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New Maori contemporary art gallery sets up in Rangiriri 24 January, 2017

Its home to a historical Pā site and the famous Rangiriri Tavern but Te Ahorangi Totorewa hopes to see his new Maori contemporary art gallery become a destination too.

The Huntly 22-year old opened the Tupu te Toi Gallery recently with his father Brad Totorewa, a Ngāti Naho leader in the Waikato area.

Brad's connections date back to his schooling while Te Ahorangi's great grandfather Simmonds [Te Hiwa] Whiunui migrated from Parihaka to the town in 1907 at the age of four.  

Te Ahorangi completed his Te Toi o ngā Rangi at the Toihoukura School of Māori Visual Arts and Design last year.

READ MORE: *Rangiriri Pa site cleaved by state highway to be restored to its original state

Not long afterwards, he and his father were quick to get the venture off the ground. 

"My dad came up with the idea because Rangiriri is going to be restored to its natural way," Te Ahorangi said.

Rangiriri has undergone some significant environmental transformations that include the Waikato Expressway and the Rangiriri Battle site.

About 20,000 cubic metres of soil from the Rangiriri section of the Waikato Expressway project will be used to fill the former SH1 cutting and reconnect the cleaved Pā site in a $750,000 restoration plan.

They also thought about what they could do to attract visitors to the small northern Waikato village. 

"That's the goal, to get this town out there."

What's unique about the gallery is its connection to the area and its history through Maori contemporary art, he said. 

"At the moment our first exhibition is about the wars, me and my colleague are going to smash out the work."

The exhibition will be open in May, he said, which is when the Rangiriri Pā site developments are due to be unveiled.

Currently featured in the gallery are artists throughout the country that he's connected with through his studies.

Some are still studying, some graduated and even his tutor's work features on the wall. 

At this stage the aim is to establish the gallery in the community and there are plans in the pipeline to include Tā Moko.

The gallery is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am-2pm. 

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