New installation created in partnership with iwi artists

Published on May 18, 2022

Detail from Ngā Toi Matapihi art installation in CBD

A new art installation highlighting iwi identity will soon be featured in Whanganui’s CBD.

Ngā Toi Matapihi was conceived in partnership with local iwi and Whanganui District Council’s community arts co-ordinator, Anique Jayasinghe, with support from the council’s Town Centre Regeneration project team and Mainstreet Whanganui.

The council worked with artist co-ordinator and project contributor, Tapirioterangi Pirikahu, to select five other artists for the project – Naani Waitai, Cecelia Kumeroa, Luda Ashford, Natasha Keating and Maiangi Waitai.

The project aims to highlight iwi identity in Whanganui’s town centre through vinyl artworks by six artists, and to enhance a currently unused commercial space in Whanganui’s main street.

Anique Jayasinghe says, “Each artist’s vibrant artworks will be featured on the empty shop frontages of 149a and 149b Victoria Avenue at the intersection of Victoria Avenue and Guyton Street.”

She says, “Using vinyl for this kind of project means the artworks can be easily applied to the shop’s windows and removed when the property is leased.”

The artist team has worked collaboratively to explore the theme of Whanganuitanga in the work. Contributing artist Naani Waitai describes Whanganuitanga as “sovereignty and all that entails”.

“It is about embracing others whilst retaining what is by birth-right our own. For me it’s about belonging to the awa – seeing myself as the awa, and doing whatever I can to make a positive difference when I can and for as long as I can,” she says.

The artists all have a direct relationship with Whanganui. Half of the contributors live and pursue their art practice in the Whanganui district, while others are based elsewhere in New Zealand. Anique Jayasinghe says this facet of the project “speaks to the enduring connection each artist has to their birthplace and whānau, in spite of distance”.

In the case of Maiangi Waitai’s artwork, it was an opportunity to engage her five-year-old daughter in creating a piece that relates to her Whanganui heritage. “I’ve always loved the aesthetic and energy of naive art, and it was lovely to do something together especially for our hometown.”

Similarly, the artwork created by Luda Ashford for the project relates her whakapapa with “a digital waka maumahara that memorialises my koro in the male figure, and acknowledges the three generations of separation from the awa through the vertically protruding designs”.

Ngā Toi Matapihi is scheduled to open for public display on Friday, 20 May 2022. The artwork is expected to remain on display to the community for up to six months, or until the commercial space is let.

IMAGE: Detail from a section of the Ngā Toi Matapihi art installation opening in Whanganui's city centre


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