Kirikiriroa was abuzz with the vibrant and first-of-its-kind Toi Maaori Ki Kirikiriroa event. Spanning three days, from September 8th to 10th, this dynamic celebration, presented by Creative Waikato in partnership with the Te Tari o te Kiingitanga and Hamilton City Council, illuminated the realm of Toi Maaori. It stood as a testament to the significance of nga mahi toi within our communities and uniting a wide array of ringatoi through the spirit of whanaungatanga, fostering togetherness, and honouring their craft.
Day 1: He kai moo te hirikapo – Food for Thought
The first day set the tone for the entire event with warm weather and a sense of aroha and positivity. Waikato-based Toi artists from diverse backgrounds and artistic disciplines eagerly converged to share their experiences and insights.
It was a day of reflection, exploration, and contemplation of the nature of ngaa toi Maaori in the modern world. Emerging and seasoned artists gathered together at Te Koopu Mania o Kirikiriroa to receive keynotes, engage in facilitated discussions, and immerse themselves in breakout sessions, igniting thoughts and processes for the various practitioners to make connections and further their creative opportunities.
Dr. Kahutoi Te Kanawa, a tohunga kai raranga (master weaver), and Tai Huata, a performing arts specialist, engaged in a thought provoking discussion on “Sustaining Toi Maaori Ecosystems.” The topic touched upon the importance of succession planning within the Maaori art community and the challenges of maintaining mana within Te Ao Maaori ecosystems while simultaneously engaging with the mainstream arts environment.
Hollie Tawhiao, an artist, curator, and Maaori archive specialist, along with other prominent figures like Mel Baldwin, Meka Mauriri, and Horomona Horo, explored the complexities of “Crossing Toi Lines and the Problem of Measuring Being Maaori.”
The panel delved into alternate possibilities within the continuum of Toi Maaori tradition through to current practice, addressing questions about blood quantum, working in different contexts and forms, through to the ideas of teaching cultural practices to tangata tiriti or tauiwi.
The day brought a sense of shared purpose and a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities Maaori artists face. Participants left their baskets filled with new ideas, inspiration, and connections.
Toi artist and participant Oriwa Morgan Ward shared her experience, saying, “We have [had] some great speakers here, and we’re talking about a lot of things that’s really important being an artist here in our society… sessions about funding, sessions about being an artist – a Maaori artist, and what you want to do with that Maaori art as well. It’s what drew me in.”
Day 2: He kai moo te ringa toi – Food for the Artist
Day two, and the morning started with a karakia, and then it was time for the Toi artists to choose from several workshops with the theme for the day “Food for the Artist.” The vision was to give the Toi artists practical tools and knowledge to help them achieve their goals.
Each workshop was designed to give them new ideas and help them improve their skills. There were three workshops available on that day:
Lisa Warbrick, Te Pū Oranga Whenua, led the exploration of funding for art practice. She made the funding process feel easy to understand and artists worked on some practical funding exercises tailored to their creative practices, which highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the funding application process.
While the funding workshop was running, the second workshop was with Maree Mills, Curator Tangata Whenua, from Waikato Whare Taonga (Waikato Museum). The artists were guided through the National Contemporary Art Award exhibition, where each artist had an opportunity to share their mahi in the context of this prestigious art award and explore the idea of what makes a good artist statement. It was an opportunity for everyone to feel connected and recognised, share their experiences, and think about what is next for them as artists.
Finally, they gathered together to share insights into their artistic practices with Creative Waikato’s Leafā Wilson. Various works of art and poetry were presented, while others shared their talents in various taonga puoro. This workshop was a beautiful opportunity for Toi artists to gain confidence and connect with their peers.
The workshops gained momentum throughout the day, with participants actively engaging in skillsharing and creative expression and dedicated to practical learning, where artists honed their craft and left with newfound knowledge to fuel their creative journeys.
Day 3: He kai moo te iwi – Food for the Community
Toi Maaori Ki Kirikiriroa concluded with a flourish of good vibes, bringing Garden Place at the heart of Kirikiriroa alive with the Community Day. It was a culmination of artistic expression, community engagement, and celebration as a multi-disciplinary celebration aimed to increase visibility and engagement with the broader community, with artists setting up stalls and interactive workshops, sharing and activating their artistic talents with the public.
The atmosphere pulsed with live music from bands such as IA, Jamey Ferguson, Rootz Konekt and more, all weaving te reo Maaori throughout the musical performances, waiata and koorero on stage – a nice lead in to the start of Te Wiki o Te Reo Maaori. It was a day-long concert that showcased the diversity of Maaori music expression, from contemporary street poetry to the haunting melodies of taonga puoro; the audience was enchanted by the talent on display.
It was a celebration and it was great to people in the community enjoying the music, experiencing all the different artforms, workshops and activities and trying new things. The flow of people was steady throughout the day.
Dr. Jeremy Mayall, CEO of Creative Waikato, expressed his joy at the event’s success, emphasising the importance of creativity, education, and wellbeing in the region. “Our vision is for a Waikato Region that thrives with diverse and transformative creative activity, so it was a real joy to see the depth and breadth of nga mahi toi showcased in the CBD of Kirikiriroa through the Toi Māori Ki Kirikiriroa event.”
The Toi Maaori Ki Kirikiriroa event was not just a celebration of art, culture and creativity; it was a tribute to the power of community, collaboration, and the spirit of Toi Maaori. As the artists departed, they carried with them the knowledge, connections, and inspiration needed to continue enriching the world with their unique expressions of Toi and continue forward with confidence in the future.
Mehemea ka moemoeaa ahau, ko ahau anake
Mehemea ka moemoeaa taatou, ka taea e taatou
If I am to dream, I dream alone
If we all dream together, we shall achieve
Naa Princess Te Puea Herangi