Nga Maumahara: Memory of Loss
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This practice-based art project explores the notion of markers of loss in relation to traditional Maori artifacts, with a focus on issues of memory of loss, colonial governance and land alienation. The purpose of this study is to investigate and establish hapu wananga to inform, stimulate and dialogue an exchange of ideas around Ngati Hau losses of lands, resources and people between 1865 and 1920. The project has a strong physical and cultural attachment to land, tupuna and death through these investigations. Early records of Court sittings, colonial writings and personal memories inform the making of artifacts and installations referred to as markers of losses that reference mokomokai, tupuna effigies, memorial tiles, waka tupapaku, waka koiwi, tiki wananga, and pouwhenua. They are indicative of the losses borne by Ngati Hau amongst deeds of land sales and legislative acquisitions by the Crown. Traditional rituals were only carried out by tohunga who were skilled and expert. They held knowledge on customary rites, wananga, histories, karakia and whakapapa. After the passing into law of the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907, tohunga throughout the country declined to pass on oral traditions, leaving Maori society bereft of a vast range of traditional and customary knowledge. Therefore, consultation and discussions with Shane Whatarau1, Ngati Hau tohunga whakairo have been informative and helpful. 1. Shane Whatarau, a student of Paki Harrison, Master Carver now deceased. Wood and clay were the main materials used to explore markers of loss in this project with embellishments of feathers, canvas, kokowai, wooden stakes, flax stalks, paint, totara bark and whariki. They give expression to memories identified with Ngati Hau tupuna, land, sites of significance and 10 histories. They operate as markers of loss which can best be described as fragmented, damaged and distorted, and unfamiliar. Each chapter upholds the unique position and mana of Ngati Hau within Te Whare Tapu O Ngapuhi. The relationship of Ngati Hau and their ancestral lands is also of utmost importance, including the losses of language, oral traditions, tribal knowledge and customary practices. This study is key to the exchange of ideas and dialogue, that encourages responsible, informed and committed participation by Ngati Hau whanau, in hapu wananga, forums and hui. This thesis is constituted as 80% practice based work, accompanied by an exegesis worth 20%.