Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tanya Ruka

By Kathryn Tsui

whiriwhiri-ā-rōpū is a selection of current and previous moving image works by visual artist Tanya Ruka that weave together in a continual visual conversation. Māori weaving and carving patterns are the fundamental structures within Ruka’s moving images that are visually composed through repetition, mirroring and multiplication.

Ruka’s art practice makes visible unseen spiritual and ancestral connections to land and place. The artist says, “The source of my creative process is Wairua (spirit); the inherent interconnection between the whenua (land) and tupuna (ancestors).”

Ki runga ki raro (2012), the linear projection work, translates as north and south or up and down is shot on ancestral land in two locations, Waipounamu, South Island and Hokianga in Northland. Ruka who initially trained as a painter, uses painting techniques to experiment with this familial footage, building layers, concealing and revealing certain elements of the screen that in turn play with the dimensions of the gallery. The resonating sound track is 3 generations of the artist’s family singing the word whenua (land) in different parts.
Ruka describes her filmic subject as catching the performance of the landscape as it unfolds. The work presented on the LCD screen, Takiwai (2011) required the artist to sit in the landscape for days. In these extended single framed shots, she collects the lyrical moments in the landscape, equating the movement of windblown grasses as brush strokes on the land. 

In Ruka’s most recent work, kaitiakitanga: ki runga ki raro (2012) she observes the role of guardianship, filming the protestors in the Aotearoa is Not For Sale march against the government’s proposal to sell public assets.  Again images are arranged with the visual principals of Māori weaving and carving patterns as Ruka wanted to look at the situation from a Māori perspective.

As an artist Ruka continually returns to Māori concept of time, space and place where past, present, future coexist. She says, “This installation is a coming together of my work - a visual conversation past present and future, like the Māori phrase i nga waa o mua from times in front. It refers to walking backwards into the future with our ancestors our history in front of us.”

Artist Biography
Tanya Ruka (Ngapuhi, Waitaha nui tonu) graduated from The University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2010. Since graduating Ruka’s video projections have featured in national exhibitions and international film festivals including the 5th Indigenous International Film Festival. In 2012 the artist completed a Master of Art and Design at AUT and plans to study further and apply for a doctorate.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Music, Drama and Haka Theatre blend together in Te Manawa (The Heart)

An original production for Matariki at Corban Estate Arts Centre

Created in the heart of West Auckland, Te Manawa (The Heart) is a production that connects the audience to Aoteoroa’s roots through an original story inspired by Matariki, the Maori New Year. This music and drama performance has been devised, written and produced by young writers, actors and musicians (aged 10 – 22 years old) mentored by three master practitioners of the performing arts; Jay Williams Youth Arts Director at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Kura Te Ua and Ngarino Watt both of the Haka Theatre company, Hawaki Tu.

The production’s director, Jay Williams says, “Te Manawa brings together emerging artists from different cultural backgrounds – Pasifika, Maori and Middle Eastern – in a blend of creative talent, Maori culture, traditional kapa haka, poi, waiata and a story that reflects elements of Matariki such as navigation, cultivation and the celebration of new beginnings. Every element of this production has been originally created by young artists”.

Guided by Kura Te Ua and inspired by the traditional legend of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the sky father and the earth mother who lie locked together in a tight embrace before the origin of the universe, scriptwriter Jason Wu, aged 22, created the original plot lines. Jason is best known for his big screen role in Matariki (2010), Michael Bennett’s feature film.

The music created by 20 year old Gibson Harris, has infused a powerful and sublime atmosphere throughout Te Manawa. “It’s exciting to hear how the traditional Maori instruments blend so well with contemporary Orchestra, Pop and R&B rhythms. They not only convey strong feelings but also evoke the powerful Maori Gods”, Gibson says.

The youngest rising star of this constellation of performers is Kiera Sekene, a 10 year old girl from Avondale Primary School who makes her stage debut in the lead role as Paki. Other contributors to the production include well known Pacific artist, John Ioane who has created large scale sculptures to represent the presence of the ancestors.

While being a rich and dramatic performance, Te Manawa also enables children and their families to learn more about the significance of Matariki in Maori culture. Corban Estate Arts Centre has invited Auckland Primary and Intermediate schools to take part in a week-long (24 – 28 June) series of presentations followed by diverse hands-on workshops with a line-up of established visual artists and tutors.

On Saturday 29 June at 11 am, Te Manawa performance will be presented to the public and will be followed by two workshops for children; featuring Takoro (Maori traditional games) and clay waka (canoe). The cost for the performance is $3 per person and the workshops are $3 per child aged 5 – 13 years old. This event will take place at Shed 1 at Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2 Mt Lebanon Lane, Henderson Auckland.

Te Manawa (The Heart) is part of the Auckland Matariki programme and has been generously funded by the ASB Community Trust. For more information please visit: or phone 838 4455.


Performance: Saturday 29 June, 11am – noon
Cost: $3 per person (Children under 5, Free)
Venue: Corban Estate Arts Centre, Shed 1
Workshops: Saturday 29 June, 1 – 2.30pm (Children 5 – 13 years old)
Cost: $3 per child
Venue: Corban Estate Arts Centre, Shed 1, Projectspace


“Set in Hawaiki, Te Manawa is the story of Mauri, a young girl who accidentally discovers time travel. She tries to use her journey to fix things she doesn’t like about her life, but doesn’t count on meeting Koru, a boy who has a secret of his own…”


Kura is a member of Te Waka Huia, Kapa Haka champions at this year’s Te Matatini National Kapa Haka championships. She is also co-owner of Hawaki Haka Indigenous Arts. Kura specializes in Kapa Haka, indigenous dance and Maori movement, while also exploring the evolving fusion of movement that is Haka Theatre. She has a bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts and Maori Performing Arts and is working towards her master’s degree in Indigenous Arts. Kura has been an ambassador for Maori in international festivals all over the world.

Jay Williams of Niuean and Cook Island descent, has over 10 years’ experience as a secondary school teacher specializing in drama and the performing arts. In addition he has been a strong advocate for young people in the communities of West Auckland, developing their skills and talents as actors, musicians and dancers. To this end, he established Phoenix Performing Arts NZ in 2007. Jay adds however, that “As well as developing creative expression, the arts provide a powerful vehicle for young people to grow into confident and strong adults who will make significant contributions to their communities.”

Jay’s work with young people has been recognised by the Vodafone Foundation who have sponsored him for 2013 on their World of Difference programme, to continue to develop his work with young people based at Corban Estate. Jay is also currently a participant in the Leadership New Zealand program for 2013.

Ngarino is also a member of outstanding National Kapa Haka champions, Te Waka Huia and co-owner of Hawaki Haka Indigenous Arts with Kura. He has a bachelor’s degree in and is working towards his master’s degree in Indigenous Studies. Ngarino specializes in both Kapa Haka and Maori Theatre and is exploring the finer details of Haka Theatre. As well as travelling widely throughout the world as a performer, he has participated in many international arts festivals.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Partnering to improve 
arts opportunities for the deaf   


Deaf artist, Rachel Coppage has been based in a studio at Corban Estate Arts Centre (CEAC) for more than a year.  Early in 2013, Rachel met with staff at CEAC to initiate a working relationship around engaging with the Deaf community, particularly as many of them live in West Auckland.   Many Deaf receive their education at the Kelston School for the Deaf, their families move to West Auckland to be close to the school, and naturally as adults many choose to remain in the area.

Having a highly developed visual sense, the Deaf are naturally attuned to visual arts.  However they do not necessarily feel comfortable coming to view art in a gallery.  CEAC and the Deaf Arts Network NZ, coordinated by Rachel Coppage, have begun to work on a joint initiative to make CEAC more welcoming, easeful and engaging for members of the Deaf community to visit; what Rachel refers to as ‘cultural bridging’.  The initiative’s key strategy is to focus on a series of events throughout the year, such as providing interpreters at exhibition openings and arts events, and take some steps to reduce some of the barriers experienced by the Deaf.  So far we have trialled this approach at CEAC’s Open Studio weekend in late March 2013.  While we arranged for a Deaf interpreter, and created an area where Rachel could organise information and host Deaf and hearing visitors, we weren’t prepared for Deaf visitors who wanted to watch a film showing or a theatre performance that were part of the weekend programme.  So it’s a learning process for us all!  Fortunately none of these issues are insurmountable and future events can be better structured to incorporate our learnings.  

Several members of the Deaf community also attended an exhibition opening here.  Witnessing two Deaf children animatedly communicating with one another about some of the artworks in a gallery, was extraordinarily moving, visibly demonstrating the goal we are seeking, to see the art displayed become a catalyst to interaction.   It also showed us that there is work to do building the conversation to include the hearing community who are not literate in sign language.     

Spurred on by these two events, more opportunities are planned.  Next, there will be a tour of the site designed for the Deaf community, the guide focusing on the history of the Corban Family Winery, to give context and more awareness of the site’s heritage and significance.  In addition further exhibition openings, where the Deaf community are invited 30 minutes earlier to preview the exhibition ahead of the general public.  As you can imagine, our next task is to apply for funding to adequately support our plans to better engage with the Deaf community.  And from there, an Arts Festival designed for the Deaf community.  Why not?

Martin Sutcliffe,
Director, Corban Estate Arts Centre.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

some time
Gabby O’Connor
by Kathryn Tsui

Artist Gabby O'Connor has long been fascinated by the history and physical nature of Antarctica which she reconstructs in her latest installation, some time, a luminous multifaceted sculptural interpretation of the edge of the Antarctic Ross Ice Shelf at the point of collapse.

Made with thousands of tissue paper sheets the labour intensive installation has been entirely hand dyed and cut into individual geometric shapes, before being assembled. Painstakingly created some time represents the time it has taken to form the icy continent and now the speed at which it is melting. The materials of the installation being paper and light also reflect the immense and delicate ecosystem of Antarctica and the current effect of climate change.

some time plays with the architecture of the gallery, invading the space with a foreboding glacial cliff face. The artist says, “the angles and geometries are a space to contemplate the nature of ice, our position in the world and the space we inhabit and the edges potential to transform unexpectedly”.

O’Connor’s work reflects on Robert Falcon Scott and his crew's final and fatal expedition in Antarctica. The artist is intrigued by the Ross Ice Shelf for the slightly macabre fact that it will eventually calve off icebergs containing the bodies of Scott and his crew. In an earlier work, What lies beneath (2011) at the City Gallery Wellington, the artist constructed the rarely seen submerged part of an iceberg with the help of NIWA Oceanographer, Craig Stevens.

some time (2013)
Hand dyed and lacquered tissue paper, staples.

Artist biography
Gabby O’Connor is a Wellington based artist with a practice grounded in installation. The artist holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts. Since 1995 O’Connor has exhibited nationally and internationally in Japan, Canada, Holland, Australia and the UK. In 2011, she produced a solo exhibition What lies beneath at the City Gallery Wellington. This latest Antarctic installation is the first arts project in New Zealand to be funded by Boosted, a crowdfunding initiative for creative projects in New Zealand recently established by the Arts Foundation. O’Connor continues to collaborate with scientists and is currently working on a commission with award winning physicist Professor Shaun Hendy.

Artist acknowledgments
The artist would like to acknowledge the generous support of; the individual Boosted campaign funders, Shio Otani, Martin Kwok, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Craig Stevens, Ben Stevens, Katharine Allard and the installation volunteers; Elaine, Anne-Sophie, Jane l, Jane P, Francis, Alamein, Kenneth, Rainer, Urmilla, Vanessa, Jacqueline and Brigette.