i te karanga nei o tō tipuna whare, o Te Hono ki Hawaiki, anō rā te tipua kei runga, ko Māui Tikitiki-a-Taranga e pū[kana] whakarongo, e pū[kana] whakararo nei ki a tātou i tēnei rā.
Nō reira koutou rā, pikaungia ō koutou mate o te wā. Hei aha? Hei mihi, hei tangi ki a rātou. Nō reira koutou rā, kei ngā kuru pounamu, kei ngā mōtoi kahurangi, haere, haere, haere koutou rā.
Haere koutou ki te kāinga i whakaritea nei mō koutou moe mārire mai koutou. Ko tēnā te pō, nau mai te ao. Kia ora tātou, mauri ora ki te whaiao, ki te ao mārama.
Heoi anō, koutou rā, kei ngā mana, kei ngā reo, kei ngā whakamataku, nau mai, piki mai, haramai.
Haramai ki tēnei kaupapa whakanui nei, i te rā nei. He kōrero mō ēnei taonga, me te whakarewa anō nei o te pukapuka nui nei i te rā nei.
Nō reira, nau mai i runga i te aroha. Nau mai i runga i te karanga nei o te whare.
Hei te Pāpā – Maungaharuru te maunga, Mōhaka te awa, Ngati Pāhauwera te hapū, Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi – tēnei mai i ahau, Heretaunga Haukūnui, Heretaunga Ararau, ki a Wairoa Hōpūpū Hōnengenenge Mātangirau tēnei te mihi ake.
Tēnei te mihi ake nei i runga i te hononga mai rā anō nei tēnei, e mihi nei, e mahi nei, mō Te Papa, mō Te Papa Tongarewa.
Nō reira, e kore e taea te mihi nei te ngākau, te hinengaro, te whatumanawa e kore ngā mihi nei, e kore e taea te mihi mōu e te Pāpā.
Heoi anō rā, he mihi ki a koe Reuben, ko koe te Tumu Whakarae o Pātaka me ō koutou kaimahi e whakahaere nei te whakaaturanga nei, taonga nei, nui a Toi Koru nei kei tō whare pupuri taonga.
Anō te hari, te tino harikoa.
Nō reira e hika mā, koutou, nau mai, piki mai, haramai.
Look, I just want to welcome everyone today. Look, it’s a real honour and privilege to welcome Sandy back to your house, your whare, to our house. We’re honoured and privileged to have you here.
It was an honour and privilege to speak at the opening of the Toi Koru exhibition, and I just want to acknowledge Reuben, Pātaka, and the kaimahi (staff) there for that fantastic exhibition.
But we really look forward to Sandy, and as I was saying, you’re part of this whare, and the history of this whare, and the aspiration of the whare.
And I can recall, I was here, actually, when this whare was being built, and the creative energy – you could feel it, you could see it, you could hear it, and I’m glad that we have this opportunity for you to speak about these taonga (treasures), and speak about Rongomaraeroa, and the aspiration from you, Cliff, and the many artists: Bob (Janke), Robyn (Kahukiwa), Kura (Te Waru Rewiri), Darcy (Nicholas) that contributed to making this taonga.
So, mai i a māua ko Courtney, me ngā kaimahi o Te Papa Tongarewa he mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.
Look, I just want to acknowledge Tamahou (Temara), Toi Māori, Creative New Zealand, Toi Aotearoa, and everyone here. I know the book, the pukapuka, and Reuben will follow me with some words.
Look, this is fantastic, and Sandy, you’ve always been my favourite artist, I don’t know because we share the same iwi (tribe)…
SANDY ADSETT: Now you tell me.
ARAPATA: But also we went to the same school, Te Aute College, so, ‘Whakatangata kia kaha’ (Quit ye like men be strong), is firmly inscribed in my heart, and my head, and I know that’s carried you, and I know that when you were at Te Aute, and you’d returned there to help and my son was there, he was inspired by your art and the kōwhaiwhai (painted scroll ornamentation), and I’ve always been inspired with your art, so it’s our privilege to have you back in your whare, our whare, today.
Nō reira koutou rā e hika mā tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.
[Waiata – Tukua atu rā]
ARAPATA: Nō reira nā runga i te kōrero āpiti hono tātai hono, rātau te hunga wairua ki a rātou, hoki ora mai ki a tātou, ko tēnā te pō, nau mai te ao, kia ora tātou katoa.
REUBEN FRIEND: Te Atua, te whare, āna pononga kei roto, tēnā koe, tēnā koe, tēnā tātou katoa.
Ka tautoko au ngā mihi kua mihia e Arapata, nō reira ka whakarāpopoto toku kōrero i te ata tēnei.
My name’s Reuben Friend. Thank you, Arapata, for all of your acknowledgements, I endorse all of them strongly.
I was also two years too late to be involved in this whare – I went to Toihoukura in 2000 and this whare opened in '98 – but it left quite a strong impression on all of us students.
It was the example on a national scale of what contemporary Māori art, particularly coming out of the Tairāwhiti region, could be, and working on this project was an opportunity for me to take a lot of that knowledge, a lot of that energy, that Sandy had passed on to me, as well as all the other students, and put it down into writing for us to remember so we don’t forget.
And I think having you here today, Sandy, is another way of expanding some of the knowledge that’s in the publication in another format.
So, we’re filming today, so I hope you all don’t mind being on the internet forever, because it’s capturing that mātauranga (knowledge) for others to remember.
And so I’ll just say one thing, one of the things that I’ve learned through the process of interviewing Sandy over the last two years for this publication, is that actually Mōhaka is a little tiny road basically going to Raupunga, but there were some amazing whare that came out of there and in the Tairāwhiti, that still continue to have creative influence on Māori art and design today.
And actually, this whare here has a lot of those traits, a lot of those colours, and I’m really excited, now, to understand the whakapapa (origins) of this particular art form, of this particular whare, and we did that in the publication, through interviews with Sandy, but also Bob Jahnke’s got an excellent essay in there, where he really analyses Sandy’s art form, probably more than Sandy–
REUBEN: – himself realises. As well as the art, you’ve had such an influential career in terms of curatorial practice, influencing Ngā Puna Waihanga, Creative New Zealand, Toi Māori, and so it was hard to just write a straightforward art history, you know?
Most artists, you go, “They did this painting and they did some other paintings,” but you’re like, 'I’m going to change the entire arts infrastructure education programme across the country.'
So, your influence is more than just art. So, thank you Migoto for–
MIGOTO ERIA: Kia ora Reuben.
REUBEN: –stepping up to interview Sandy today, and thank you, Sandy, for being here, and Arapata and Courtney, and everyone here at Te Papa for making this space and, of course, to our Friends from Pātaka, and the Friends of Te Papa who are here as well and everyone else.
So, kua oti tēnei mihi nō tēnei uri o te waka Tainui.
Ki a koutou Kahungunu, koutou nei o o Te Upoko o te Ika, tēnā tātou katoa.
MIGOTO: Ka huri taku aro ki a tātou, ki tēnei kaupapa te tūmanako kia tutuki pai, kia arohaina, tiaki pai tēnei wā kei waenganui i a tātou, he wā iti tēnei.
He taonga te wā, nō reira ko tāku noa iho he tiaki tēnei – iti iho i te kotahi hāora, nē – te roanga o tēnei kaupapa.
Nō reira tēnā tātou, my name is Migoto. Who on earth is her? Who am I?
I work at Te Papa, and I just want to declare something, this is not a Kahungunu takeover, even though it really looks like that.
But also, that it’s not a Pāhauwera takeover.
So, I’m from Ngāti Pāhauwera as well, my mother’s side, my Nanny is a Waihape, and so all of those things that Reuben had just mentioned and which also feature in the pukapuka (book), that’s a pathway to my ngākau (essence), so I can see myself and my tūpuna (ancestors), I can see tūpuna also in that kōrero (speech), and so to tāpiri (add on) to all the mihis (greetings) this morning, there’s a lot of mihi to get through.
Firstly, Reuben, thank you, for not only this kaupapa (piece of work), but also that it’s, you know I think about how long these taonga (treasures) have been in this whare, how long this whare has been up, and we’re only just starting to have these conversations.
So, we would not be here with the likes of yourself, and your whare, and your kaimahi, and your drive and diligence to get this kaupapa done, so tēnā koe, koutou hoki o o Pātaka.
So, I’m going to get straight to it, my job here is not to take up too much time with my talking, but to make sure that Sandy has the space and the wāhi (space) to speak to all of the things that perhaps, for those of you who are Sandy fans, may not be featured in the pukapuka, you may not be aware of in the exhibition as well, so hopefully we can touch on some of that magic through this kōrero (talk).
Nō reira tēnā koe, nau mai, hoki mai, kei waenganui i a tātou.
Ki roto i tēnei whare wānanga, me kī, o Rongomaraeroa o Te Hono ki Hawaiki.
The reason I say ‘nau mai, hoki mai’ is that he was here before. I mean, long before I was here, of course, and as you can see, we are surrounded by the ātaahua (beauty) of Sandy’s mahi work) today.
And I just wanted to touch on this word ātaahua. The word ātaahua means beauty, yes, but it is also a word that is meant to resonate with the individual. Okay, so each of your perspectives of ātaahua, or beauty is unique to you.
So, the ātaahua of this artwork is that it not only tells the stories, it tells whakapapa, I can see Mōhaka Harara in these taonga.
So also in the waiata that we just sung, ngā kura i waihotia e ngā mātua tūpuna (the group acknowledged by our ancestors).
Okay, so these are also taonga tuku iho (inherited artworks) that we will be talking about today.
So, I’m going to just– if we can just have a look around – particularly at these two walls – and really absorb and look at what’s on these walls, and I’ll get Sandy to probably start talking about what was the inspiration of the kaupapa, of your mahi in Rongomaraeroa.
SANDY: Okay. Kia ora tātou and thank you for the opportunity to further, I think, our journey.
It’s 25 years ago for here, and it’s taken 25 years with that generation to realise the importance of the work for the rangatahi (youth) who worked on the panels at that time.
I was saying to someone that 25 years ago, the students that we had, they’re the age I am now– I was then, they are that age now. They could be directing this type of mahi easily, because they are coming in with a knowledge base and an experience way beyond what I had when I started.
But what is the difference, is that with every generation you’re starting at a point of knowledge, and you’ve got an open field for yourself.
So, for me, when I started out from the traditional experience that we knew, and then having to introduce it into schools as part of the curriculum, meant that you had to adjust your thinking.
And besides teaching it, we felt, fortunately, we needed to practise it, and that’s where our engaging with Pine Taiapa who gave us the go to really do that type of mahi, was so encouraging because he realised that the rangatahi (youth), and the schools, needed to have that area of noa (freedom) to allow them to engage in mahi that was considered to be tapu (sacred).
So that was the first big hurdle of taking you beyond the era of that time.
And then as we, as younger artists, Cliff and Para and all the rest, our work together with Pine meant that it influenced our own art.
Before that, I was painting portraits, and vases of flowers, and landscapes, because that was the art I was taught.
We all did the same thing, and as we were – through Pine – made to realise the importance of our art to him, and his history and his tradition of coming to that point where he– and it’s great because he said, ‘I wasn’t in the accepted family to be the one that was going to carry the whakairo (traditional carving)’, but he just went along and sat there every day as a young person until eventually, after a year or so, he’d just have a go at everything, and they just threw a chisel at him one day and said, ‘Here, have a go, young fella’, and then, and through his work– and that’s how he began an involvement that brought those 100 meeting houses together. He was part of that.
And knowing that, and seeing the work and his dedication, he sold us on the importance of our culture and what it meant for us to want to be Māori, and you know, auē, and all through with our tertiary time, with our students even now – I mean, I just retired in July – I kept saying, ‘I’m hoping to get a commitment from you to attend to our culture through the arts, because [as] Pine said to Para Matchitt, when he was in hospital in Gisborne, and I was working in Gisborne during that time, but Pine [Para] went to visit him, we all went to visit him, and Pine realised he wasn’t going to recover and he said to Para, 'The art is important for us, because I worry that our language may go.’
And he said, ‘But we’ll still have the language of art to identify us as a culture and to say the stories, and tell the stories that we needed.’
So we then realise that you have to, you learn here, but you go back as far as your own experience can give you.
So, for me, I can go back to Pine’s time, for these young ones they can come back to my time. The one before that, they just have to take our word for it that what is important to you.
But having the evidence of the work, for them, means that this place needs to be part of supporting the art and its offering.
I looked at how the place is described and it’s a ‘contemporary whare’, and it is.
Cliff and I, everyone, we all had arguments about what we were doing in here because we were virtually working in a space that, yeah, we had– there was a lot of hui (meetings) initially with Api Mahuika, everybody.
They used to come in, we used to– because we were part of the design planning at the time and we said, ‘Ok this place, yep, it can do that – this is what it will do’, and ‘Yeah that’s great!’
But all those things that we said at the time, ‘This is what we will do,’ didn’t really happen at the level it should have because I think the newness of Te Papa and the requirement of the institution took over, perhaps some of the other dreams of the people that were involved.
But I still– it’s not– it’s still there and it’s still as important as it was when suggested way back then.
So, you know, I’m hoping to– I thought I’d come with a few challenges as well, because I looked and – I thought I’d better, seeing I was coming here to talk – and I was looking at the description of the place and how it’s used and, yeah, especially the ones for lessons for schools, and I thought, that instruction may be suitable for children up to the age of 10, but then on from that there is not enough researching and understanding of what the patterns actually mean.
It doesn’t mean– they’re too young to understand the mauri (vital essence) and everything else that is in the work, and once explained, it can be there.
So, I mean even the fact that everywhere, places that I look I’ve [thought] okay, so they talk about Rongomaraeroa, the whare and everything else, the doors and everything, when they talk to the sides, they say, ‘...and the tukutuku is on the side,’ and I say, it’s got nothing to do with tukutuku (ornamental lattice-work) and it’s just referred to.
And we know that this side [on Sandy’s right] is taha mauī (left side) and that’s [on opposite side] taha matua (main side). So you know immediately– and one’s curvilinear and they’re addressing the designs of whakairo, of kōwhaiwhai, tāmoko (traditional Māori tattoo), curvilinear.
And that one there is rectilinear, it’s all geometric tāniko (ornamental weaving), the tukutuku, that’s a construct of those designs. The colours and everything has the same reason for being The One.
That colour palette had to be for these patterns because you’re reflecting ascending to heaven, going up through some of the stories of, through the roots of the tree and what it means and the style.
The tukutuku all had to be– every board had to be bored through, we went to the Mōhaka River and gathered the kiekie.
We had people from Santa Fe, didn’t we? Who came with us from Institute of American Indian Arts, and we were sharing what we were doing with other Indigenous cultures.
[We] went to Taranaki and to Whanganui to get the black sand.
You were gathering all the things that talked about the whenua (land) in the process of the work.
So, we felt, and it had to be in that depth of inquiry, because we had students who were, they were on a course, heading towards a degree for some, and we needed to ensure that when they’re talking or explaining, even now, what their work is about.
It has a construct to it. It has a reason for why. It has this way of moving forwards.
We talk about tapu and noa. Tapu, as you know, it’s those things that are precious and sacred, noa are the things that aren’t.
But you can make both sides, you can change a tapu to noa if you give the right karakia [intent] to it, and vice versa if it’s needed. So it is that mauri, that you put in the work.
We said, ‘What is Māori art?’ We say, ‘It can only be done by Māori because they believe in the mauri that the work represents, otherwise you’re just creating an image that’s a surface offering’.
And it’s a belief, a tribal identity is huge because while we can still and comfortably throw off at each other tribally, because you expect to be– to throw off tribally to another tribe is really saying ‘we’re mates.’
You wouldn’t do it otherwise. You know damn well you’d offend them immediately. But as soon as they realise and they start to engage back, you’re creating your immediate whānau (family) to do that particular mahi that’s needed at the time.
And this is what this place did, and I know that, in what was a– the workshopping that Cliff did with his amazing work – we did our work at back at Toimairangi – so there was a reason for us doing it as well as of course enjoying the fact that our– the work would be here at this new Te Papa, but we also were fundraising to go over to Europe, and so we were offering– the commission was $35,000 at the time, so he said.
And, of course the work was way more than that, but we were raising money so we were able to use the tertiary institution’s materials and during the time that they were there for their learning to achieve that.
But it did allow us then to go on to New Zealand House, to a number of places in Scotland and Ireland with our work, because we had the confidence of achieving something with this mahi.
Nothing was then too big, because we thought, okay if we give ourselves a timeline and we know we can do it at this time, we will do it.
And so the students – and they're still talking about it – we’re working, you know, after midnight doing this work, but everybody wanted to, we enjoyed being together.
For some students it was warmer than their flat, anyway, to be at the institute. So it's, yeah, it's all of that.
I think, for Te Papa, they can, in their consideration of this whare– The major space at the time that we were looking at was actually out there, as well, because we said we could bring in marquees and do workshops out there, we could turn it into a place.
Because they said to us, ‘Yes we could bring in mattresses in there,’ and they meant it – the idea was that.
But of course Te Papa itself, it needed so much that of course, the uh – we had to wait.
But then I think we got forgotten along the way, but it's still there, so I’m going to use this opportunity to really, not only– because the work, you need to look at it, but it's to appreciate the type– the skill of the designers they– As I say, they're at that stage, that comes through, because of Māori art in schools, that we didn't have with– and tāmoko, the way that art discipline is going is amazing. The raranga (weaving), everything is growing so much.
But we still need to say what's its voice? And you know, who's using this voice?
And how can we encourage that voice to remain as something that makes us ensure that we – like Pine – you show that you love it.
You know, and he did. Every part of the day for him, the way that he spoke, and the way that he put his stories across, you just sat there and took it all in, and it just washed over you, and washed over you, and washed, and it made you feel really, really good, and I think that– I’m hoping that this place will – if it's not doing washing and making people feel good at this point – then I hope it does!
Because, sometimes when I look at it and I thought, well it looks like a nice place to have a wedding, or a banquet, but you know when it came– if I’m looking at it for Māori, what should it do?
Because Māori are proud of the place, the artworks are here.
But it's– I think– I don't know, we were talking about the restoring, and I thought this is a time for a new lot? To allow the new generation to actually come in?
And then it'll continue to be a contemporary place, something that– because otherwise it's just going to get old and wear.
And I know Cliff, he always had this dilemma with the Historic Places Trust, he said with the old whare and the restoration of– and you know, so he was in this mind, he said, ‘We need to preserve it, we can do this, we can harden the timber, we can–‘ he said, ‘But it has its own life, its life expectancy for the tribe was that it did its job, then it returned to the earth, and you started a new one with a whare that can attend to the needs of that generation and the things that they needed to strengthen as a resource for themselves.
So, know that a lot of our marae for some of the whānau, because they moved from – in our day when we were rural – through to this urban that they can't afford to take tūpāpaku (the deceased) back to the marae, it's too expensive, and things like that, so how do we ensure that our marae is able to change its kawa (protocol) to allow things to happen that will also be acceptable.
Is that enough?
MIGOTO: Awesome, no, rawe! (Great!) So…
SANDY: I’ll sit down.
MIGOTO: Yeah, e noho (sit down). There's a couple of pātai (questions) I think.
I'm just taking that opportunity while we have the likes of our Kaihautū (Māori Co-leader) listening and that it's being recorded, and you spoke about the importance of the education mechanism and restoration–
MIGOTO: –as well, but I guess the pātai is: What should Te Papa be doing now?
If we talk about restoration, but we take it into sort of a symbolic– How can Te Papa best support our Māori artists or our up-and-coming artists to restore that knowledge in mind and heart?
So, in terms of talking about this taonga, what else should Te Papa be doing that it's not?
SANDY: Well, if the staff, the Māori staff believe that they should be doing more, that's a good start.
And should they understand more– I’ve looked at – and Toihoukura’s spelt with ‘h a u’ you know, it's ‘h o u’, it's a new one, and so little things like that can, well, and I’m only being picky here, of course, but!
And knowing that– just to say, as I said, ‘What could you come up with that you believe you'd have to push for that would allow a whakairo workshop here?
Or [a] painting workshop out there where we know that there’s space?
Even though it's closed off now for the filming, but in the main it has to be open, but if– if we'd had– if we were able– that was one of those things, we said, that's our marae ātea (courtyard) out there, and in here, the whare is, I mean we can say– do we still wish to continue with ideas that were left because we ran out of time?
And we were more than conscious of the fact that there wasn't a tāhuhu (ridgepole) in there.
We were going to go up the sides, we were going to connect up and everything else, it didn't happen, but we knew at the time when we were looking at it, it was needed.
If we had to complete the work it was needed, and so even revisiting that as a way of making it more than just referred to as a contemporary Māori meeting house, because it can look like a cop-out.
That it's just attending to the fact that it can do all these other things that the place is able to achi– as I said, like the dinners, and you're hiring it out, but for Māori when they walk in here – and I remember saying, when we went to visit Ngatai’s whare, and saying, ‘What did you intend to achieve in terms of the place?’ What was the feel of the place?
Because I remember years ago when I was talking with Tipene O’Regan, and he said, ‘Our whare don't feel like sleeping houses now,’ and we were saying, ‘Yeah, they are starting to look like classrooms with huge windows and everything else’.
But he was talking about that feeling, that– And you knew you could walk into a place and it felt good, and you wanted that.
You know, for Pine, he would say, ‘You need to– that's a requirement’.
When you go there, you look at the art, what are you feeling from it? It needs to have some way of giving you an understanding of the hapū (clan) of this area.
I mean, this is one of the things for me here, when I was looking at– Me, I like blue, but blue is that big expanse area.
Blue is the sky, we were driving in today and the sea was bluey-green, but it's a big expanse area, and I needed things to– we needed to take it up the walls, because it wasn't going up the walls only going halfway, so we had to actually make the movement go– So you work on those sorts of things.
I knew that Cliff, knowing his work, that it would be strong, his style of work and he'd have a lot of colours, so I said, well we can't have too many colours otherwise it's going to go like that.
So as I said we'll reduce our colour palette down to quieten the side so that it could allow for – hopefully – a space that as we connected to the spaces to create the poho (bosom) of the whare that it would, hopefully, in terms of its mauri, have a way of being seen.
You may have to direct people to see it, but that's no different from wānanga (workshop) way of learning, you have to appreciate, and show by example from one example to another, what you're meaning about what is Māori art.
So, once we identify that, then the intention of it and what the place was that needed to be offered this resource of a whare, and then you did your best to try and make that happen.
So, if you're asking me what should Te Papa do, I think if they talked about, even just to start with, understanding the disciplines of our art and what they're about, rather than give me a sheet and say, ‘Go and look for the how many birds can you find’, for a school, that doesn't say anything about the importance of the bird.
You tell the story and say, ‘Here's a story, and you need to find these things in it,' and for a teacher, it depends on who– and if you're– hey over in Europe the artist used to go in and copy– we all did that – I’m not saying in Europe – but we used to copy a master, and I remember at Teachers College we did that – and you picked out one that you liked, and you were told you've got to make it as close as you can, as a copy of three of them.
And all it was was about you learning the techniques of how you get the effect of colour, the washes, the composition, the spaces, anything. That was your way of learning the discipline, upskilling of the technique itself.
So, I think that can still be applied for ourselves if we're looking at workshops.
You look for a particular one and say, and what you’re also– is being able to say, 'As an outcome, we are trying to achieve this, and we're going to use these people who have experience, taku hou, wherever it is, and they come in and– part of it – because for us, it's a people thing, you're just showing a video, or something, I think people relate to the relationships that you have, and we enjoy each other – like any culture – we do a lot of interaction with First Nation Native Americans, Inuit, and Polynesia, with Hawaii, and we enjoy the relationship, we respect each other's stories, and it makes us stronger.
So, for Māori to make themselves stronger doesn't mean to say it has to happen in Aotearoa, it may have to happen elsewhere.
But if you go with something that others can not only learn from, but they see it as empowering their own arguments for their own work, so.
We're dealing with Evergreen State College in Washington and they’ve the first campus, American campus at that stage, with a longhouse. And they've– they went to everybody: ‘Yep great!’ And it's going really well, but the institution itself is now trying to dictate, ‘Okay maybe we could do this with this culture, maybe we could do…’, and in its own way it's just lessening what they see is their responsibility, and what they have been working on for the last 20 years, because they came and got our model, and that began this interaction. And they know.
They built a whare over there, a weaving whare that's got a half Māori and half Skokomish, I think, was a tribal group there, and it's those sorts of things – our young ones went over, and as they said, it was great seeing our rangatahi, our students that we took over as part of that first gathering, after a[n] initial one in ’95, at Apumoana in Rotorua, that they're coming back as the committee people now, and bringing others there.
So, it takes a while to get to a space where you may feel, ‘Okay, we're in a healthy space.’ I don't know whether we're in a healthy space.
We're in a space, but I don't know how healthy, until our own ones feel that they can take their mahi to a place and it would be at least attended to, in a respect, because the people who are receiving it believe that there's a value there. And if we've got to show what that value is, then, as I say, we've still got to continue with it.
And as our own rangatahi change, and their interests change, all we would want to have is that they can do it as much as they like, and they can enjoy it.
And I know, I think, I was talking to Ngahuia – we were doing something last week and – Te Awekotuku – and in the conversation I said to her about how years ago I was heading back to Gisborne and I passed through Wairoa, and there was three Māori girls hitchhiking.
So I picked them up, and I was talking to them – and they're 16 or 17 – and I said, Well, where did you stay last night?’ Because they'd come from Southern Hawke’s Bay, somewhere, and they said, ‘Oh, we stayed in our motel,’ and they started to laugh, and I said, ‘Where did you stay?’ and they said, ‘Oh we stayed in the toilet.’ And I said to them, 'You could have gone to the marae, you know.’
And as we were going they were sort of talking about the things– joking amongst themselves as we were driving, and then one of them said, ‘It's actually– it’s stink to be Māori.’
And it was the fact that the two other girls said, ‘Yeah!’ immediately. It wasn't any thinking about, they said it immediately.
And I thought, ‘Oh god, we have let these people– we've let our kids down. If we haven't done enough to make them feel proud of being Māori, we're the ones that are at fault. We've allowed things to happen and this is how they are’.
So that was something that I thought I’m going to – hopefully, yeah – ensure that our students, we fed them, we did everything to make them part of the family and enjoy what they did, and they did at that time, so, yeah.
I know it's around about and long-winded…
MIGOTO: No, no.
SANDY: But if you're wanting to see what Te Papa should do, there's a lot it should – it can – there's a lot it can do, and find that it can do.
It's for you to find it and really argue for it, because there are going to be blocks, when you're bringing in something new, but we're out– our ones are out there saying they're looking at this place and then virtually saying, ‘Okay, is that–?’
Besides on the marae, our whare on the marae, in this one here, it has a national profile.
So, I’m hoping – We've been looking at the Smithsonian, because they've now got a major Native American focus, and one of our colleague’s artists, the one that we know, Nora Morse, a weaver, and she created a work for the Smithsonian that has to be attended to every two or three years.
It has– she makes it in a format that it needs– and she said, 'It has to be kept alive.' I suppose like a Māori bread bug – that you’ve got to keep adding to it.
But it meant that they had to then attend to it differently from something that they acquired and stuck on a wall. It was a structural thing, and the rest of it, and when that step forward was taken, the others came in and they all started to say the same thing.
So, if I was looking at that say – I’m not saying this – but if I thought, ‘Okay, what's missing from here?’
And I'd say, ‘Okay, we don't– really, if it was a structure, we don't have a tāhū [ridgepole] we don't have a pou [post], and so these are at the back, they can be changed and everything, but there may be contemporary pou that do the job to uphold the tāhū at the top.
And at least it will start to give a feeling, when you're walking in, that it is acknowledging us as a culture.
For us at the time, we were just looking to– this is a good pūtea (amount of money) to take us to Europe, and that was the beginning. But as I say, things change during the time.
We certainly put a huge amount of effort into the works, all the drill holes had to be lined up, the layering of the– they had to be all PVA glued, clamped down overnight, and everything had to be into place.
All the type of clay that was being done, that was broken up, and was representing the clay that was wrapped around birds for the cooking.
The relating of the materials to us as a culture was– or what had the depth of that required mauri that we felt needed to be invested in the work, and so, yeah.
MIGOTO: Rawe. Rawe ēnei kōrero.
I just wanted to ask you – and you've started to touch on them– some other specific examples of 25 years ago Te Papa was going to– was being formulated conceptually, and just what exactly were some of the challenges as a Māori artist that you faced?
I mean, you started talking about actually this only went halfway up the wall, where actually there was some more interpretation that needed to happen.
What were some of the examples that you experienced at that time coming into a western construct, into a framework, to uplift and uphold our mana of our taonga, things like that?
SANDY: One of the things that I had as an issue, I was always suspicious, I couldn't help it, when we were looking at the design of– the different offerings of this place, there were like five different designs for here, and I don't know, some of the– so initially some of the original designs that came in– it was, what I would call, like the Sydney Opera House, in that it looked impressive from the outside. It looked stunning, and the marae was virtually the entry to here, to the building.
However, and even though he's not around now – well I won't say who – but there was an argument that was put forward that the whare needed to face East – and it was facing along the fault line, and so I said, ‘Then we ended up at the top, and then at the back. We started at the front.’ And things were stunning.
But our own kaupapa then meant– and it was an argument, and you couldn't argue against him, which we totally respected, but I thought ‘Argh!’
And so our issues were amongst ourselves trying to really decide on what we could get through.
You got down to that. You thought, okay yeah, perhaps we'll – and as we were expecting to – we can grow it once it started.
MIGOTO: There was some footage at the development of Te Papa, and it was with Cliff and, I think, the Chair of the board at the time, is that right?
And let’s just say it wasn't a discussion, and it was putting Cliff into a really, really difficult position about the intention of the marae and who it was for.
MIGOTO: And I think there was an overtone of the Board wanting control of that, wanting to determine who the marae was for, other than Māori people.
MIGOTO: And actually, looking at it now, I think it was really about language, you know?
This is for mō tātou katoa, mō Aotearoa (everyone from Aotearoa), but actually, Cliff says actually, this is for Māori people first. What do you think about that?
SANDY: And then they employed him and he had to toe the party line.
Cliff and I were good mates, we really were good mates, and at times, it was no different from–
it's true you know, trying to put Māori art as part of the school syllabus and involvement, and there was a lot of– we knew there was going to be resentment and rejection by non-Māori teachers, and it was, and they would use any argument.
So we made sure that the whakairo book showed a young Pākehā (non-Māori) girl carving, just to say this is coming through, and it had Pine’s sanction to it. It had gone through.
It was– and they used to say, ‘Go back home and see how the home people feel about what we're doing putting Māori art into schools.’
So I went back and went to the whānau at home, – it was Turi Carroll's daughter – and when I told her, she said, ‘What are you asking us for? That's what you're meant to be doing. That's what we put you there for, you make the decision.’
And they always say, ‘But don't you make a mistake.’
And I thought, yeah, it is unfair to ask them to respond to something when they say you go back and ask the kaumātua (elders). But you've got to reassure them, or at least give them four options so they can select one.
But when you're going and saying, ‘This is it’, so…
…I can't remember what the question was.
MIGOTO: Just thinking about this marae intending to be for everyone of Aotearoa, and then Cliff's argument was, ‘Taihoa (wait), priority is our iwi Māori’.
SANDY: Yeah. So where did it end up?
MIGOTO: Oh well, I think some bit of skin and hair [was] flying in that discussion. But it does raise a question, and it's a question that we still battle with today–
MIGOTO: You know, we have events here, like this one, but we also have banquets and all sorts happening on this wāhi (space) as a contemporary marae, but I guess, going back to the intention of this concept, this kaupapa, do you feel that Te Papa is fulfilling a lot of the intention for this space?
Or what is it not doing? Are there things actually that we should not be doing?
SANDY: There are obviously areas where we have a focus, like just the artwork in here, and what it can still do.
But I believe that my team – that's here – need, or hope we’ll make it better than what we thought about during that time.
You know that's back there 25 years, you've got stronger– Other focuses that can be done, and more people to back you.
I see that you engage with iwi, and you discuss with iwi.
So, if it was one where you had this tahi(?) that you needed to do, then you say well, tell everybody that we need– so you may say, with this area of development we'll look at these four tribal groups.
And then we'll have another one, we'll look at another four tribal groups, so that you're not hitting the same group all the time, but at least you're also showing that you're covering everyone, and it's maybe you can get an answer?
As long as they're not too many.
As long as you–
I believe anything that Te Papa may wish to do now, with how they use the place, is to identify it, but then you come up with at least three alternatives to how you may achieve that.
Because, like anyone, it goes to say iwi would like to feel as though they had a say in a decision, rather than come with just one and you're just agreeing to it, or not agreeing to it.
MIGOTO: And do you think – and now I’m just going to push a whole lot of buttons now – do you think the marae is still in the right place in this whare?
SANDY: It's too late for that!
But, as I say, out there is– what's out there is so strong, we should be out there, as well. I don't know.
Does it– Are we able to– I love the Sāmoan fale (house) – the one that's open on the side – I think they're stunning.
Why can't we create something out there that's an open space where you can have things!
You're able– with the way that things happen now – you can close them off you know and share, but the rest of the time it can be open and it's just that.
People like to go out and be part of it, but you're– Yes, I feel enclosed in here, it’s sort of– it's, yeah, so.
MIGOTO: I’m just going to do a time check–
SANDY: Yeah, yeah, it must be over time by now.
MIGOTO: Okay and I’m now just going to– Emma is it all right to just open it up, to see if there's–
EMMA NG: Yeah, sure, I can pass around the microphone.
MIGOTO: –any pātai in our last few minutes of this kaupapa.
PERSON OFF-CAMERA: Emma’s going to bring the mic.
MIGOTO: Oh yep.
ARAPATA: Kia ora Sandy. Look, just one pātai in terms of just the kōrero for tērā pea ka hāngai pū nei ki te kaupapa whakairo in the curvilinear– (perhaps the significance of the carvings in the curvilinear)
ARAPATA: So, ko ngā kōrero ko ngā tauira e hāngai pū nei tērā kaupapa? He tika tērā? (So, the examples enrich the project, Is that correct?)
ARAPATA: And this side over here, with geometric patterns, is that as acknowledgement and recognition of our other art forms, with the colour palette?
SANDY: When– there's no– I don't think we say ‘other art forms.’
ARAPATA: Oh sorry, with our raranga (weaving)…
SANDY: Yeah, I know what you're saying, but it's to give– Because I’ll tell you what, for Pine, he said the most expensive item in a whare were the tukutuku.
He said, time-wise, gathering the materials, dying it, preparing the kākaho (stems of the toetoe plant), and everything else.
He said the amount or effort that went into those, he said, was way outweighed what they could do once they had the wood, and then they were carving.
So I think that to continue to give respect for the mahi that people have to do to create the work is– But, as I say this is 25 years old, you know, and it actually came through a style– everything is on an 8 by 4, the 1200 by 24 sheets of customwood, so it had to be planned to fit.
So, it's those structures and everything, I think today, with somebody looking at how do we keep it so-called ‘contemporary’, and understanding what is meant– The importance of ensuring – and just to make sure everyone feels good – at the bicultural realising of what the space can have as a value.
All those are good, but when you– You still have to put that mauri in there to make it happen.
ARAPATA: Kia ora Sandy. And just one other, was it always the intention, Sandy, that kāore anō kia mutu te whare me te marae? (Sandy, that the meeting house and marae are incomplete?)
In terms of, there was always a desire that would be added to, an ongoing creativity to [be] added to..?
SANDY: Yes, because of the importance of the workshops, the investment of money that Te Papa was prepared to do with the whare here.
I mean, once the students – because it was a way of engaging with other tertiary institutions – so they came in from Northland, the Wihongi boys, Roi Toia, they came from everywhere.
And now the ones from Toihoukura, those guys were in and out, they spent most of the year down here. But we made what they were doing part of the course, so it could happen.
So, the value of that, they said, we should still be able to have that.
It was seen as the mana (prestige) of the students being able to say that they worked under Cliff with this whare at Te Papa.
The value of that hopefully would be able to still be offered to rangatahi today.
Same thing in some way, yeah.
REUBEN: How much freedom did the young artists working on their sections have to develop their own imagery, or did you…?
SANDY: As much as I allowed them.
Actually, in a way that's true, because it wasn't so much just– We had a model, we had to create– There was a design format, everything.
Because all the things had to be cut, so you needed to ensure– And there was a level of offering, so if they didn't do it, you said, ‘Okay, you go on the sides and put the sander on the sides of the board, from the front.’
But I think it allowed for– no different from what, as I said, what Pine did. He waited there for over a year before they allowed him to pick up a chisel.
So I think when you're asking them to do something, there's a challenge.
If you take anything that they give, then they'll just– Well, I’m not saying that they would just do that, but they will think of heading off to the pub at the end of the day.
REUBEN: One more addition to that, with the different materials–
REUBEN: Because different artists have different expertise, was that you selecting artists to work in those materials?
Or was it that those artists work in those materials and they would just happen to be part of the community? Like with the clay, in particular.
SANDY: No, but they were all students at Toihoukura, all of them, so– And we covered all those disciplines, and we needed the–
Yeah, we talked about the elements of Papatūānuku (Earth mother) and what needed to– Hopefully, we could use to ensure that we felt good about what the offering was. It was, in our way, it was respecting the marae, yeah.
So, they already had that skill, nobody– yeah.
For Toihoukura, they actually had a four-year – and it was only a diploma program at that stage – but they had a three-year studio, so they were working every day, full-time on their art, for seven years, so they were really, really skilled.
A lot of them now are major artists in their own right, absolutely they are.
MIGOTO: Maybe time for a couple more? One more? Anyone bursting with a pātai?
HANIKO TE KURAPA: Kia ora Sandy, tēnā koe mō ō kōrero, pai ki te rongo. (Thank you for your insights, it’s been great to listen and learn.)
I just want to pick up on how you talk about – and Arapata – I remember Cliff talking about this as well – extending the whare, and he also talked about outside, as well.
I remember him talking about sculpture things out there, but using the elements, the rain, the wind, it was all the stuff that he had in his head–
HANIKO: –that he wanted that to continue.
But yeah, I remember the conversations about the pou tokomanawa (central support pole) and the tāhuhu (ridgepole) being extended as well, and the reason why, I know, was because when we were working with him on this area, and as the interpreter, your role was to pull out his ideas in his head.
HANIKO: You know, because most of it was in his head. And so I remember sitting with him and having those discussions, and he would get hōhā (impatient) with me asking these questions.
But it was because he said, ‘Haniko, it probably isn't finished–‘
HANIKO: –maybe that's the future.’ So that might be– he talked about things coming up the wall.
HANIKO: But I guess his time was coming to a close, in terms of him working in Te Papa.
HANIKO: So maybe this is the thing to– maybe it is a wero (challenge) to Te Papa and looking at how do we continue that contemporary feel.
Because you're right, that was 25 years ago, what does contemporary mean now?
If you look at what Lyonel is doing in terms of his space, we look at technology, how do we bring that in? Because there are a lot of different artists Māori artists who are working in those different fields.
SANDY: Absolutely. But this is a showcase, that's what I’m saying. It’s a national showcase for our rangatahi now – well they're not rangatahi, I mean to say, these ones are in their 40s and 50s, and they now have experience behind them – they would come in here and see a totally different image of what we had as our image during our time.
And I think that's the importance, if we're going to support the identity of our arts culture, our Māori arts culture, then they have to have the platform to do it.
And if Te Papa was part of that educating, if you like, of ourselves as a culture and opportunity –
and when I say educating, it's Māori who's doing that to us, to educate our younger artists, in whatever format – then the job is ongoing because you've identified it as a contemporary, it needs to keep going.
Have they finished?
MIGOTO: I think so. Was there anybody else?
NORM HEKE: Kia ora Sandy.
SANDY: Kia ora Norm.
NORM: Norm, here. Sandy, there's two things: touching on what Haniko just said about Cliff's vision for the place, and I was here at the same time, and I recorded Cliff with his visions, and one of them was actually the poupou (wall posts) on the sides, a white on the other side, and they were to be turned, and any visiting artists could actually put pieces on those–
NORM: –as contemporary art forms for temporary exhibitions.
SANDY: Are they still blank?
NORM: Some are blank and some aren’t. But that was a vision, and also the poles outside–
NORM: –were for clamping artworks to, and they were going to be 3D sort of wind sculptures and things, and all that sort of thing, so it was meant to be an ongoing art space.
NORM: And we have had some really good wānanga up here, that we've had visiting artists and, you know, tāmoko and all that sort of thing, and that's a fantastic space, and this space oozes that sort of inspiration for up-and-coming artists because it's what you've done here.
Even though you say it's 20 years old, it's still very contemporary, you know?
It's still– it's a major piece that has actually been controlled, or created here, and it's still talked about, and still is inspiration, Even when I go up to Tairāwhiti, you go around and you can see where a lot of that art has been inspired from, it's from you guys, you know?
But the other question I was going to have is that your– Communication between Cliff and yourself when you created your tukutuku panels – you might have already talked about it, I came in late – but was there a communication between what was expected, or what was wanted, or what was– Or did you have free reign with Cliff, or what happened there?
SANDY: Well, he tried to.
He’d say as we walked out, ‘When you come back, we're going to have colour on your panels,’ and I was, ‘You just leave that alone.’
But when you talked about– I forgot about that one of Cliff’s, where you could turn the panels, because I was like, ‘Oh that's a good idea, so we have the means if we– we could use–' with respect of what Cliff was wanting to happen.
We’re going to have an exhibition up here of some of these artworks of these artists who did this work around the space, it's easy enough to create movable walls, even if it's for short time, but at least it will then acknowledge, I think, what Cliff wanted, as I say, with that, so the panels could be turned around, we could make the blank spaces and we could have an exhibition.
Because I know Fred Graham was talking about it, and Elizabeth they said we need a National Māori Art Gallery, because they're working on that one at Whāngārei, because that happens overseas now.
So as a way of telling another story, even if it's in that form, just for whatever short time that it needed, like any exhibition, that changes.
But we could have– instead of having to use the gallery set up out there, we could have our own space with its own wairua (spirit), and it would then be– we can attend to it with our own rituals that we need to maintain. I mean, the ritual side is a great ploy to keep control of curators.
Especially if you're taking work overseas or into a mainstream gallery, when they say, ‘We'll do this, this, and the next thing’, we say, ‘Oh, if you want value for your people who come in to see our art, then I think the best thing is for them to see it as we see it, if we create an exhibition as Māori see it, because we're wall to wall art, our spaces – we don't have a big a blank wall and one small painting in the middle because that's the focus – it's a different concept, so yeah, maybe we could do something that would make use of the space.
MIGOTO: I just wanted to– Oh, you’ve got a pātai, e hoa.
Sorry, just in response to Norm's kōrero, I’m just looking at Carolyn – In terms of our iwi-in-residence program that started since this whare opened, and behind these turnable whakairo is– actually over here you'll see a whole lot of portraits, it's our wāhi maumahara (remembrance space), so that there is, not to say it’s, yeah– what's happening is that it's starting to– we're starting to hark back to actually the purpose of what a marae is. We're wanting to–
MIGOTO: –hang up all of our pictures of all of our kaumātua that have worked here. But also, behind some of them have key kaumātua's portraits–
SANDY: Oh right, yeah, great.
MIGOTO: So each of them represent the certain iwi that came in.
MIGOTO: So that's– And we actually haven't maintained that whakaaro (plan), I’m not sure where that might be at Carolyn, what was the whakaaro behind that?
ARAPATA: Part of [inaudible- no mic], when we got together with yourself and the artists, getting together in the last couple of years, [inaudible] I suppose that's the opportunity going forward, a small space [inaudible] present and maintain [inaudible] for those associated with the whare. So we get some ideas, I'll get some from you too [inaudible]
SANDY: Yeah, yeah, or you can suspend wall panels to apply works – it's easy enough – you can create something where they hang down in front.
TAMAHOU TEMARA: Kia ora tātou, e tautoko ana i ngā kōrero, kua horaina ki runga i tēnei o ngā papa, mō Rongomaraeroa, otirā, ki te whare tū nei, mō Te Hono ki Hawaiki. (Thank you everyone. I support what has been discussed here as it has been fulfilling in this significant space and foundation, for Rongomaraeroa, furthermore, to the house that stands before us, for the connection back to Hawaiki.)
Sandy, pai te rongo atu ō kōrero, mō ngā pakitara e rua. (Sandy, great to listen to you for the two stories you shared.) It’s great, and as you know, I actually worked here as well, before transferring over to Toi Māori, Sandy.
SANDY: That’s right.
TAMAHOU: And a lot of the kōrero about this whare, and all the other plans that were for the Day One exhibitions, before opening in February 14th, 1998.
And certainly with the works that are on the panels in there.
So, there was a discussion at that time when Cliff was still here, was that the hope was that iwi would come in here, either during iwi residencies while they have their exhibitions on, that they would name any of the pou, and certainly the figures that were there.
So, some of these pou are named, and hopefully that's still being carried on, the whakaaro there. Other iwi at the time left taonga that were hidden either on the whakairo themselves, from respective iwi, so that's been done.
But I also realized that there was a whole lot of other work that was wanting to be done.
And so I think the kōrero that's happened here is great to actually revive and get that going, especially while we're all focusing inward in Aotearoa, and don't have the capacity to go all overseas there.
So, within that, even from Toi Māori's perspective, we've offered to fill some of those gaps, for whakairo, and what have you, through our Art Form committees.
TAMAHOU: Because they're really interested in looking at– And they also were part of the construction of this whare, as well.
So it's great that you're talking about that, and certainly the staff at Te Papa here are hearing that. I’m sure there’d be backing from Creative New Zealand, as well, to do something like that.
And you know, for us, we were all former members of this place here at Te Papa, and the reams and aspirations of the people 25 years ago are still the same, now, and I think it's a chance and opportunity to actually not talk about it, but actually do it, because we're about doing–
TAMAHOU: –and achieving, so, and not talking. Yeah, yeah, we talk, but, make sure that…[inaudible]
SANDY: Somebody's listening.
TAMAHOU: Anyway, so I’m not sure if that was a question or not, but I certainly tautoko your kōrero, Sandy, kia ora.
MIGOTO: If there’s anyone– I think we're wildly over time, but that's okay, this is important.
SANDY: Yeah. It's all good.
MIGOTO: –well, have a kapinga kōrero pea, tēnei mihi ake ki a koe. (Well, perhaps we wrap up then? Thank you.) Mō tō whai wāhi ki te haere mai ki Te Whanganui-a-Tara (For taking the time to travel down to Wellington) at this time when it’s being in a different space other than your wāhi kāinga (home).
We really appreciate you taking the time and the effort to come and share this kōrero with us.
It's definitely special, and it's really important, and well overdue, as well, so tēnā rawa atu koe (so thank you very much), and actually, tēnā rawa atu koutou haere mai ngātahi me Sandy (thank you all, and Sandy, for coming down together).
Ki a koutou anō hoki i haere mai te tautoko i tēnei kaupapa. Thank you all for making the time to come and to hāpai [support] this kaupapa.
I’m just going to ask if Arapata mēnā e taea te whakakapi ngā karakia, i te mea nāu i tīmata (if you could conclude the evening with a prayer as you opened the event)?
ARAPATA: [Mostly inaudible] Kia ora tātou...Tēnā koe e te Pāpā i hora nei i tō mātauranga, i tō mōhiotanga, ō pūkenga hei [inaudible], nō reira, mokori anō te mihi nei ki a koe me tō whānau ka haramai nei hei whakanui i tēnei rā.
Tātou katoa nei i haramai – kua rongo tātou [inaudible] te whakapapa me te hītori o Rongomaraeroa me ngā tūmanako, me ngā hiahia ā tōna wā [inaudible] me pēhea mātou hei whakarauora, hei pupuri e haere tonu nei te… tēnei mea te ātaahua, kia mana [inaudible] nō reira kia ora tātou.
Kia ora tātou nei, tātou nei i hui nei i konei, me te hunga nei i haramai i [inaudible]. Kia ora tātou.
Heoi anō rā, hei whakakapi nei i tēnei kōrero –
Ko ngā kōrero me ngā whakaaro kua kōrerotia i te hui nei, tākina kia mau tonutia, kia mau i roto, mārama i roto. Tēnei te pou, te pou o ēnei kōrero. Hui te mārama, hui te ora. Haumi e. Hui e. Tāiki e!