How can art help us communicate big ideas?

Te Papa has an amazing collection of art that is designed to raise our awareness about social and environmental injustice and provoke change. Use art to communicate some of the big feelings you may have about our world.

Activity: Ideating the remarkable

Delving into the magic and symbolism of Kiko Moana.

Kiko Moana, by Mataaho Collective (Bridget Reweti, Sarah Hudson, Terri Te Tau, Erena Arapere) – seen above on display at Te Papa – is just one example in our collections of art communicating big social and environmental justice ideas.

Take a look at the artwork and the title of it. Discuss with a friend what you think it could be about.

Watch the artists describe the artwork in the video from the Royal Academy of Arts in London below:

  • What surprised you about what this giant tarpaulin represents?
  • What is the other part of the artwork that you can not see here, but was Te Papa’s first digital acquisition? Explore Taniwha Tales(link is external); this website is an important part of Kiko Moana and shares indigenous knowledges around taniwha from across the motu.
  • What are all the messages that Kiko Moana is communicating to us?

Activity: Making your own remarkable happen

Imagineering your own art installations.

  • What are the big worries, concerns, or hopes that are in your mind? What do you want to communicate to the world?

  • Write these all down as phrases and words on either a big piece of paper, or on an online platform like Miro or Mural. Around each of the ideas, brainstorm the shapes, colours, objects, or images that could symbolise each of these.

  • Talk with some loved ones and those that are older than you. Do they have any further ideas for the ways in which you can communicate these ideas? They might know of some events, stories, people, or places that could be added in for extra depth to your brainstorm.

  • Choose the most compelling idea that you want to communicate and sketch some different composition possibilities. Think about:

    • incorporating more than one idea

    • ways you can layer one element over the other

    • playing with scale – what would look powerful large, and what could be captivating small.

Lily Laita, Pari‘aka(link is external), 1989, acrylic on builders paper. Purchased 1997 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (1998-0003-1)

  • In Lily Laita’s painting about Parihaka, you can see the overlay of a number of different elements that tell this powerful story, such as the maunga Taranaki, the feather of peace, and text.

  • Create your own composition on an online drawing tool, such as Procreate, or in real life. You may like to create a 3D sculpture on Tinkercad.

  • Exhibit your artwork with an artist statement for the wall, explaining what it all means. If you have developed it on Tinkercad, you can annotate your artwork’s features with notes directly on your design, and produce a QR code so that your audience can view it easily.

Activity: Reflect on art as a tool for turning up protest

Consider how art adds layers of meaning.

  • The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has produced Mana Moana: Pacific Voices, a series of simple art animations to bring to life the poetry of Pacific activists in response to the climate crisis. These digital poems were developed to be screened during the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP27 and other relevant climate change events.

  • Close your eyes and just listen to the poem To Island by Teresia Kieuea Teaiwa.

  • Discuss with a friend what you thought the poem was about.

  • Now, watch the art animation that goes with this poem below:

Discuss together:

  • What does art do for the message of the poem?
  • In what ways did your understanding of the poem change when you watched the art animation?
  • Why do you think they have published these art animations to be played at climate change events?
  • What does the poet mean when she asks us ‘to island’?

Extra links for the extra curious

Go down amazing wormholes with this curated suite of links.

In pursuit of freedom: a collection of global protest art – a selection of powerful protest art inspired by major protest movements in countries under authoritarian rule since 2019.

Samoa Asks – powerful art animation of spoken word written & performed by Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i.

Protest embroidery – Lema Shamamba fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo when an armed militia were killing indigenous people in her village. Now living in New Zealand, her artwork calls out the companies she holds responsible for the bloodshed. (The Spinoff)

Guarden gates series – explore the feminist series from Vivan Lynn in our collection.

Ai Weiwei on art, imprisonment and the power of Twitter (ABC News)