All artists have a complicated relationship with tradition, but that relationship is even more complex for Māori artists. This applies particularly to those who work in a non-traditional media or who amalgamate customary knowledge with international styles and artistic philosophies. Taiāwhio is a collection of conversation-based essays on contemporary Māori artists working in a range of media, from customary to anything but, from weaving and carving to painting and sculpture, film, video, and photography.
Each chapter investigates the artistic practice and sources of inspiration of one particular artist or group, looking at the development of their work, drawing on extensive interview material. The illustrations show the artist at work in the studio, giving the reader a sense of the full range of their work and, at the same time, the environment in which that work is created.
As well as established names, Taiāwhio also includes the work of a number of young artists, giving an insight into the people who will create the Māori visual culture of the future. The artists are: Jolene Douglas, Star Gossage, Fred Graham, Lyonel Grant, the Hetet Whanau (Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, Verenora Hetet, Len Hetet, and Sam Hauwaho), Dion Hitchens, Emily Karaka, Hemi Macgregor, Nathan Pohio, Moko Productions (Leonie Pihama, Sharon Hawke, and Glynis Paraha), Baye Riddell, Natalie Robertson, Anaru Rondon, Tracey Tawhiao, Saffronn Te Ratana, Kura Te Waru Rewiri, and Arnold Wilson.
The text is lively and accessible to the non-specialist reader. Taiāwhio is essential reading for students of art and art history, as well as for all those with an interest in contemporary visual culture and New Zealand culture in the broadest sense.
General editor Huhana Smith was Concept Leader, Tangata Whenua at Te Papa, and is herself a practising artist. Other editors include: Megan Tamati-Quennell, Curator, Art at Te Papa (on secondment to Ngai Tahu Development Corporation, Christchurch); John Walsh, formerly Curator, Art at Te Papa and now a full-time artist; and Oriwa Solomon and Awhina Tamarapa, both Curators, Māori at Te Papa.