In July a group of Friends spent a morning exploring four fascinating exhibitions in Pātaka Art + Museum’s newly refurbished galleries.

Friends will remember Whiti Te Rā! from Te Papa, when Ngāti Toa were Iwi in Residence. This extensive exhibition explores the journey of local Porirua iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira from their southern migration from Taranaki in the 1820s and 1830s, then through the years of colonial conflict into the 20th century. At Pātaka you can see some unique taonga not shown at Te Papa, such as Te Rauparaha’s pipe.

Around the corner was the fascinating exhibition Puiaki – Carved Knowledge, a wonderful collection of waka huia, or carved wooden treasure boxes. Highly prized by Maori, they were used for storing huia feathers and other tapu adornments. Many were taken and traded or sold on the European markets and the exhibition tells the story of their overseas travel and eventual return to New Zealand.

Next, we marvelled at the prolific work of Owen Mapp, in Pātaka’s retrospective of his bone carvings, Dragons and Taniwha – 50 years an artist carver. Owen established the revival of bone carving, embracing traditional Maori motifs and small object sculptures. Regarded as New Zealand’s most eminent living artist in the field of bone carving, he has shared his skills over the years with emerging carvers and is highly regarded by Maori. On the end wall of the gallery there is a wonderful photo mural of Owen’s working studio, created by curator Alice Masters, which will bring joy to all the men who hanker after a shed!

Friends group enjoying morning tea at Kaizen café.

Lastly we were hugely impressed by the stunning art works of Danie Mellor, in Pleasure and Vexation – the Strata and spectacle of history. Danie is a contemporary Australian artist who won the 2009 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. This first major exhibition of his work in New Zealand includes over 20 drawings, paintings and digitally manipulated photographs that depict the history and tragedies of indigenous and Australian history and colonialism. Danie’s signature blue and white palette which references colonial-era blue and white Spode china was fascinating viewing, with its exquisitely detailed images of native bush, animals and aboriginals. Pleasure and Vexation runs until 19 August, so make sure you see it soon.

Thank you to all at Pātaka who made our visit so memorable, particularly our wonderful hosts Mark Hutchins-Pond Contemporary Art Curator and Alice Masters Social History Curator, and the excellent staff of Kaizen café, who made us so welcome despite the business of the school holidays. We loved our morning!

Visit Pataka’s website for more information on the exhibitions we visited.

Tony and Kristin Arthur

Feature image: Friends tour group with Mark Hutchins-Pond and Alice Masters, July 2018. Photo by  Jillian Wellings