A desire to find local taonga lost from memory led Toihoukura Māori Visual Art and Design School Associate Professor Steve Gibbs on his research journey – one that also took him to Europe.
The taonga Steve went in search of were hoe (waka paddles) and a woven cloak acquired by James Cook at a meeting with local Māori on board the HMS Endeavour, while it lay becalmed off the coast of Gisborne, not far from where EIT Tairawhiti’s Toihoukura, School of Māori Visual Arts, is now situated.
An important person in the process was renowned New Zealand anthropologist, environmentalist and writer, Dame Anne Salmond, who helped Steve track down some of the taonga and memories lost to the people of Turanganui-a-kiwa.
“These are the oldest existent examples of our traditional painting systems we now call kowhaiwhai,” says Steve.
Steve has created a substantial body of work and curated two major exhibitions based on his research to date. The recent installation at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London was opened by Sir David Attenborough.
Professor/Ahorangi Derek Lardelli is Pouwhirinaki/Principal Lecturer at Toihoukura at Tairāwhiti and is well-known for his role as cultural advisor to the All Blacks and the composer of their Haka, Kapa O Pango, which was performed at the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
A fundamental principle to Derek’s work, be it visual – toi moko, painting, sculpture – Te Matatini festival or kapa haka, is that it must be true to what he believes in.
Derek researched and wrote six songs, as well as the associated histories around those songs, which were performed at the 2019 Te Matatini festival.
His approach to research may be viewed as different to the norm. For Derek Lardelli, the main thing about research, particularly from a cultural perspective, is that it comes from a place of knowing.
“The difference there is that we live our lives knowing this stuff and that we have to write it in some form is very Eurocentric in its approach.”
Particularly pleasing for him is the Ko Rongowhakaata exhibition which is currently at Te Papa Tongarewa, The National Museum in Wellington, for which he has created some art pieces.