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ANIWANIWA - Dr Brett Graham and Rachel Rakena

27 September - 16 November 2008


still from Aniwaniwa by Brett Graham and Rachel Rakena
Still from ANIWANIWA, image courtesy of the artists Fibreglass, video components, mattresses, audio. 5 suspended fibreglass forms, each 2.5m diameter. Courtesy the artists, Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland and Bartley & Company Art, Wellington

Kia kaha ake ake, Graham 1947’ (forever be strong)

E whakamihi atu a Aniwaniwa ki a Horahora, te kāinga o tō Brett Graham pāpā rāua ko tōnā koro, i mahi tahi ki tētahi whare hiko (power station).Ka heke iho te wai, koia nei te kaupapa o Aniwaniwa, hei hanga whakaaro mō te tikanga mate haere me tētahi huarahi hei whakamārama pūrākau.

Ka whānui ake ngā take e pā ana ki ngā āwangawanga o te taiao, ka piki ake te wai me te whakamahana o te ao, ko ngā take e pā ana ki te tikanga mate haere o tēnei ao hurihuri.Nā ngā paki-a-kite e ariā ana i roto i te Wakahuia,…te take e puta ngā tāonga kua ngaro ā ka hoki ngā mahara ki te tikanga whakahirahira o te whakapapa me te whenua hei whakatū kōhatu, hei whakamōhio mai nō kōnei tātou, ahakoa e tāwhiti roa atu tēnā wāhi, kaore tātou e kite.

I waipuke te kāinga me te whare hiko i te tau 1947, hei hanga te moana o Karapiro, kātahi ka whāngai atu ki te whare hiko matua ki te awa.

E whakahirahira ana te hokinga mai o Aniwaniwa ki te Whare Taonga o Waikato atu i tōnā putanga atu ki 52nd Venice Biennale i te tau 2007.

I kōnei i Waikato e noho tūturu ana a Horahora ki raro i te awa takoto ai, ā nō kōnei anō te whakapapa o tēnei whakaahua.

Aniwaniwa is a stirring tribute to Horahora village where Brett Graham’s father lived and his grandfather worked at the power station.

In Aniwaniwa the theme of submersion is used both as a metaphor for cultural loss, and as a medium to retell stories of survival. Wider references are made to environmental issues, rising sea levels and global warming, and concerns about cultural loss in an era of globalisation. The visual anecdotes are fittingly contained in the Wakahuia, because they represent lost treasures and revisit a place that begs us to remember her; a poignant reminder of whakapapa and land as anchors that provide us with a sense of belonging, even when that place is no longer visible to us.


water level rising Horahora powerstation by Stan Rowe and Barry McKey

Horahora villagers watch as the water levels rise -images from "The Horahora Power Station, compiled by Stan Rowe & Barry McKey"

The village and power station were flooded in 1947 to create Lake Karapiro, to feed the new larger power station down stream. It is of particular significance that Aniwaniwa comes home to the Waikato Museum after being exhibited at the 52nd Venice Biennale, 2007. For it is here in the Waikato, where Horahora now lies in her watery grave and where the imagery has its whakapapa (origins).

Ka riro he au heke, e kore e hoki ki tona matapuna ano.

(the current never returns to its source)*Once an opportunity is lost it will never come again.*

Aniwaniwa is a collection of wakahuia with internal projections and sound components suspended from the ceiling; large carved sculptures holding memories of a place now submerged under water. This collaborative work by Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena has been in development for over three years. Graham became interested in working with Rakena after seeing her performative moving image work Rerehiko (2003) involving underwater filming. From the collaboration emerged another earlier work, U.F.O.B. which was exhibited in Zones of Contact: Biennale of Sydney (2006) at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Aniwaniwa is based upon a specific historical event and local Aotearoa New Zealand geography, yet also continues the artists’ reflection on the forced migration of the Pacific peoples explored in U.F.O.B. and earlier works by each artist. In the local context, Aniwaniwa highlights the submerged Waikato village of Horahora and uses flooding and immersion as a metaphor for cultural loss with specific reference to local iwi. It is a theme that has wide relevance in a time of global warming, with rising sea levels effecting the Pacific, but also many other coastal regions and cities. Participation at the Biennale of Venice, a slowly sinking city, provided an ideal forum for the watery nature of this work.

Māori identity is usually defined in terms of a relationship to land, as in the expression, tangata whenua. In many of Rakena’s works however, this identity is explored as being in a state of flux, a fluidity that like the borders of a river, is constantly changing. Rakena has likened this fluidity to intangible cyberspace digital networks, and has explored water as a metaphor for people, communication and culture. “As I worked with people in water, I found culturally specific relationships between Māori and water impossible to ignore. We are island people living in a vast ocean. We belong to water just as we belong to land,” Rakena explains.

Aniwaniwa has multiple meanings and connotations; it can evoke the blackness of deep water, storm clouds, a state of bewilderment, a sense of disorientation, and confusion as one is tossed beneath the waters, it can also refer to a rainbow, a symbol of hope. Aniwaniwa is also the name of a set of rapids on the narrowest point of the Waikato River.

The artists were initially interested in using the notion of ‘submersion’ as a metaphor for cultural loss. The ‘submersion’ of one’s history had been the subconscious theme of many of the conversations Graham has had with both his father, respected sculptor Fred Graham, and grandfather. His father’s childhood village of Horahora had been flooded with the creation of the hydroelectric power station at Karapiro in 1947. Significantly, many of the waahi tapu, or sacred sites of Ngati Koroki Kahukura were also lost at that time.

In 1911 the Waikato River was diverted at the Aniwaniwa rapids to create the Horahora Power Station. Graham’s grandfather and many other local Māori of Ngati Koroki Kahukura were employed here. His stories about the power station were touched with nostalgia for a place that is now under water, existing only in the memory. As the newer, more efficient power station was built downstream at Karapiro, Horahora became obsolete and was flooded, more or less in perfect working order, to create Lake Karapiro. As it was deemed necessary to keep the station open for as long as possible to supply power to the national grid, it was still operational whilst in the act of being flooded – in fact, one of the generators was unable to be shut down giving rise to the legend that Horahora refused to die (die the death of the hammerhead shark! in Graham’s words). Many of the workers and their families were present at the time, witnessing their former work place’s demise. An old photo shows the words, ‘Kia kaha ake ake, Graham 1947’ (forever be strong), that his grandfather had written on one of the generators. As the waters rose, a karakia (blessing) was delivered and ‘Po Atarau’ was sung with family members all looking on, crying as their homes and power station were gradually being filled with water. Sixty years later, the artists invoked Graham’s grandfather’s words, and wrote upon the forms departing for their long sea voyage to Venice, ‘Kia kaha ake ake’ (Graham 2007).

Graham describes the development of the sculptural forms:
“The generators themselves became a focus for the suspended sculptures. Their location, above the viewer, was intended to disorientate one’s perception, suggestive of the other meanings of Aniwaniwa. They are covered in a pattern that evokes the gnawed paths of insects, gouging through wood (hence the origin of the word ‘whakairo’, to carve, or literally, be like a maggot). This is reminiscent of the legend of Ruatepupuke, where the art of carving was itself retrieved from under the waters, from the sacred house of Tangaroa.”

Whereas Graham anticipated focusing on the machinery, or other images of disorientation, Rakena has chosen to look at the community itself in the filming of a village under water with villagers going about their daily chores. Each of the scenes offers an alternative reading. The woman trying to light the fire could be lighting it to keep the fires burning, or to keep warm, or to cook, but she is wearing mourning clothes. The man could be digging his garden or maybe a grave. The children might be going to school, or leaving for good. The woman bringing her washing in off the line has not managed to dry it. Her washing is a reference to the original naming of Horahora where the infant Raukawa’s clothes were spread out to dry. Raukawa grew up to become the eponymous ancestor of Ngati Raukawa, a powerful Tainui tribe. Generations later, the place only exists underwater. Women keep the hearth warm - a metaphor for a culture being quietly sustained. ‘Ahi Kaa roa’ literally means the ‘long burning fire’. The fire refers to the occupation and therefore ownership of land, which has been maintained through generations. Mana whenua status is based on long term occupation i.e. the home fires have been kept alive and burning and have never been extinguished. The phrase is about maintaining one’s claim on the land. The fire no longer burns under water.

The villagers lives have been preserved, their actions that like history, are forever suspended in space and time in pools that defy gravity. “I wanted to acknowledge peoples lives, the repeated activities of the people suspended forever as a memory floating, immersed in the lake of a disrupted river. They are not dead. They are symbols of a community still alive, still engaged in the activities of living, struggling to maintain their claim to the area. The repetition of actions that never achieve their goal shows the determination and continuation yet,” says Rakena.

While the story is not of her tribal ancestry it allows Rakena the distance to create narratives around the stories that have resurfaced, a re-imagining and evocation, with the fires of chief Waharoa’s cremation of corpses running into rivers of blood. The constancy of river flow might be finite, our children and grandchildren may not ever know a river without contamination. While the genesis of the work comes from the mighty Waikato River with all of its mythology, the imagery is reflective upon the sustainability of our whole natural environment and the drying up of such natural water sources globally.

Alice Hutchison, Dr Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena - 2007

Aniwaniwa – te hokinga mai

It may appear somewhat audacious to attach the words ‘te hokinga mai’ (the return home), a phrase so closely aligned with homecoming of Te Māori the landmark travelling exhibition of taonga in 1986, to this project. In doing so we seek not to directly align these two very different projects realised some twenty years apart, but to celebrate the achievements of the Aniwaniwa project and the presentation of this mesmerising work by Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena within the illustrious 52nd Venice Biennale, the art world’s oldest and foremost international biennale.

The presentation of Aniwaniwa as part of City Gallery’s contribution to the 2008 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts is strategic, not only do we welcome the work from its successful showing at Venice and offer it to New Zealand audiences, we also underline our support of the artists and the project. Their earlier collaborative work U.F.O.B (2006) was shown here within Telecom Prospect 2007: New Art New Zealand. In many ways U.F.O.B. was a precursor to Aniwaniwa, but it is also useful to recognise the differences between the two works, with Aniwaniwa being more directly rooted to a specific place and time (the Waikato village of Horahora and its powerstation), while also discussing more universal concerns of rising water levels, and dispossessed peoples. U.F.O.B. explored more broadly the waves of migration of Pacific peoples from early waka explorations to the present day, and the evolving challenges and prejudice facing migrating peoples (whether the migration is forced or voluntary). It had a satirical, tongue-in-cheek attitude, with the co-joined acronyms of F.O.B. and U.F.O. in the title, the inclusion of sculptural forms based on Temuera Morrison’s space ship from the Star Wars pre-trilogy, and the soundtrack which included strains of ukulele classics such as ‘Pearly Shells’. In Aniwaniwa the tone of the work has shifted. The haunting soundtrack featuring the inimitable talents of Whirmako Black, Paddy Free and Deborah Wai Kapohe accompanies moving images that speak of an intense disruption to land, the displacement of a community and the struggle to survive in the face of adversity.

Brett Graham, Rachael Rakena, the curatorial team of Alice Hutchinson, Camilla Seibezzi and Milovan Farronato were joined by friends, whanau, and supporters to take this ambitious project on its journey to the 52nd Venice Biennale. There were naysayer’s who eyed their selection with suspicion, and maintained that it couldn’t be pulled off. Their participation in the Biennale was not ‘through the back door’ but through official channels. Aniwaniwa was entered into an open contestable part of the Biennale—the Collateral Events section. The Biennale curator, in this case Robert Storr, selected projects, and an invitation to participate was extended to the project’s curator Alice Hutchison by the Biennale Directors. Selection is a highly competitive process and while kudos may be seen to be bestowed on your project if selected, this is not accompanied by funds from Biennale coffers. The notice of inclusion came in January 2007, less than five months from the opening date. A venue needed to be sourced, the work completed, the logisitics of shipping and installation negotiated, a media campaign and a catalogue prepared. Progress on all fronts proceeded apace, but the most mountainous challenge was securing the resources the project would require within such a short time-frame. Even though the project was realised as economically as possible, the scale of the project and a fair share of ‘Venice-specific’ challenges meant that costs were significant.

Generous support was garnered from a range of organisations and individuals (listed in the Acknowledgements section of this publication) and the artists took on substantial personal debt to make it happen. Over 23,000 people experienced the work during its four month run. Responses were rapturous and the work was a revelation to many, often being their first experience of contemporary art from Aotearoa. Expressions of interest in showing the work flowed in, St. Petersberg, London, Tasmania, Toronto. I was lucky enough to be in Venice for the opening and to lend my fruit chopping and Prosecco pouring skills to the artists for the opening, which also meant I could see how this project stacked up against others from national pavilions, to Robert Storr’s curated sections and other Collateral Events. Aniwaniwa’s presence in Venice was comparatively modest compared with some of the gargantuan national pavilions and Collateral Events underwritten by vast budgets. The work, presented in a 700 year old salt store of cathedral-like proportions, had great integrity, poignancy and mana, and affected visitors in ways that many of the more glitzy presentations would have yearned for.

Heather Galbraith - 2008

For more information on Aniwaniwa in Venice, catalogue essays by Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Professor Sean Cubitt, and additional acknowledgements go to


(click on artists' names for more information)

Dr Brett Graham (Ngati Koroki Kahukura, Ngati Pākehā)

Born in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand in 1967. Lives and works in Auckland.

Brett Graham’s work embraces Maori and other indigenous peoples’ histories, critiquing and exploring issues relating to cultural inequities of the past and present within New Zealand and the wider Pacific. Graham was awarded his Doctorate in Fine Arts in 2005 from the University of Auckland and in the last decade has exhibited extensively, locally and internationally. In 2003, at the Adam Gallery, Victoria University, he created his doctoral exhibition titled Kainga Tahi Kainga Rua to expose the devastation caused by phosphate mining on the Micronesian island of Banaba. His work has been included in major national and international exhibitions including: Telecom Prospect 2007: New Art New Zealand, City Gallery, Wellington (2007); Zones of Contact; Biennale of Sydney at Museum of Contemporary Art (2006); Purangiaho Seeing Clearly, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki (2001); Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance (2001), City Gallery Wellington and the Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery (1996). His work is also featured in most major collections in the country , such as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki and his public commissions include Kahukura, Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia, Whaowhia for the Auckland War Memorial Museum (2006-7), Kaiwhakatere, Wellington and initiated by the Wellington Sculpture Trust, Kowhatu Karohirohi for the Victoria University Collection (1999), Escape for the North Shore Court House (2002). Graham completed a Bachelor of Fine Art, University of Auckland (1985-88); Master of Fine Art, University of Hawaii (1989-91); Doctorate in Fine Art, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand (2001-5).

Rachael Rakena (Ngāi Tahu, Nga Puhi, Ngati Pākehā)

Born in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, 1969. Lives and works in Palmerston North.

Rakena uses a range of media from digital stills and video, to installation and performance in order to explore ideas about iwi (clan-based) identity, and the subjects’ dis/embodiment in both digital and water spaces. She works primarily with video and often in collaboration. She is currently the course coordinator for the Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University in Palmerston North, Aotearoa New Zealand. Her work has been included in: Telecom Prospect 2007: New Art New Zealand, City Gallery Wellington (2007); Mo Tatou – Ngai Tahu Whanui, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (2006-8); Zones of Contact; Biennale of Sydney at Museum of Contemporary Art (2006); HIGH TIDE: currents in contemporary Australasian art, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland, and Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania (2006); Pasifika Styles, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, UK (2006-08); PLAY: Portraiture and Performance in Recent Video Art from Australia and NZ at Adam Art Gallery, Wellington and PICA, Perth, Australia (2005-6); Taonga Whanau, SOFA Gallery, Christchurch, NZ (2005); Face Value: video portraiture from the Pacific at Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, and Museum of Brisbane (2005); The Greenhouse: multimedia art from New Zealand at Medienwechsel 3, Frankfurt, Germany (2004); Lightscape in SCAPE 04, Cathedral Square, Christchurch (2004); Travelling Light: collaborative projects by Pacific artists, Performance Space, Sydney (2004); Te Puāwai o Ngāi Tahu at Christchurch Art Gallery (2003); Whare in SCAPE 02, Christchurch (2002) and Adelaide Festival (2004); Techno Māori: Māori Art in the Digital Age at City Gallery Wellington (2001).


Tuatahi, ko tenei te mihi aroha ki oku tupuna, Kiwa Graham korua ko Lena, me nga pou mahi kua haere, o Horahora. Kua rewa atu to koutou waka ma roto I te awa tapu i Waikato, he wai pounga hoe mai na o tupuna. Ki a Otene, to matou Mapihi pounamu, korua ko te whaea Patricia haere atu ra, e hoe to korua waka ki Hawaiki nui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki papamao. Moe I roto I te Ariki.

Ki a koutou nga purapura ora, na koutou te kaupapa ‘Aniwaniwa’ i tautoko, tena koutou.
We wish to acknowledge the many people who have contributed generously and worked tirelessly to assist Aniwaniwa in its journey to Venice. At the beginning family and friends encouraged us to pursue this dream and supported us with their aroha, time, energy and resources. An especially big thank you to Marina McCartney and Pip Rakena for making sure we never abandoned the dream. They were Alison Bartley of Bartley and Company Art; Jenny Todd of Two Rooms Gallery; staff and students of Te Putahi a Toi, Massey University.

The project momentum gathered speed with some most welcome patronage: we appreciate the contribution made by Byblos; Centreport; Creative New Zealand; Sue Fisher; Ruth and Rob foreman; Allan and Christine Hedlund, NgāPae o Te Māramatanga; Massey University; Ombra; Te Puni Kōkiri; Kevin and Rowena Roberts; Seresin Estate; Saatchi and Saatchi, Tainui and The Todd Trust.

We were fortunate to receive special contributions from musicians, artists, vocalists, writers, performers, divers, waka and production crew, and suppliers—their generosity and goodwill helped this project enormously. The video production featured the work of underwater cameraman Dion O’Connor and performers; Hori Barber, Ngahina Hohaia, Justin Kawana, Jordina Kokiri, Darnell Marsters, Hone Morris, Tina Ngata. Awarangi Gray Nicholls, Sharon Paewai, Todd Horowai Parker, Alex Ratu, Jacob Tapiata, Taiawhio Tapiata, Morehu Teohaere, Jasmin Timu-Te Ture; the production assistants; Aimee Stevenson and Marc Kawana; and the team. Rewiti Arapere, Erena Baker, Asher Newberry, Kelvin Kara, Tawhai Rickard, Amy Van Luijk; divers, Jhanitra Gavala, Dave Haturini, Neville Heihei, Dennis Hopkins, Tim Horgan, Joshua Millan and Dive HQ Palmerston North. We thank you all.

The following people are also warmly thanked for their support of the artists, curators, and Aniwaniwa project Jamie Bull, Robert Burke, Sean Cubitt, Nobby Clark, Penny Eames, Jo and Terry Gould, Fred Graham, Tessa Laird, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Rose Miller, Dinah Morrison, Simmie Nichols, Tracey Peters, Sharron Rakena, Sir Paul Reeves, Brent Robinson, Jane Sutherland, Potaka Taite, and Warren Warbrick.

Huge thanks to those who helped us in Venice, our friends and whanau who came from NZ to help: Emma Gilkison; Hana Rakena; Saffronn Te Ratana; Ngataiharuru Taepa; and Murray Rich of Rich Rigging whose installation expertise and efforts continue to realize our vision as the project continues; our hosts in Treviso, Carolyn Vautier and Enrico De Nard; Castor Fiber; Dino Facchini; Giovanni Gregoletto; Stefania Uberti; and Alistair. Much appreciation to the whole team at City Gallery Wellington who have always embraced this kaupapa with open arms.

A special thanks to all of those from Horahora who shared so much of their knowledge and memories.

Brett Graham, Rachael Rakena, Alice Hutchison and the Venice curatorial team

The Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato would like to acknowledge the artists Rachel Rakena and Brett Graham. Heather Galbraith, City Gallery Wellington for her assistance, Dee Paepae Isaacs (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Maniapoto) for translating the introductory text.Te Hou Kirkwood(Waikato- Maniapoto) Tainui representative, for his translation of the invitation and Whirimako Black (Tuhoe, Ngati Purou) for her moving soundscape. 27 September - 16 November 2008