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Māori and Pasifika creatives weave art and tech together for new Mana Moana Digital Ocean

Still image from a hand painted animation titled 'Mana Moana Meditation', a collaboration between Michael Tuffery and Dr Karlo Mila.
Still image from 'I am Hine, I am Moana', a new video work by Tina Ngata in collaboration with Choreographer Terri Ripeka Crawford.
Te Huihui a Matariki - new work by painter Regan Balzar features in a collaborative piece with musicians Laughton Kora and Horomona Horo, leading taonga puoro artist.
Mana Moana Volume 2 Digital Ocean brings together more than 20 leading creatives from across Aotearoa in new multimedia and video art. Launching 17 July at


Art and technology weave together in new collaborative artwork that explores our relationships with the ocean and climate breakdown, highlighting indigenous voices and knowledge.  This is art as activism. Art that will challenge and inspire.

More than 20 leading creatives from across Aotearoa are involved, with new work ranging from video art, to VR /360 film and 3D digital sculpture.

The result is Mana Moana Digital Ocean, an immersive web-based digital art experience launching on 17 July 2020 at

Artists involved in Mana Moana Volume 2 include visual artists, dancers, musicians, filmmakers and poets, with new works featuring Michael Tuffery, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Kereama Taepa, Dr Johnson Witehira, Louise Potiki Bryant, Dr Karlo Mila, Regan Balzar, Warren Maxwell, Horomona Horo, Laughton Kora and more. The new collaborative works are being released around Matariki - traditionally a time of reflection and renewal - and presented on a new and unique immersive digital art platform, developed by digital production companies Storybox and Vanishing Point specifically in response to Covid-19 restrictions.

Founded in 2019, Mana Moana is underpinned by values of mana, vā, collaboration, activism and indigenous knowledge, and provides a Māori framework that enables and encompasses indigenous moana perspectives. This artist-led project is co-curated by Rachael Rakena (Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi), and Mike Bridgman (Tongan, Pākehā), colleagues at Massey University's Whiti o Rehua School of Art. In the shift to the online format this year they have conceived an inky digital 3D ocean environment populated by the new art projects, the web platform itself becoming an artwork in which the viewer is invited to voyage. Rakena and Bridgman have grouped artists from different disciplines together to collaborate with the technology, resulting in dynamic new creative works. Creative producers Storybox have enabled the artistic process through developing the platform and framework for the project to thrive. The digital gallery platform will bring the Mana Moana experience to even more people through 2020 and beyond, building on the success of last year’s award-winning Mana Moana water screen, seen by thousands at the Whairepo lagoon in Wellington in 2019 and selected for the Nuit Blanche Toronto Festival in Canada.

Mana Moana has a strong presence again at this year’s Matariki ki Poneke. Video previews of the new artworks will screen in Odlins Plaza between 17 - 25 July. Wellington City Council sees Mana Moana as integral to it's Matariki celebrations, showcasing Māori and Pacific culture and acknowledging indigenous knowledge and wisdom at the time of Matariki. The move into the digital realm is exciting as it extends the reach of the festival.

“This year’s digital activity means we are not limited to time or space. It’s accessible to anyone, from anywhere, so everyone can get to experience Wellington’s creativity and culture from their armchair,” says Wellington Mayor Andy Foster.

Rob Appierdo, Creative Director of Storybox the producers of Mana Moana, says "We are excited to be releasing Mana Moana vol 2 as part the of the capital's Matariki Ki Poneke 2020 festival. Mana Moana Digital Ocean is an immersive web-based digital art experience, launching on 17 July 2020 at"

“The mana of the moana is something that Moana people across the whole Pacific share as an idea, as this source of energy, and power and something that we really respect,” says Rakena.

“It’s really important to remember our relationships with the ocean. They’re whakapapa based. We’re connected, we’re all connected. We can’t survive without taking care of each other and that means taking care of the non-human other too," Rakena explains.

“Having Mana Moana set within the lunar framework of Matariki is really significant. The Mana Moana connection to Matariki centers the important relationship we need to maintain the rhythms of our environment, and the synching of Māori and Pacific ideologies," says Bridgman, co-curator of Mana Moana.

“This year Mana Moana Digital Ocean is attached to the tail end of the Matariki lunar phase of Tangaroa. It wraps up our Matariki celebration period to focus on the future. We pay tribute to the past, bringing together our offering, the harvest of ideas and knowledge from artists, providing creative nourishment for the mind," he explains.

"Mana Moana Digital Ocean will be an evolving digital platform with new artworks popping up in the next few weeks," adds Bridgman.

Commitment to the role of Māori, Pacific and indigenous art

The curators and producers are committed to the role of indigenous art and the importance of it’s voice in our ongoing public discourse about our relationships with our environment. This is art as activism, enabling audiences to reflect and discuss many intersecting issues of our time.

"We are in such critical times of considering, questions of identity, belonging, and relationships between people and place,” says Tina Ngata (Ngāti Porou), Tairāwhiti based artist, writer, and advocate for environmental and indigenous rights.

“Art has always provided us with the means to speak across boundaries of language and culture, and now technology also allows us to also transcend barriers of distance and location to give voice to our reflections as Tangata Moana, as Tangata Whenua, and as Tangata Tiriti,” she adds.

Ngata has collaborated with choreographer Terri Crawford (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngai Tūhoe) on a video work for Mana Moana Volume 2, titled I am Hine, I am Moana. It delves into the omnipotence of Hine (atua wahine/female god) as the ageless, divine, feminine principle that flows directly from the universe and the role of Hine in navigating physical, spiritual, environmental and cultural cycles of change.

Dance and choreography features in two other Mana Moana projects: Manawa Hau, a VR based Māori mindfulness experience featuring dancer and healer Cathy Livermore (Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu) and taonga puoro musician Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) and directed by Jess Feast (Ngāti Raukawa); and Tūātea, featuring award-winning dancer and choreographer Louise Potiki Bryant (Ngāi Tahu).

New works have also been created by Michael Tuffery (Samoan, Rarotongan, Ma‘ohi Tahitian) who pairs hand painted animation with spoken word from Dr Karlo Mila (Tongan, Pākeha) in a piece titled Mana Moana Meditation; and musician Laughton Kora (Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Pūkeko) interpreting both the visual and poetry into a soundspace response also threaded into a collaboration with painter Regan Balzer (Ko Te Arawa, Ngāti Kahungunu) and taonga puoro artist Horomona Horo (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Porou, Taranaki).

Well-known Wellington based artist Jasmine Togo Brisby (Australian South Sea Islands) has a new work in Mana Moana titled Troubled Waters. The work includes a fleet of ships constructed from colonial furniture adddressing the Pacific slave trade (‘Blackbirding’) which used the Moana (ocean) as a highway for abducted people. Her work looks at the Oceanic conceptions of vā in relation to slave diaspora notions of the sea as a graveyard.

Along with the theme of moana - water - sound is a connecting element throughout the Digital Ocean online art experience. Wairarapa based composer and musician Warren Maxwell (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngai Te Rangi) has used under-ice sound recordings from Antarctica in a collaborative new work titled Rukuia with Dr Johnson Witehira (Tamahaki, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Haua), a Feilding-based artist and designer who also co-leads Āpōpō, the first Indigenous Design and Innovation space to be set up in Aotearoa. The under ice sounds are also used in a beautiful soundscape for the whole Digital Ocean website experience.

Digital Ocean - an innovative digital art gallery experience

The new Mana Moana Digital Ocean web platform uses the latest browser based technology, giving audiences an immersive and interactive viewing experience. It was developed during the Covid-19 lockdown by Storybox and digital studio Vanishing Point to present art safely to audiences prevented from gathering in physical proximity.

“We are excited to take the water screen version on a virtual voyage this year to suit the new Covid reality” says Appierdo, Storybox. “It’s so great to see the range of new artworks being developed by such unique and talented collaborations while also adapting for the digital realm," he adds.

"Viewers can come back to the Digital Ocean site again and again to continue exploring the digital art platform," says curator Bridgman. "And, hopefully Mana Moana will be back on the water screen later this year.”

Massey University connections

Mana Moana has strong connections with Massey University. Numerous staff and alumni of the College of Creative Arts (CoCA) and Whiti o Rehua School of Art provide guidance as well as artworks. Head of CoCA, Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Claire Robinson, says they are delighted to support  Mana Moana’s kaupapa, which foregrounds indigenous voices and highlights how creative arts and technology can work together. The new public art works offer a compelling narrative about manaakitanga (care and respect) and whanaungatanga (connectedness) to inspire positive change for people and the planet alike.  

"Mana Moana talks about climate change and rising sea levels through the powerfully creative lenses of our indigenous people - we need to take notice. It is art as activism in its most potent form.” says Professor Claire Robinson.

Mana Moana features well within a wider global cross-indigenous research platform, called The Space Between Us: Col(lab)orations Within Indigenous, Circumpolar and Pacific Places Through Digital Media and Design, involving researchers and artists from the Canadian, Circumpolar and Pacific regions. Rakena and Witehira, a Massey alumnus, are both on its Indigenous leadership team. The research platform examines different models and methodologies in digital and new media that actively develops indigenous knowledges, advances training opportunities, capacity building and indigenous cultural resurgence. 

Head of Massey's Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Professor Huhana Smith (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga), says Mana Moana is playing an integral role in developing this global research platform further and advancing digital knowledge and media.

"I am proud that so many of our Toi Rauwharangi creatives are leading this work," Professor Smith says.

The Massey connections have expanded in 2020. Joining Massey colleagues involved in Mana Moana are artist Kura Puke (Ngāti Tawhirikura, Te Atiawa), Associate Dean Māori at CoCA, who collaborates with digital and spatial designer Stuart Foster, Senior Lecturer at Nga Pae Mahutonga School of Design, and Kurt Komene (Ngāti Tawhirikura, Taranaki), knowledge specialist in the Toi Māori team at CoCA. Te Rina Warren (Rangitāne, Matakore, Ngāti Whitikaupeka), Senior Lecturer from Te Pūtahi a Toi, has composed a pao that brings the view into the Mana Moana digital ocean space. Artist Jasmine Togo Brisby is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts at Massey. And alumni Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) Regan Balzer (Ko Te Arawa, ko Ngāti Ranginui) and Kereama Taepa (Te Arawa, Te Ātiawa) have joined alongside prominent alumni Dr Witehira and Dr Mila.

Mana Moana is supported with funding from Creative New Zealand and Wellington City Council and is supported by Massey University.


Mana Moana Volume 2: Digital Ocean launches online on 17 July 2020.  Go to


Artists featured in Mana Moana Volume 2 Digital Ocean:

Dr Karlo Mila, Michael Tuffery, Dr Johnson Witehira, Warren Maxwell, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Kereama Taepa, Louise Potiki Bryant, Tina Ngata, Terri Ripeka Crawford, Kura Puke, Stuart Foster, Kurt Komene, Horomona Horo, Laughton Kora, Regan Balzar, Cathy Livermore, Jess Feast, Rob Thorne.

Further information: 


Mana Moana is based on these project values

Mana: We believe in creating a platform for upholding a healthy and respectful relationship with the Moana in all its forms (ocean, lakes, rain, rivers) 

Vā: To generate and maintain healthy space between us, each other and our environment and to bring people together.

Indigenise: To provide a Māori frame from which to enable and encompass indigenous Moana perspectives. It creates a positive platform for critical discussion and celebrates whakapapa relationships with the environment.

Activism: Mana Moana seeks to draw attention to, critique, and to request action on environmental issues with a future indigenous frame, through the use of technology and art.

Collaboration: Mana Moana allows powerful interdisciplinary art-forms, mediums and creative practices to intertwine, converse and thrive.



Mana Moana, curated and conceived by Rachael Rakena and Mike Bridgman and produced by arts production company Storybox, brings together leading interdisciplinary Māori and Pacific artists to collaborate on multimedia and moving image artworks exploring our relationships with the ocean, climate change and highlights indigenous knowledge and stories. The inaugural Mana Moana project in 2019 presented five audio-visual works on a water screen at Whairepo Lagoon in Wellington as part of Matariki celebrations. The 2019 project received a Gold at the 2019 BEST Design Awards and has been selected for the Nuit Blanche Toronto international art festival in Canada. A Maori TV video series showcases the 2019 project and features interviews with curators and artists.



Mana Moana has been developed in partnership with creative producers Storybox who enable the artistic process through developing the platform and framework for the project to thrive. Established in 2010 Storybox is an award-winning arts and media production company that specialises in finding innovative ways to connect with audiences. We believe in the power of integrity and art to make our future a better place to be.

Contact details: 
Rob Appierdo, Creative Director, Storybox: .

Written by

Alex MacGibbon

10 Jul 2020