'Mahinaarangi' painted by Robyn Kahukiwa for our Wharenui Ūkaipō in 1998.
The Marae housed an impressive array of artwork ranging from the simplicity of children's drawings through to major pieces by well-known painters and sculptors. The Marae has also featured as a set on several films and has served as an inspiration to artists of all mediums and disciplines.
The Marae featured contemporary art by many indigenous artists including, Fred Graham, John Walsh, Robyn Kahukiwa, Diane Prince and Darcy Nicholas. The Marae was the center of Māori creativity, most prominently during the 1970's and 1980's. Māori and non-Māori literary and art societies and clubs converged on Tapu Te Ranga Marae for retreats, collaborations and rehearsals.
Ngā Puna Waihanga
From left to right: writer Bruce Stewart, actor Wi Kuki Kaa and director Lee Tamahori on the set of E Tipu E Rea - Thunderbox, 1989. Photo from the New Zealand Film Commission.
Bruce Stewart, founder of Tapu Te Ranga Marae was a playwright, actor and singer. He was President of Ngā Puna Waihanga (Māori Writers and Artists Society) from 1982. Members of the society included Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera, Hone Tuwhare, Arapera Blank, Rowley Habib, Keri Kaa, Katerina Mataira, Dun Mihaka, Meremere Penfold, Apirana Taylor and many others. They were part of the Māori renaissance - a movement that promoted the right to live as Māori.
Darcy Nicholas writes, "Within the association there were often arguments, factions and disagreements some of which lasted for years. Some of the artists were very knowledgeable in Māori tradition and culture whereas others were still searching for their Māori identity. Tribal, gender, individual and age differences also caused conflict. It was a dynamic art scene that made us grow stronger."
"For the Māori, art became the record of their beliefs.
Without a written language, the artisan set down the history of his people, in wood, jade, song and dance..."
– Don Selwyn
Some of the Artists
In 1998, Artist and Author Robyn Kahukiwa (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Konohi and Whanau-a-Ruataupare) was commissioned to adorn the Whare Ūkaipō with pou (pillar) installations and a painting. The project was funded by Te Waka Toi, Creative NZ. Robyn says, "For me, a woman artist of Māori descent, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To be involved with the making of artworks for a whare was an honour and a privilege. It was doubly significant for the degree of involvement in creation of a house that is limited to men in many iwi. It took about 18 months to create the pou and to complete the painting."
Apirana Taylor of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou and Taranaki descent, has published several collections of poetry, short stories, novels and plays. In the late 1970s Apirana was one of the original founders of Māori theatre group Te Ohu Whakaari. His first book 'Eyes of the Ruru' was launched at Tapu Te Ranga Marae in 1979, where Apirana was working with members of the Mongrel Mob digging out clay in preparation for the building of the multi-layered wharenui. He recalls, "With these hands we built it...this kohanga reo / this language nest where / our children could
James Stewart is one of Bruce's sons. He has carved and painted art works for the Marae since his youth.
James' most notable contribution is perhaps the series of wooden installations in the whare tupuna Pare Waaka. The sculptures surround the room as pou, representing various stages of a woman's life, from birth through to adolescence and old age. The symbolism of a woman is important to Māori philosophy, as she epitomizes the sacred life-giver and is the personification of an ancestral house.
Vanessa Patea of Ngā Puhi and Ngāti Maniapoto was commissioned to create a contemporary three-dimensional mural incorporating the designs of early Māorirock art for the Marae's first whare, Tāne Whaiora.
The contemporary Māori installation and painting was opened in 2014. Vanessa drew inspiration from the central Canterbury limestone caves and cliffs. Te Waka Toi of Creative NZ funded the project.
Vanessa is an accomplished photographer and film-maker. She also volunteers as a kaimahi with Manawa Karioi.