As someone who studied visual culture and design, and then taught at university on the social history of New Zealand through the arts – I have a reasonable appreciation of the central role artistic expression and material culture play in creating meaning, increasing our connection to one another and the environment and also positive social change.
Two profound experiences I have had in relation to art have stuck with me. The first was when I stood in front of William Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World” in St Paul’s Cathedral London – all the history, suffering and joy of the world seemed to rush into this picture at that very moment – it moved me to tears and I could barely stand there but neither could I move for some time. The other was recently as Miria, my five year old daughter, showed me her rendering of Papatuanuku and Ranginui being pushed apart by Tane Mahuta – the two parents were both crying – it was a simple but profound expression of true relationship and demonstrated to me the power of visual stories.
Te Tairawhiti has produced some of the greatest artists this country has every known – Raharui Rukupo, Pine & Hone Taiapa, Hine Ki Tawhiti, Ngoi Pewhairangi, Kiri Te Kanawa, Derek Lardelli and many many more.
Recently efforts have been made to celebrate the creativity of the region – kapahaka festivals, Nga Manu Korero competitions, art in public places, concerts and many other initiatives provide platforms for allowing art to shape reality and vice versa.
I think we need to balance carefully the economic and cultural imperatives driving the production and consumption of art. We need to ensure our artists are supported and remain free enough to make great works for everyone to benefit from – this ensures art has a place of value in society. If we commercialise art production too much we run the risk of turning our culture into another commodity to be bought and sold by the highest bidder. Artists offer gifts to a community that provides a critical reflection back to the community – this role is essential and must be nurtured and protected.
I am also passionate about community arts and to some extent ‘de-expertising’ art-making. From 2002-2005 I supported the establishment of a commuity recording studio and record label in Kaiti, we also set-up a youth radio station, film production unit and creative space for people with mental health issues, children’s art workshops and the elderly. Since 1998 I have facilitated with children and young people, the design and production of community murals and mosaics at Wainui Rd, Hardy Lane, Waikirikiri Reserve, Alfred Cox Skate Park, Turanganui-a-Kiwa Activity Centre and Kaiti Memorial Park.
I have a cousin who married a Cambridge University computer sciences Professor. For their wedding, the Professor made by hand for my cousin, the most amazing wedding dress I have ever seen.
We are all artists – human beings are created to be creative.
Here are some prints and paintings I have made over the years: