The digital view from a Māori lens
It starts with an itch, a yearning to touch clay or create. For Kereama Taepa, this is the driver, often into the early hours, before he is up again early, to the call of fatherhood and work.
“What gets me up every day? First and foremost I want to show my children that if they want to achieve something they have to be courageous and just chase it without fear of rejection or not achieving - I suppose I'm just trying my best to be a good role model for them.”
This itch, he says is the difference. It generates momentum in his pursuit to continue the rich tradition of innovation from his Māori ancestors.
“There’s a tradition of innovation in Māoridom. Our ancestors travelled and had to adapt to new and ever-changing environments that were at first completely new to them. I am inspired by the way they had to invent and innovate to survive in the new environments they found themselves in.”
Digital technology is a driver for Taepa and his exhibition at Ramp Gallery, Te Ao Mariko translates to "The Virtual World”.
“In essence, Te Ao Mariko is an exhibition that explores the tradition of innovation through digital technologies and digital spaces.”
His studio is a MacBook on the kitchen table and when he is ready to print, he will clear some space on the kitchen bench. From there comes the result of innovation. Tukutuku (weaving) may be represented by pixels and he creates forms in 3D designed digital carving.
Taepa has exhibited national and internationally and creating accessible work is important to him.
“I love to take our mahi [work] into places and spaces and be relevant,” he says.
His public sculptures include an installation at Te Papa in Wellington, a public work in New Plymouth and external works for toilet blocks in Whakarewarewa Forest and the Redwoods in Rotorua.
“I am mindful of those who struggle with their identity and sense of belonging. I want to bring more Māori art into our public places and spaces so that they feel a sense of belonging through seeing their culture.”
In a recent interview in the Ramp podcast series he says, “Being an artist was not really a choice”.
He grew up in an artistic family with a Pākehā mum and a Māori dad.
“We were drawing and painting from an early age. Grandma was a painter on my mother’s side and my dad taught carving in prisons.
“Every time we were in the studio with Dad, we were carving, working with clay, with mud on our hands. I was more interested in the 3D side of things, my brother was a painter.”
He didn’t grow up knowing much about mātauranga Māori – he learned a lot at school and at university where he studied Māori visual arts.
“In terms of my art I am happy being both and why can’t we be both? For me I have come to terms with that through my art and expressing that notion that I am both Māori and Pākehā and I am okay with that. You can belong in both worlds.”
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