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Close-up on indigenous film

Lisa Reihana, ‘Te Whanau a Raawinia’ from Native Portraits n.19897, 1998.
Indigenous filmmaking is the focus of an upcoming exhibition that opens at Te Uru in Titirangi on 1 September 2018.


From the Shore brings together acclaimed works from recent Venice Biennale artists Lisa Reihana (New Zealand) and Tracey Moffatt (Australia), as well as new commissions from Tanu Gago, Robert George, Nova Paul and Linda T. Tuafale (a.k.a. Linda T.), produced especially for the exhibition.

The six artists, all working in documentary or cinema, share concerns with what it means to represent indigenous people, places or ideas on the screen. While they share the same position, their approaches vary; capturing clichés through montage, subverting conventional tropes, or searching for evocative images and symbols. Many of these production strategies have been taken directly from the work and writings of indigenous filmmakers Barry Barclay and Merata Mita.

The exhibition title comes from Barclay’s metaphor of indigenous cinema as a ‘camera on the shore’ that reverses the historically colonial direction of the camera’s gaze.

Barry Barclay (1944-2008), together with Merata Mita (1942-2010), stand out as key figures in the history of indigenous film. Breaking ground as the first male and female indigenous directors of a feature film respectively, Barclay and Mita have become key reference points for filmmakers and artists across the globe.

“There is much we can learn about ourselves through recognising an artistic whakapapa,” says Te Uru curator Ioana Gordon-Smith. “As much as the exhibition is about how to forge a new approach to representation and production, it’s also recognising a rich history of indigenous film and its generative potential for image-making today.”

Barclay and Mita left a rich body of work for artists to consider. Their closely-related concerns were comprehensive, ranging from control of production through to community-based models of filming, but with a consistent focus on cultural sovereignty.

“Māori control over our own representation is still an issue”, says Te Warena Taua, chair of the Te Kawerau ā Maki Iwi Tribal Authority who have mana whenua status in West Auckland.

“Like many others, I knew Merata. Her and Barry’s work offers the beginning of a roadmap for how filmmakers and artists can consider the production and technical making of their work, to better enhance the mana of our people.”

Te Uru is also working in partnership with Ngā Taonga to present a film-screening programme of selected Barry Barclay and Merata Mita films from September to October.

“Though Barclay and Mita’s films are highly regarded, they’ve actually received limited distribution, so we’re excited to be able to share their work with both existing and new audiences”, says Gordon-Smith.

From the Shore runs at Te Uru from 1 September – 4 November 2018
Exhibition opening: Saturday 1 September, 4pm

Hours: 10am – 4.30pm daily
Address: 420 Titirangi Road, Titirangi, Auckland

Further information: 

About the artists:

Tanu Gago (b. 1983)

Tanu Gago is a queer activist, interdisciplinary artist and award-winning photographer of Samoan heritage. Born in Samoa and raised in South Auckland, Gago maintains a creative and social practice that spans the past six years. His political activism predominantly sits within the fine arts, working in new media, staged portraiture, moving image, film, social marketing and community development. Gago’s practice is collaborative and examines cultural framing, decolonisation, social politics, queer activism and gender and sexually diverse narratives. His works include the award-winning and critically acclaimed interactive documentary ​FAFSWAGVOGUE.COM created in partnership with Piki Films, RESN digital design and New Zealand on AIR. Gago currently works as an artist for Piki Films (Taika Waititi’s production company).

Robert George (b. 1978)

Robert George is of Ngāti Kuki Airani (Rarotonga and Atiu) and Te Arawa heritage. Originally studying Fine Arts and Design, George gained a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Sociology at Victoria University, Wellington. On entering the film industry, he cut his teeth at post-production houses in Wellington. He has been working within the Film & Television industry for over fifteen years. George now lives and works in Auckland as a practicing filmmaker. In 2016 George won the Emerging Māori Director award for his film Smiths Ave at Wairoa Māori Film Festival. Smiths Ave also played at the New Zealand International Film Festival last year, as part of the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika programme. The most recent of Robert’s short films’, ‘Aka’āu: Tātatau in the Cook Islands, was filmed entirely on location. Working alongside his family and friends, George’s focus was on the art of tātatau and the relationship between the teacher and student, where knowledge is passed down through a long and committed apprenticeship. George also recently received significant CNZ funding to film a documentary on Tongan artist Kalisolaite 'Uhila during 'Uhila's artist residency in Japan.

Tracey Moffatt (b. 1960)

Tracey Moffatt is probably Australia’s most successful artist ever, both nationally and internationally. She is certainly one of the few Australian artists to have established a global market for her work. A filmmaker as well as photographer, Moffatt has held an estimated 100 solo exhibitions of her work in Europe, the United States and Australia. Her films (including Nightcries – A Rural Tragedy, 1989, and Bedevil, 1993) have been screened at the Cannes Film Festival, the Dia Centre for the Arts in New York and the National Centre for Photography in Paris.

Over the last 25 years Moffatt has produced a cohesive body of work. Each series devolves from an unwritten narrative – a story is implied, but never stated. Part of the artist’s project is to dismantle the conventions of storytelling, paradoxically by using artifice alone to tell her tales. At the same time, the power of her work derives from the persuasions of myth. Moffatt’s subjects touch on deep-seated, implacable issues, on the wounds that never heal. Indeed, her avowed ambivalence about being categorised as an indigenous artist is at odds with her commitment to the fostering of Aboriginal culture, and to the central place of indigeneity in her work.

Nova Paul (b. 1973)

Nova Paul teaches Studio Moving Image and Art Theory in the Visual Arts Department at AUT University, Auckland. Her filmmaking practice draws from early cinema, experimental film histories and fourth wave film discourse to consider the poetics and politics of place, self-determinacy and the image and the role of storytelling in talking back to neo-liberal hegemonies. Paul's 16mm films have screened nationally and internationally in film festivals and gallery programmes. This is not Dying, 2010, for example, which received NZFC funding, has screened at Rencontres Internationale, Centre Georges Pompidou, France, (2011), Rotterdam International Film Festival, (2011), New Zealand International Film Festival, (2010) and City Gallery Wellington, (2010).

Lisa Reihana (b. 1964)

Lisa Reihana is a multi-disciplinary artist of Māori (Nga Puhi) descent who has contributed in powerful ways to multimedia, photography, sculpture and screen culture in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Reihana has earned an outstanding reputation as an artist, producer and cultural interlocutor of tremendous generosity and intelligence. Her attention to the complexities of contemporary photographic and filmic languages is expressed in myriad ways. Her ability to harness and manipulate seductively high production values is often expressed through portraiture and cinematic realms where the artist often enlists family and friends as models.

Reihana has an extensive exhibition history including her solo exhibition Native Portraits at MLAC, Italy, Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum; the Asia-Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; the Liverpool Biennale, UK; Pasifika Styles, Cambridge, UK. Digital Marae, 2001, was shown at Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth, 2007, was shortlisted for the Walters Prize, 2008 and Anne Landa Art Award, AGNSW, Sydney. Digital Marae employs large-scale photography, short videos and aural soundscapes to create an environment which is a culturally rich meditation on Māori in modern times. This work has been shown extensively and continues to garner international renown. The complex works comprising Mai i te aroha, ko te aroha (From love, comes love), 2008, commissioned by Te Papa Tongarewa, include multi-screen videos, sculpture and textiles.

Reihana's work is held in private and public collections including Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland; Australia National Gallery, Canberra; Staatliche Museum, Berlin; Susan O'Connor Foundation, Texas and Brooklyn Museum, New York. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland and a Masters in Design from UNITEC School of Visual Art and Design.

Tuafale Tanoa’I a.k.a. Linda T.

Tuafale Tanoa’i, a.k.a. Linda T., is a Samoan-heritage artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Using video, photography and DJ-ing, her practice documents and shares community stories, generating a living archive. Her kaupapa has been described as one that is based on koha – often made with and gifted back to the communities she engages. She has also worked with various organisations from community to government-led incentives with a special interest in Pacific women’s health and youth. Linda T. received a Master’s in Art and Design from AUT after establishing a career in local radio, TV and short film. Linda T. is widely recognised for her contributions to small communities in Aotearoa through her documentation practice, which she has been committed to since the early 1980s.


About Te Uru:

Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery is West Auckland's regional gallery. Te Uru is an institution locally rooted in West Auckland but globally minded. Through our programmes, we create a world stage for art that is relevant to West Aucklanders, to put local art, artists and ideas in conversation and context with national and international developments in contemporary practice. As a destination gallery, Te Uru operates from an award-winning building in the recently re-opened Lopdell Precinct. The gallery originally opened in 1986 in the historic Lopdell House building in the heart of Titirangi, gateway to the Wāitakere rain forest and en route to Auckland's famous west coast beaches. We reopened as Te Uru in 2014 in new purpose-built facilities, offering extraordinary exhibitions and spectacular views of the surrounding area. Te Uru receives core funding from the Wāitakere Ranges Local Board of Auckland Council.

For more information, contact:

Te Uru 09 818 8087




Written by

Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery

25 Jul 2018

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