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Artist wins joint award

One of the four Māori artists from the Mataaho Collective that won the prestigious Golden Lion at the 60th Venice Biennale for their installation last week is Dr Terri Te Tau, who was raised in Wairarapa and is of Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu descent.

“It’s still sinking in. Having our work chosen for a Golden Lion is incredible,” she told the Times-Age, noting that it’s the first time the international art accolade has been awarded to New Zealand artists.

“We hope that it will encourage more support and pathways for our artists to create and exhibit locally and internationally,” Te Tau said.

Since 2012, Te Tau has worked alongside Erena Arapere-Baker, Sarah Hudson, and Bridget Reweti in Mataaho to create works like Takapau, which won the Golden Lion and was made of woven and latticed polyester high-vis tie-downs.

She said the work was first planned, designed, and installed at Te Papa in November 2022, and “was only taken down from the Threshold Gallery at Te Papa in February this year”.

“It was packed down really beautifully, with each strop rolled up, numbered, and packed into purpose-built cases.

“We re-wove the work in Venice.

“We’ve got a couple of proposals in the pipeline, and if they go ahead, it will keep us busy for the next two years.”

Aratoi Museum director Sarah McClintock said that, with their work Takapau, the Mataaho Collective have earned a landmark achievement in one of the supreme exhibitions in the international art world.

“It can’t be overstated how significant but also well deserved this is,” she said. “It shows you how great and strong New Zealand’s artists are.”

Mataaho has gone from strength to strength as a collective, McClintock said, and their piece is one of the most incredible artworks created in New Zealand.

There is an indescribable feeling while standing underneath that work, when observing the installation in the flesh – “The feeling of the unapologetic wāhine Māori perspective really celebrating their point of view. It’s beautiful.”

McClintock also said it isn’t surprising that someone from the Ta Tau whānau won the award because they are “creative powerhouses.”

Te Tau agreed that there are many artists in her whānau.

“My dad is an artist, and mum used to do LED lighting when I was little which I found really fascinating,” she said

“My Nana Marj was a master at anything related to needlework, lacemaking, and embroidery.”

Based in the Manawatū, in addition to being an artist, Te Tau is a writer and is researching the connections between indigenous knowledge systems, speculative fiction, science, and the environment.

She completed a PhD in Creative Arts from Massey University in 2015 before becoming a post-doctoral fellow at Massey University.

Te Tau was born in Sydney to parents who were both from Wairarapa and moved back to the region when she was five, attending Lansdowne School, Masterton Intermediate, and Wairarapa and Mākoura colleges.

She remains passionate about Wairarapa history, she said, and much of her writing and research work is based here.

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