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North Island exclusive | Waitohu art showcase

25 November 2020

An extraordinary showcase of contemporary Maaori art bridging the divide between traditional cultural skills and modern art practice is set to open at Waikato Museum on 28 November – a North Island exclusive.

Featuring a diverse range of artworks by 13 contemporary Maaori artists, Waitohu explores the different styles and visual languages of carving marks, shadow and pattern.

Waitohu has been curated by Milford Galleries Dunedin Director Stephen Higginson, with Waikato Museum being the sole North Island venue for this unique exhibition. Pulling together a selection of works that share similarities despite their different styles, Waitohu celebrates Maaori identity and its distinct voices captured in photography, painting, glass, ceramics, mixed media or sculpture.

Waitohu examines whakapapa and tradition linked by the presence of light – a core spiritual concept in Maaori culture. Light is a major element in many of the pieces, from the geometric patterns and illusionary depths of Israel Birch's hanging sculptures to Robert Jahnke’s installation Te tomokanga o te ua, which will be the first thing visitors see when entering the exhibition. In a different take on light and darkness, Lonnie Hutchinson acknowledges a head comb’s traditional status as a venerated object, using silhouetted patterns and shadow to adorn it with the outlined incisions of birds flying away. From Baye Riddell’s three-sided terracotta sculptures featuring an array of carving patterns and stylised koru designs to Peata Larkin’s light boxes referencing weaving patterns, this free exhibition provides a connection between the physical and spiritual worlds – between various states and stages of being. Waitohu also includes works by Brett Graham, Chris Bailey, Lisa Reihana, Reuben Paterson, Darryn George, John Walsh, Chris Heaphy and Mike Crawford.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham says Waitohu offers a rare opportunity to experience so many high profile Maaori artists in one place. “This exquisite exhibition of contemporary Maaori art is definitely worth the drive to Hamilton,” she says. “It’s a spectacular celebration of Maaori talent and brings visibility to the impressive calibre of contemporary Maaori artists for our visitors to embrace and champion.”

Waitohu runs from 28 November 2020 until 8 February 2021, daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free.

On the banks of the Waikato River, in the heart of Hamilton's CBD, Waikato Museum's 13 galleries feature more than 25 new exhibitions and 100 public events annually.

Image: Detail, Whakapapa Get Down on Your Knees 1, Reuben Paterson, 2009,
glitter & synthetic polymer on canvas


For more information:

Tamsin Webb, Business Development Manager 

Ph 07 8386560, 021775691;

Details of all exhibitions are available at