Urban Maori art : the third generation of contemporary Maori artists : identity and identification
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Kia u ki tou kawai tupuna, kia matauria ai, i ahu mai !we i hea anga ana koe ko hea
Trace out your ancestral stem, so that it may be known where you come from and in which direction you are going.
The intention of this thesis is to examine and interpret the artistic careers and practice of University of Auckland Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates Lisa Reihana (1987), Brett Graham (1989), and Michael Parekowhai (1990), and University of Canterbury Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates Shane Cotton (1989) and Peter Robinson (1989). These urban artists are from a third generation of contemporary Maori artists, and they have been selected for this study because they represent a phenomenon within the New Zealand arts establishment. Graduating within three years of one another, they have instantly and successfully mapped out their artistic careers, rapidly rising in status nationally, and internationally, over the past decade.
An examination of how contemporary Maori art has been defined by Maori and Pakeha critics and artists, and who is legitimised as Maori artists, presented as the debate between an essentialist and a post-modern, post-colonial argument, frames the context for this survey of identity and identification.
The thesis investigates a contemporary Maori art movement: presenting a whanau of artists who form an artistic and educational support network of contemporaries, that whakapapa back to the Tovey generation - the kaumatua artists, influential in the work of Shane Cotton (Ngati Hine, Nga Puhi), Brett Graham (Ngati Koroki Kahukura), Michael Parekowhai (Nga-Ariki/Te Aitanga, Rongowhakaata) Lisa Reihana (Ngati Hine, Nga Puhi, Ngai Tu), and Peter Robinson (Kai Tahu). The artistic whanau now includes Cotton, Graham, Parekowhai, Reihana and Robinson who in turn influence and support their third generation peers, subsequently informing the artistic practice of the fourth generation of contemporary Maori artists, and forming a vital link in the continuation and development of the contemporary Maori art movement.
The sesquicentenary of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1990 raised the question, once again, of how we identify as a nation, specifically, is there a New Zealand bicultural identity? The historically familiar focus on forming a partnership between the tangata whenua and Pakeha continued to be of importance for the nation as it approached the end of the millenium. The issue for New Zealand, as a country populated by a diverse range of migrant and locally born peoples, more recently, has become less concerned with 'creating' a bicultural identity and more interested in visually representing a multicultural nation.
The last decade of the second millenium (1990 - 2000), is the main focus of this study because each one of the five artists profiled is conscious of speaking between two cultures, and they utilise their artistic works as the vehicle through which to investigate their Maoritanga and their bicultural reality. In a global climate of an increased awareness involving the rights of indigenous peoples, the third generation of contemporary urban Maori artists, the thesis will argue, became cultural ambassadors both nationally and internationally, their work an institutionally acceptable bicultural fusion of Pakeha and Maori concerns. The easy facility with which they negotiate between these two worlds makes them a pivotal generation in any study of contemporary Maori art.
This thesis aims to reveal the changing and sometimes controversial face of contemporary Maori art, establishing the necessity for this change, revealing where the artists position themselves as a result of their geographical location within New Zealand, and in terms of their own connection to their Maori heritage and knowledge of their whakapapa, investigating issues of identity and identification.