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Emerging artist brings atua wāhine (Māori Goddess) story to life with immersive digital installation for Matariki 2018.

Kahurangiariki Smith & Dr Aroha Yates-Smith
MāoriGrl combines installation and video game to reinvent the story of Hine-tītama /Hine-nui-te-pō, the woman who became the goddess of death in Māori mythology.


Kahurangiariki Smith is many things; fine arts student, artist, storyteller, video game developer and most importantly, advocate for indigenous art.

Her debut solo exhibition, MāoriGrl, combines installation and a role-playing platformer video game that reinvents the story of Hine-tītama /Hine-nui-te-pō, the woman who became the goddess of death in Māori mythology.

The game MāoriGrl serves as a contrasting visual reference to the original story, with bright colours, a nostalgic wide-screen format, and abstract landscapes to create a naïve atmosphere.

Smith has specially designed and built a whare, which will be installed inside the Main Gallery. To engage with the game, the viewer must assume the position of a child, sitting on a mat inside the whare, much like the girl in MāoriGrl would.

In the traditional telling, Hine-tītama is the daughter of Hineahuone who was formed from the earth and Tāne. Hine-tītama ultimately became Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of death, when she fled to the underworld after discovering that her husband Tāne was also her father. With the ability to give life as Hine-tītama and take life as Hine-nui-te-pō, Hine-nui-te-pō's narrative has been twisted over time and misunderstood by many.

As Smith explains, “Through telling Hine-nui-te-pō’s story in this video game, I plan to bring her story to life in a way that is accessible and engaging to a younger audience who may be unfamiliar with Hine-nui-te-pō’s story, as well as older generations who have missed out on learning about atua wāhine.”

Smith is ecstatic to have MāoriGrl included in the Matariki Festival 2018 programme, “It feels fitting to open my first public show during Matariki, celebrating atua wāhine, Māori knowledge and community within such a transformative time. I hope our old stories can resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds. To be able to share these stories is an honour.”

The title and essence of MāoriGrl is derived from renowned author and researcher Dr. Aroha Yates-Smith’s thesis Hine, E Hine!: Rediscovering the Feminine in Maori Spirituality.

Yates-Smith’s thesis explored different Māori goddesses from pre-colonial times and sought to further support a spiritual connection back to these atua wāhine in an effort to restore the balance between the feminine and the masculine, at all levels of Maori society.

Kahurangiariki Smith and Dr. Aroha Yates-Smith will team up for a special artist talk on Sunday 8 July, to discuss the development of the video game MāoriGrl in relation to Yates-Smith’s thesis.

Together they will expand on the story of Hine-nui-te-pō and other atua wāhine presence in today’s world. The discussion will focus on the reciprocal interaction of ancestors and descendants taking care of the environment, and the relevance of atua wāhine in Aotearoa’s society today.

Join Kahurangiariki Smith and the Depot Artspace team for the opening of MāoriGrl on Saturday 23 June, 2:00 – 3:30pm in the Main Gallery.

MāoriGrl will be on display from 23 June – 11 July 2018 in the Main Gallery, 28 Clarence St, Devonport. 

Further information: 


Artist Talk // MāoriGrl in the Context of Atua Wāhine

Kahurangiariki Smith & Dr Aroha Yates-Smith

Sunday 8 July 1pm – 2:30pm, FREE

Main Gallery


Kahurangiariki Smith

My waka are Te Arawa, Tainui, Takitimu, Horouta. Having been raised with traditional Māori values, I have a keen interest in my heritage, and the stories of my ancestors. I engage almost daily with the art world, through the form of my university work, my own art practice, helping others with their projects, and in working at a ta moko studio. I am inspired by what surrounds me, and wish to continue putting more indigenous art out in the world with the intention of ultimately sharing these stories with an international audience.

My art often comes through in digital formats, a reflection of the media we all engage with in person and online, such as gifs and video games. I believe there is power within the intersection of traditional perspectives and contemporary media. Here, within that tension, we may explore the potential for indigenous voices in unlimited ways.


Dr. Aroha Yates-Smith

He uri tēnei nō ngā iwi i heke mai ai i runga i ngā waka o Te Arawa, o Tainui, o Takitimu, o Horouta, o Mataatua me ngā iwi hoki i takea mai nei i te whenua nei, i te Ūkaipō, i ngā whenua o Uropi hoki.  

Aroha was raised in Rotorua and lives in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton). She was Professor and Dean of Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao, School of Māori and Pacific Development, at the University of Waikato.  Her PhD thesis, entitled Hine!  E Hine! Rediscovering the Feminine in Māori Spirituality, focuses on the role of atua wahine in Māori cosmology and the marginalisation of the Māori feminine in ethnographic writings and the modern colonised Māori community.  

Aroha’s research interests include karanga, te reo o te wahine, Māori spirituality, Māori women’s arts and crafts, traditional Māori healing practices and many other issues pertaining to Māori women and the environment.  The world of the Karetao (Māori Puppetry) is an area of research, which Aroha and others have entered into, in the hope of reviving interest in this ancient practice.

Aroha's current focus is on writing books and song poetry, and disseminating information about Māori goddesses, karanga and other tikanga pertaining to women through wānanga-ā-iwi, and public lectures.  Ultimately, her main focus is on caring for the environment, descendants of Papa and Rangi.


Depot Artspace

Depot Artspace is an open and inclusive creative community in Devonport, Auckland that encourages engagement in all art forms. Depot Artspace offers a variety of facilities, services and events that support the creative community including galleries, a professional development programme, publications and a recording studio.

Contact details: 
Anusha Bhana, Media & Promotions Coordinator, (09) 9632331 or

Written by

Depot Artspace

14 Jun 2018