Jewellery that can only be worn in a virtual world; handwoven harakeke battle suits; and digital mōteatea – a new exhibition at The Dowse Art Museum opening 6 June explores and challenges the definition of craft in Aotearoa today.
Featuring projects by more than 20 makers from throughout Aotearoa, Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making is co-curated by Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi), Director of The Dowse, and Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai.
Spanning a broad range of practices, the works in the exhibition are often unexpected; painstakingly embroidered Dunkin’ Donuts wrappers, 3D printed taonga puoro, a still-life tableau made of sugar, live tattooing with uhi, Korean woodturning, and masi depicting Fijian weniqia, tattoo markings.
Chitham says the exhibition shows the diversity and energy of handmade practices happening in Aotearoa in the 21st century.
“The traditional perceptions of craft is studio craft – ceramics, glass, jewellery, and textiles – that all come from a Western tradition ,” he says. “We’re hoping to expand people’s understanding of what craft and the handmade is, and could be.”
“In Ā Mua, the thing that defines the many practices on display is that they’re innovating within a lineage or tradition of making that’s specific to each makers’ cultural context.”
“The lines between art and craft have been broken down. Instead, we’re now talking about what we make and how we use it, which has significant impact now and for future generations.”
(Rowan Panther, Lei #1, 2017. Courtesy of the artist).
Māhina-Tuai says the practices, objects and makers in the exhibition engage with traditions that span hundreds of years, multiple cultures and a vast variety of techniques, skills and materials.
“Ā Mua is exciting because it presents wide-ranging examples of the richness, creativity and ingenuity of our diverse makers in Aotearoa New Zealand,” she says.
“Together, they provide a snapshot of what craft is today, and what it could look like in the future.”
Ā Mua features work by Brendon Monson, Eugene Kara, Fuli Fati, Kupa Kupa and Jack Kirifi, Henriata Nicholas, Jay Hutchison, Jo Torr, Joana Monolagi, Kaaterina Kerekere, Kaetaeta Watson and Louisa Humphrey, Kathryn Tsui, Kereama Taepa, Monmouth Glass, Rowan Panther, Shona Tawhiao, Talafungani Finau, Tracy Byatt, Tu‘ifonulava Kaivelata, Victoria McIntosh, Wai Ching Chan, Walk In The Park, Designworks and WISE Collective.
Ā Mua, which is a Māori term used to describe ‘a time to come’, also reflects the cyclic nature of Indigenous time where the past, present and future intersect, interchange and co-exist. Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making traces the relationships of each featured maker’s place within, across and alongside traditions of craft and the handmade.
The exhibition was originally conceived as the next chapter of their 2019 book Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of Making in New Zealand and the Wider Moana Oceania, edited by Chitham, Māhina-Tuai and Damian Skinner.
COVID-19: The Dowse reopened on 18 May 2020 at Alert Level 2, with extra hygiene precautions in place. Find out more here.
Two other exhibitions also open at The Dowse on 6 June: Human Hand: Fiona Amundsen & Tim Corballis, exploring three historically-laden sites in Arizona, USA, through film and photography, and The Group: Flying No Standard, showcasing the legacy of The Group, 1927-1977, with works from The Dowse Collection.