Inherited Creativity – The Gisborne Herald
Posted on 03 June 2021 at 12:01
Ko Wai is the new exhibition at HOEA! Gallery that shows designs found on waka hoe (paddles) in museums around the world.
Steve Gibbs is one of the artists exhibiting works with his son Maia Gibbs, Maia Keane, Kaaterina Kerekere and Jual Toroa who are all linked by Ngai Tamanuhiri’s whakapapa and their artistic creativity.
Gibbs says the title, Ko Wai, in this case is not a question but a statement that relates to the creators of a series of painted and sculpted waka hoes that were the focus of his doctoral research.
The works produced concentrate six years of paintings, drawings and research in a single exhibition.
“This is a series of analytical paintings based on a number of hoes located all over Europe but having their origins in Turanganui,” Gibbs explains.
The exhibition was initiated and organized by HOEA! Gallery and space manager of the Melanie Tangaere-Baldwin project.
“It’s about tautoko as a way to support and work with ours, as well as having the opportunity to exhibit with artists who share the same whakapapa (blood lineages) as well as a shared inherited creativity that lives in us, ”Gibbs explains.
Gibbs is of Ngai Tamanuhiri, Ngati Rangiwaho, Rongowhakaata and Rongomaiwahine descent.
Waka hoe are decorated with design systems which are the earliest extant examples of customary kowhaiwhai (painting of customary Maori motifs).
They are the primary form of pattern painting seen in most meetinghouses built in Aotearoa from the early 1800s to the present day, Gibbs says.
This set of works is dedicated to his Muriwai whanau and kaumatua who created and supported the opportunity to engage in the process of locating and negotiating the return of several taonga tuku iho (treasures passed down by ancestors) from the collections international museums and brought them back to Turanganui in 2019.
To view the designs in more detail, Gibbs used infrared light to see the pigments in the paint so he could accurately recreate the designs.
Painting systems are now prevalent on the heke (rafters) of most modern Maori meetinghouses in place of the carved dollu (ancestral figures). The works are titled by the places where they currently reside.
All of Gibbs’ works are painted in ultramarine blue, his signature color, on tapa (framed diptych).
The waka hoe set of prints is titled Trade Me because the works have been traded. There are 23 waka hoe in the series which all have the same design schemes.
There are hundreds of hoes in museums in Europe and the United States, and eight hoe paddles painted in the Tu Te Whaihanga exhibit at the Tairawhiti Museum.
Ko Wai! An exhibition featuring works by Steve Gibbs, Maia Gibbs, Maia Keane, Kaaterina Kerekere and Jual Toroa. HEA! Gallery, 67 Gladstone Road until July 17.
KO WAI: Steve Gibbs, professor at the Toihoukura Maori School of Art and Design, created a series of works based on waka hoe from around the world that were traded in 1769. Photo by Paul Rickard