Warming the Nohoaka Toi

In early September a group of Ngāi Tahu artists came together to occupy Toi Moroki Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) in Ōtautahi and create the first major group showing of contemporary Ngāi Tahu art in 14 years. By creating an exhibition based on the principles of a nohoaka, the Paemanu Ngāi Tahu Contemporary Visual Arts Trust wanted to connect with their tīpuna, inspire their extended whānui, and nurture the next generation of artists.

In keeping with the traditions of a seasonal camp, the artists are coming and going with planned residencies from 6-8 October and again at the end of the exhibition, which coincides with Hui-ā-Iwi from 24-26 November.

Unlike traditional static exhibitions, where spectators remain detached from the art, visitors to Paemanu: Nohoaka Toi are invited to see themselves as part of the exhibition – a place where simply by walking through the doors, you reignite the fires and bring the space to life. Whether it’s by greeting the kōhatu mauri, or leaving words and thoughts in he kupu tātai whakapapa, or simply sitting and having a kōrero with other visitors, you are invited to connect in a way that creates meaning for your journey.

The exhibition looks and feels different from day to day. Workshops, discussion panels, and artists in residence warm the space, while at other times it appears to be an abandoned camp. But at all times it is a camp ready to welcome visitors.

The exhibition takes you on a journey from rock art to the present day, with a range of installations including a kōhatu mauri; wall drawings inspired by ancient rock art using traditional materials; a tīrewa with hanging artworks; examples of harakeke weaving; and a platform installation overlooking a sculpture in progress, reminiscent of the barriers built to protect rock art sites from damage by livestock and humans.

Paemanu: Nohoaka Toi involves some of the most significant artists from Aotearoa including Ross Hemera, Areta Wilkinson, Simon Kaan, Lonnie Hutchinson, Peter Robinson, Neil Pardington, Rachael Rakena, Fayne Robinson, Ranui Ngarimu, Nathan Pohio, Louise Potiki Bryant, Martin Awa Clarke Langdon, Kiri Jarden, and many more established and emerging Ngāi Tahu artists.

But you won’t find their names anywhere on the works, a deliberate decision made by the curatorial team of artists. “If we don’t know the name of our tīpuna, the artists who created the art on the kōhatu mauri, how can we put our names up?” says Poutokomanawa of Paemanu, senior Ngāi Tahu artist Ross Hemera.

“Guided by the tikanga of our tīpuna we consider this exhibition space as wāhi tapu. For us such locations are a place to shelter, to light our fires, to spend time between the mountain and sea, a place to tell stories, to be creative, to name, consecrate and decorate, a place of learning and teaching, a place of rejuvenation, a place of rest, a place to reflect and to dream.”

The project is created collectively through wānanga as the artists continue to work through the tikanga of what it means to occupy a gallery space in their own way. Through this experience they are forging new ground and setting a blueprint for what is possible with future art residencies.

Visit. Occupy. Return. Warm the space. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to connect with contemporary Ngāi Tahu visual art.

Admission is free. Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm.

Nohoaka: he wāhi haumaru he wāhi hei whakaarohia te tai ao. Ka whai i ngā tikanga a Ngāi Tahu he puni wāhanga tau tēnei: he nohoanga ahikā – hei tahu i ngā ahi; he wāhi whakatā i waenganui i ngā maunga me te moana; he wāhi haumaru mō ngā tira haere hei whakahou anō i te wairua; he wāhi i whakapaipaitia-ā-ringa (hei wānanga, hei rangahau) me te tukunga iho o te mātauranga ā-karu; ā-waha me te whakatu ā-tinana; he wāhi whakawhanaungatanga – he wāhi whakakaha i ngā herenga whānau.

Nohoaka: a shelter from the elements and a haven from which to contemplate the environment. In Ngāi Tahu tradition, a nohoaka is a seasonal camp; an ahikā – a place to light fires; a lay-by between the mountains and the sea; a recess where travellers rejuvenate and take stock; a decorated space to wānanga (discuss, research) where visual, oral and performative knowledge is passed on; a place of whanaungatanga – strengthening family bonds.”

(Paemanu Ngāi Tahu Contemporary Visual Arts Trust & Toi Moroki Centre of Contemporary Art)