Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard, of Te Arawa, Ngati Awa and Ngati Raukawa descent, opens up a range of innovative weaving approaches and techniques, subtly sitting amongst what one might describe as strictly customary mahi raranga (plaiting and weaving work) and mahi whatu (finger woven fibre work). For Leonard the skill and knowledge of weaving was part of the relationship he shared with his grandmother and the kuia of his kainga in Rotorua. Whether mastering carving or weaving, for Leonard, learning and understanding the foundations of each art form is the platform from which he pushes the parameters of each discipline to create new statements.
Manawa wera - Defiant Chants, holds a beat that implies a steadfast and determined resolve and, for differing reasons, it also describes the positions of both Hohaia and Leonard. The metaphorical use of chants to poetically describe the commonalities and individual aspirations found within their art practices also tell us something of their qualities and beliefs. Whether motivated by the stories of Parihaka or a desire to innovate and strive for excellence within the art form, it is the personal convictions of both artists which allow the works in Manawa wera - Defiant Chants to resonate loudly with the viewer. With this exhibition, two artists collaborate to present new and recent works that innovate and push new ideas and boundaries within the wider discipline of mahi raranga and mahi whatu.
A PDF download of Nigel Borell's full essay is available here.
Manawa wera - Defiant Chants was featured on Maori Television's Te Kaea programme, Sunday 8 August at 7:30pm. The 8 August episode will be available online at the above link until Sunday 16 August.