French residency for Ngāi Tahu artist

Priscilla CowieCanterbury artist, Priscilla Cowie (Ngapuhi, Ngāi Tahu ki Puketeraki), has been selected as the first Māori artist to take up a residency at Vallauris in the south of France in May 2014.

Located in the heart of the old town, A.I.R. Vallauris, (Artists in Residence), is a non-profit association that welcomes artists from around the world to its lodgings and studios, to meet with local artists and to research and create new works in a unique setting. The association has hosted 180 international artists since its inception in 2001.

The residency accommodates several artists at a time for up to two months and for Priscilla it offers the perfect opportunity for her to research a series of works called Tupuna, which will look into her French and Māori ancestry.

Māori culture forms the backbone of Priscilla’s art practice and this year she created designs that were made into sails and installed at Te Putake, a permanent Māori garden at Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy, near Metz, in northeast France.

Te Putake was brought together by the passion and drive of Pascal Garbe and Nuk Korako (Ngāi Tahu). It is Pascal and his team at Laquenexy, who are now the kaitiaki, guardians of Te Putake.

The Māori garden was designed by Christchurch architects, Perry Royal (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa) and Te Ari Prendergast (NgāiTahu, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), with carvings by Christchurch master carver, Riki Manuel (Ngāti Porou).

With the support of Creative New Zealand – Te Waka Toi, Priscilla travelled to France for the opening of the garden with Rāpaki kaumātua, the kapa haka group Te Ahikaaroa and singer/musician Ariana Tikao. It was that meeting of cultures that inspired her to apply for the French residency and to research her own French whakapapa.

The whole experience led Priscilla to look further into her own background.

”I am currently researching my French ancestor, Henri Purdis, who travelled to Aotearoa in the 1800s and married my Ngapuhi tupuna, Mereana Wharerau. My uncle, Huata Kingi, will also be joining me in France, as we try to find about more about Henri Purdis; and I will be exploring the theme of Tatai Tupuna, where cultures collide, mix and share, in my painting, while I’m in Vallauris.”

Priscilla says having a month to focus on her painting at Vallauris will be a unique experience.
“Art is a key way to connect with people and to share cultures and I’m looking forward to meeting the French locals and teaching them a little about Māori life, at the same time learning more about France, the French language and enriching my own art practice.”

Priscilla would like to acknowledge Ngai Tahu, for the many opportunities that have enabled her to develop and strengthen her art.

“It has been with the tautoko from my whānau and kaumātua that I have been able to pursue my passion – nga mahi a Toi.

She will arrive in Vallauris on May 20, 2014 and her exhibition in the residency gallery is currently scheduled to open on June 21.