Touring Exhibition Showcases Māori Talent

The Whanganui Regional Museum is excited to be hosting a major touring exhibition, on loan from the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata.

The Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award show is an exhibition of selected finalists in the highly contested Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award competition.

The Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award encourages emerging Māori artists to create portraits of their tūpuna (ancestors) in any medium.  Entrants must have a whakapapa connection to the tupuna depicted in the work, and any visual medium can be used. Following the inaugural competition in 2021, the depth of submissions since has seen a range of unique art pieces that include whakairo (carving), sculpture, raranga (weaving), ceramics, oil painting and photography.

The Award was first launched in August 2020 in a partnership between New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata (the hosts and administers of the event) and Te Tari o Te Kiingitanga – The Office of the Kiingitanga. The Award was created to inspire a new generation of emerging Māori artists. It is also supported by Te Tarahati Ohaoha o Bethlehem – Bethlehem Charitable Trust, Te Tarahati Marae o Turangawaewe – Turangawaewae Marae Trust, and Creative New Zealand.  The event provides emerging Māori artists a platform to showcase their talents on the national stage, while also playing an important role in the recording and celebrating of tūpuna and their stories.

The exhibition was opened yesterday with a formal ceremony at the Museum. Special guests included representatives from The Office of The Kiingitanga; Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, Adrian Rurawhe; and Mayor of Whanganui, Andrew Tripe. Around 80 people were in attendance.

There are 36 original new works of portraiture in the show, with a diverse range of mediums.

A schedule of public programmes is planned to support the exhibition. These will include cultural workshops, guided tours and school holiday programme activities.

Museum Senior Curator, Libby Sharpe, said Whanganui is privileged to have this touring exhibition; “When we were doing earthquake strengthening on the museum building, we built the Samuel Drew Gallery specifically to accommodate touring shows. The Drew Gallery offers good security, lighting, and environmental controls to protect the works. It’s a great space.” The earthquake strengthening was completed in 2019 and the Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award show will be the first touring exhibition to go into the space.

The exhibition has previously been shown at Otago Museum and around galleries and museums in the North Island. Whanganui Regional Museum is the last venue to present the exhibition.

Libby Sharpe said, “We think that people will be really interested in the range of presentations of Māori portraiture.”

Whanganui Museum Director, Dr Bronwyn Labrum said she is “thrilled” to have the exhibition in Whanganui, especially since several of the works have links to the Whanganui region. She said hosting the show is part of her “strategy of bringing the best from around the country to Whanganui.” Bronwyn is keen to expand offerings to Māori audiences, but also to showcase contemporary Te Ao Māori (the Māori World) to all visitors; “This beautiful exhibition does just that.”

Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award is open now and until 4th June 2023 at Whanganui Regional Museum, Pukenamu Queens Park, Watt Street, Whanganui. Admission is free.

Karen Hughes

1 March 2023

Art & Design