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To celebrate the recent publication by Te Papa Press of Nga Tai Whakarongorua-Encounters we invite you to join us and the authors Rebecca Rice and Matariki Williams at the portrait wall in Toi Art, the most popular art exhibition for Te Papa visitors with its thirty six arresting portraits which hang on dark red walls. The book details each work in both English and te reo Māori, and is an ideal starting point for exploring questions of art, identity, and cross-cultural exchange. They will be introduced by Michael Upchurch from Te Papa Press. We will conclude with a glass of wine and light refreshments while the authors sign books which will be available for purchase.
Rebecca Rice tells us in her introductory essay that while this invokes the salon hang of British stately homes or nineteenth-century European exhibitions, we would not then have seen portraits of Pacific, Māori and Europeans sharing the same space. Some are public and formal; others feel like intimate glimpses into private worlds. It is not a traditional portrait wall in any sense – here persons of renown sit alongside unknown subjects, in an eclectic selection drawn from Te Papa’s national art collection, and spanning the practice of portraiture.
Matariki Williams writes in her essay that many Māori, named and unnamed, are in this room. She wanted to ensure that we acknowledge that there are other ways in which tangata Māori can be represented; that is, through taonga. Māori understand that taonga can, and do, represent tipuna. The gallery is bookended with a taonga tūturu, Te Umukohukohu, and the portrait of an unknown Maōri woman. Display is one of the ways in which she, and the other two unidentified Māori women, may bring to the surface more information about them and reconnect them to their people.
Rebecca Rice is Curator Historical New Zealand Art at Te Papa.
Matariki Williams (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Hauiti, Taranaki) was Kairaupī/ Curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa at the time of writing.
After this event concludes you are welcome to stay for the Te Papa Christmas Market Night.
Feature image: Detail from: Portrait Wall, 2021. Photo by Maarten Holl. Te Papa (170373)