Late December 2020 a certain section of Gladstone Road received a visionary splash of colour and energy with the arrival of Hoea! Gallery and Project Space.
A thick orange rope of paint winds and wheels across the aquamarine street frontage, and through the glass, neon lights, stray objects such as a solitary door frame and blocks of bold colour form a visual feast that beckons you inside.
You’ll find those doors wide open from Thursday to Saturday, 11am – 3pm when Hoea! operates as a Gallery for the public.
The kaupapa behind this, one of the latest art galleries to grace our CBD, is encapsulated perfectly in its name, Hoea! which means to paddle and implies dynamism and forward movement.
The three wahine Māori paddling this waka are Melanie Tangaere Baldwin (Ngāti Porou, Rongomaiwahine), Nikora Te Kahu (Ngai Tamaterangi, Ngāti Makoro, Ngā Puhi, Ngai Tuhoe) and Rangimarie Makowharemahihi Pahi (Ngati Hinetu, Ngāti Kurukuru, Moriori).
They wanted to create a space in which to continue the national conversation about contemporary Toi Māori and to champion indigenous mahi. A space in which for fellow artists to experiment and move their own waka forward; a place in which for people to experience contemporary Toi Māori in all of its dynamism and different forms.
Mel, Nikora and Rangi first met at Toihoukura, Gisborne’s School of Māori Art and Design. Mel was tutoring a contextual studies paper as she worked on her own Masters in 2019. Nikora and Rangi were amongst her students. Mel recalls Rangi and Nikora buzzing out on the artists they were learning about: Marcel du champ. Rebecca Beomore, Yayoi Kusama, Edgar Heap of Birds, they always seemed to be hanging out for more..
Mel watched as Nikora and Rangi got excited about expressing themselves in ways that were wholly Māori, yet experimental and when it came time for the pair to graduate, she offered to mentor them, hoping they would continue with their art practice. A forward motion, which in turn led to them opening Hoea! with the help of fellow contemporary artist, Sjionel Timu, Ruth Quirk on the business end of things and weavers Kaa Te Mihi Puketapu and Michelle Kerr.
Hoea! opened on January 30 with ‘Wahine Toi’, an exhibition which celebrated the opening of a wahine Māori-run space. A nod to Robyn Kahukiwa’s seminal book of the same name, the exhibition was a karanga to welcome people into the space as well as an acknowledgement of those wāhine Māori who have paved the path before them, making a space like this possible.
The trio plan to install a new show every six weeks. Group shows will be favoured over solos, and according to the guiding principal of tuakana-teina, upon which the space has been founded, you will always find the works of emerging artists alongside those of the established artist. Hoea! will feature artists from both here and away with the intention of enabling people to experience new artists and practices as much as possible.
It will however be rare to find a room filled with paintings in Hoea! as the collective continue to stretch people’s ideas as to what Toi Māori is. Therefore you will always find installation, sound and video work, and pieces that don’t necessarily fit with peoples’ ideas of what indigenous art should look like. And while it’s a space in which the conversation about indigenous mahi is front and centre, non-Māori are welcome to contribute to that conversation.
The gallery will be open from Thursday to Saturday, with the space available for the rest of the week for wānanga and other artist-run projects. Ron te Kawa will be visiting in March for a wānanga and life drawing classes will begin soon.
The collective are working with two kura kaupapa Māori to provide weekly mahi toi workshops and with Turanga health to provide programmes for hapu and new mums.
Story by Sarah Cleave
Photographs by Tom Teutenberg.