PONO is both a play on the Māori term for sincerity and has resonance with a 1997 artwork by the Belgian Francis Alÿs, where the artist pushed around a block of ice in a beautiful yet futile act where "sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic." The potential of nothing is a consideration when making any artwork, something the artists regard as significantly heightened given our current situation of social change and physical distancing. The exhibition asks us to consider how to manaaki and hold space when we cannot physically host or be hosted, with artworks made of materials that are integral to our living environment, shifting between being both something essential and something familiar.
PONO also negotiates the balance of tapu and noa and how this sense of harmony is crucial for our collective hauora. There is a sensibility of giving and taking inherent in the gestures of Chantel Matthews’ pieces. Visitors are invited to take a cup of tea away, mattresses will be passed on to her whenua and vessels made from clay act as the tuarā or backbone to the exhibition. Collectively, these artworks serve as a kind of interior to manaaki the gallery and reverberate with the social fabric of a marae as a space of hauora through domesticity.
Jacob Hamilton's artworks act as the conceptual exterior and counterbalance. His artwork Rāwhiti-mā-raki, a cabin placed in the courtyard, uses wood upcycled from Kainga Ora homes and industrial sites. Alongside the cabin, he exhibits images borrowed from government websites, printed in abundance to give a face to many transactions that shaped connection to whakapapa through the land. Acting as "receipts", these images unravel the balance needed to restore ownership.
Both artists are referencing how harmony is essential for our collective hauora and to restore connection to whakapapa. Through the generosity of manaakitanga as both social interaction and the site of physical occupation, PONO earnestly maintains a kaupapa of taking care of ourselves and of others through questioning the means in which we do this.
About the artists
Chantel Matthews’ artworks can be described as sculptural moments that explore social, political and cultural concerns through her own subjectivity as a woman, mother, artist and wahine Māori. Focusing on process-led exchanges, Matthews mobilises experience as a storytelling mechanism, contributing to objects that become both “things” and “things that matter”.
He uri au mai Raukawa ki Tuhourangi. He uri hoki au no Ngapuhi ki Ngati Arera.
Jacob Hamilton’s artistic practice uses sound, photography and objects to trace links to whakapapa, land and the urban environment. Through postcolonial attitudes, he explores te ao Māori and hauora as a way to navigate culture and identity in a modern context.
About Janet Lilo
Janet Lilo is of Te Rarawa, Samoan and Niuean descent. She has built an artistic practice playing with the lens and posturing of identity through popular media and has exhibited across Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Hawaiʻi and Japan. For PONO, she sets up a curatorial framework of tuakana/teina through the lens of manaakitanga within te ao Māori. Alongside her socially and politically engaged artwork, she is trying hard to raise good, solid, feminist men.