It has been a couple of months working up to getting over to Aotearoa (New Zealand). This trip is my fourth and my previous experiences have prepared me for this moment:
In 2006 I had been invited to speak in Australia for the Society of Wetland Scientists conference. Right over the way was Aotearoa. Prior to pushing off for Aotearoa and Australia a Maori artist group came through at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies during my undergraduate. The lady who was warm and soft was June Grant one of the leading first generation Maori Artists. I told her of my plans in Australia and she invited me to stay with her in Aotearoa.
After the conference I flew to Auckland, caught a bus to Rotorua and met up with June. The next morning she took me around the village and to introduced me one of her relations, Richard Kereopa. At this time he was an undergraduate art student at Wairiki Polytech working on revitalizing the tradtional art of Maori weaving or raranga. Richard was only to host me for the day to visit an art school in Hastings but the days went by and at the end of it we were still together having heaps of fun, exchanging views on being Maori/Maoli (truly from a place), what it means to have whakapapa/mookuauhau (genealogy) and the politics surrounding these ideas.
I returned again in 2007 with a Native Hawaiian art group from the UHM Center for Hawaiian Studies. As a group of 6 we drove from Auckland to Wellington and back over a course of two weeks visiting at least one Maori art school, one Maori artist and an art museum each day. Our assignment during this time was to create one art piece per day relating to our experiences on this journey. The finale to this excursion was the first Maori Arts Market, which Hawaii's Maoli Arts Market is modeled after.
In visiting all various Maori artists and art schools we were able to compare between teaching styles, teaching emphasis and the works students created. Some schools were focused on communicating a story through imagery, others emphasize the experience the viewer has with the piece, others focused on technique and of course there were those who needed to keep the bottom line in the front of their minds. In this experience I learned how tricky and political art can be, and more over how overtly political Maori and Maoli art is. Besides this there was one thing clear: that Maori had created a cognizant support system where the previous generations nurture the upcoming generations to ensure community success, in partciptaing with this trip our Maoli advisor was also cultivating a supportive relationship between Maori and Maoli as well as between generations.
In 2010 my return was for the Te Tihi Indigenous Artists Gathering....now in 2013 it is my first time coming to Aotearoa as an artist and scientist. Both Richard and I are PhD students, he being a tutor at Waiariki Polytechnic and me a visiting artist/academic to the school for the week of June 24, 2013.
This blog is set up to share experiences from Aotearoa and abroad with home and beyond. In reference to previous trips I will be cataloging my food habits and natural resources that are valued.
My goal on this trip is to set up the next three years of my PhD with the University of Otago, fulfill my obligations as a visiting artist/academic at Waiariki Polytechnic and attend the He Manawa Whenua Conference at the University of Waikato in Hamilton.
Ka pai and Kia Ora!