05 Mar 2020
Prominent Māori and Pasifika artists head across waters in March, to join an international contingent of artists, creatives and collectives participating in NIRIN (meaning edge), for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020).
The Biennale is First Nations-led with Wiradjuri Artistic Director Brook Andrew at the helm presenting an expansive exhibition of contemporary concepts, connecting local communities and global networks, gathering on the lands of the Gadigal People and Eora Nations.
Brook is the first Indigenous artist in Australia appointed artistic director of the biennale. NIRIN is a word of his mother’s Nation, the Wiradjuri people of central western New South Wales.
Brook says the Biennale of Sydney will shine light on the active, pre-existing collaborations and connectivity of Indigenous and edge cultures.
“NIRIN is about exposing that the urgent states of our contemporary lives are laden with unresolved past anxieties and hidden layers of the supernatural. By working directly with communities, artists and creatives have the power to resolve, heal, dismember and imagine futures of transformation for re-setting the world,” he says.
Aotearoa artists Lisa Reihana, John Miller, Elisapeta Heta, FAFSWAG, Emily Karaka and Kulimoe'anga 'Stone' Maka have been invited to share in the conversation by the Biennale and will be supported by Creative New Zealand.
Artist Lisa Reihana (Ngāi Tū, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) will present a new iteration of her monumental 3D video installation Nomads of the Sea, a commission for the Sharjah Biennale (2019). Lisa weaves historical fact with fiction to explore social tension between cultural leadership, spiritual custom and egotistical desire in the face of foreign political challenge in 19th century New Zealand. It will be expanded for the exhibition in a large, immersive installation on historically significant Cockatoo Island, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Photographer John Miller (Ngaitewake-ki-uta, Uritaniwha, Ngati Rehia hapu of Ngāpuhi) has documented anti-war, civil rights, anti-apartheid, anti-nuclear and Māori political protests for more than four decades and received a Media Peace Prize Lifetime Award in 2003 for recognition of his photographic work. He will present rarely exhibited photographs from his extensive and invaluable archive in innovative, culturally powerful, specially designed, sculptural vitrines and cases.
Artist Elisapeta Heta will create the architectural vitrines holding John Miller’s work, to be exhibited at Campbelltown Art Centre. Elisapeta’s Māori (Ngāti Wai, Waikato-Tainui), Samoan, Tokelauan and European heritage allow her to possess multiple world views. As a result, her work is constantly aimed at being accessible to the general public and, where possible, of a participatory nature.
Elisapeta will engage with Māori sculptural and architectural practices and respond to Miller’s powerful archives, activating his work in an unconventional way.
FAFSWAG, a visual arts incubator for queer indigenous creatives, operates across a multitude of interdisciplinary art forms and genres. They develop site specific cultural experiences and arts engagements that speak to unique and diverse contexts as LGBTIQ+ people from Oceania.
Comprising gender and sexually diverse artists, the collective is made up of members with Samoan, Tongan, Niuean, Cook Islands, Māori, Tokelau and mixed European heritage. Each artist has their own respective art practice while also working collaboratively within the collective on major arts and community driven projects.
Artists include: Jermaine Dean, Sione Monu, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Akashi Fisinaua, Moe Laga, Elyssia Wilson Heti, Manu Vaea, Tanu Gago, Timothy Swann, Pati Solomona Tyrell, and Manu Vae’atangitau.
Painter Emily Karaka (Waikato, Te Ahiwaru, Ngāti Pare, Te Kawerau a Maki, Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Tamaoho and Ngāpuhi) will present a selection of new and existing paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Her works will be hung as interventions into the Court Galleries, which house European and Australian painting and sculpture from colonisation to the end of the 19th century. Emily is a leader in Land Rights movements in Aotearoa including Ihumatao and, with sovereignty one of the themes of NIRIN, her work will be a central voice in the exhibition.
Kulimoe'anga 'Stone' Maka
Tongan born Kulimoe'anga 'Stone' Maka lives and works in Christchurch, and maintains a vibrant and inquisitive connection to his Tongan culture through his art.
For the exhibition, Stone will display an 11 metre-long tapa cloth (bark cloth) on Level 1 of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Stone uses unique dye and painting techniques to reinterpret the Tongan art of ngatu 'uli (a dark-coloured bark cloth, traditionally made for Tongan Royalty), as part of a lived, material process of connecting to and referencing memories and experiences of his homeland in Tonga. A second tapa cloth is proposed to be displayed at UNESCO World Heritage listed site, Cockatoo Island.
A further group to be supported by Creative New Zealand, four contemporary Māori art curators will participate in the Biennale and attend both the Biennale Vernissage, the art industry opening programme, and aabaakwad, the four day ‘Indigenous-led conversation’ symposium that includes artists, collectives, curators, scholars and thinkers as speakers.
The four curators, two established and two emerging, are:
- Megan Tamati-Quennell , Curator Modern & Contemporary Māori & Indigenous Art, Te Papa & Associate Indigenous Curator Contemporary Art, Govett Brewster Art Gallery
- Nigel Borell, Curator Contemporary Māori Art, Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland Art Gallery
- Hanahiva Rose, Assistant Curator Contemporary Art and Collections, Govett Brewster Art Gallery
- Maia Abraham, Māori Specialist Collections, Christchurch City Library
They will also participate in a Tuakana | Teina, Mentor | Mentee programme as part of the Tri-Nations, First Nations Curator programme supported by Creative New Zealand. Their curatorial roles align strongly with the artistic and First Nations led concept of NIRIN.
NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), will open to the public from Saturday 14 March until Monday, 8 June 2020.
For more information: