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New artworks celebrate importance of creativity

7 July 2022

A large-scale art exhibition Toi is Rongoaa will open at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato on Saturday 9 July. It showcases deeply personal new work from fourteen contemporary Maaori artists, made with support from Creative New Zealand.

Woven throughout the vibrant exhibition is the artists’ belief in the importance of creative practice to their wellbeing. The opening event is also a celebration of Matariki, with a family-friendly day full of free activities and events centred on wellbeing from the perspective of te ao Maaori (the Maaori world view).

Curated by Margaret Aull (Te Rarawa, Tuuwharetoa, Fiji) and Maree Mills (Ngaati Tuuwharetoa), Toi is Rongoaa features established artists Aimee Ratana, Dorothy Waetford, Elizabeth Gray, Eugene Kara, Hemi MacGregor, Hiria Anderson, Israel Birch, Leilani Kake, Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole, Louise Potiki Bryant, Margaret Aull, Natalie Robertson, Regan Balzer, and Tawhanga Nopera. The exhibition name can be translated in English as ‘art is wellbeing’.

“The title Toi is Rongoaa is a statement which identifies that at the core of toi is maatauranga (knowledge). If we understand what this is, then we can use it for our own wellbeing,” says artist and co-curator Margaret Aull.

“This iteration is part of a wider movement that presents ideas and messages, reinvesting power into toi to lead us out of unhealthy spaces. This exhibition serves as a tool for transformational change.“

“The power of creativity is shown through the varied mediums within this group show,” says Waikato Museum curator Maree Mills.

“There’s traditional artistic methods like oil paint on canvas and sculpted clay, through to modern materials like fluorescent wool and steel. Music, movement, and vibrations – this is a sensory experience, even a spiritual experience.”

“It’s significant that Toi is Rongoaa opens during the 2022 Matariki ki Waikato Festival. It’s a time of year where we can commit to prioritising wellbeing through creative practice as we collectively mark the Maaori New Year, now and in future years,” says Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum.

“We’re very grateful for the support from the amazing creative practitioners in this exhibition and to Creative New Zealand which has enabled the artists to share this essential kaupapa with our community.”

Toi is Rongoaa is open to the public from Saturday 9 July. The opening day features a schedule of events, including a panel discussion at 1pm with artists from the exhibition. Entry is free.