HERE: Kupe to Cook dismantles misconceptions about the discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand, providing a deeper understanding to the people and places of the Pacific Ocean
1. (verb) (-a,-ngia) to tie, tie up, fasten with cords, bind, oblige
2. (noun) string, cord, obligation, condition, limit, restriction, legal restriction
1. (adverb) towards or at this locality or place in time
2. (noun) this place, this point in time
In the English language, the word here is a marker of location, representing a time or place. In te reo Māori, here refers to the act of binding, or being bound to a place, object or obligation. These ideas of location and connectedness sit at the heart of the exhibition – exploring the ways people have anchored themselves to the lands of Aotearoa and the stories surrounding this.
Entrance to Here: Kupe to Cook with anchor stone made by Wi Teapa visible on the left
Over 1,000 years ago, Kupe was one of the first oceanic navigators to reach New Zealand. Using the stars and ocean currents as his navigational guides, Kupe travelled from his homeland Hawaiki, across the Pacific to arrive in Aotearoa. Kupe named numerous places as he travelled, including a number of land forms in the Wellington region and left two anchor stones (punga). The anchor stone at the entrance of the exhibition provides a conceptual anchor point for conversations around Oceanic exploration and ideas of 'discovery'.
Like James Cook who travelled to New Zealand in 1769, Kupe and his crew are often credited for 'discovering' the country. The truth is that neither Cook or Kupe discovered Aotearoa, instead they mapped the islands and created pathways across the sea for successive waves of migration and settlement.
We can’t change the past, but we can challenge the way that people think about our history. Artists, in particular, have a powerful role in this regard, and enabling our artists to challenge discovery narratives became the cornerstone of the exhibition we developed.
HERE: Kupe to Cook features artworks by 20 leading Aotearoa New Zealand and Australian contemporary artists who investigate the long and varied histories of South Pacific voyaging – from Kupe to the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1769.
Yuki Kihara, Takitimu Landing Site, Waimarama
In this stunning exhibition, Maori sculptors Wi Taepa and Tawhai Rickard have created sculptural interpretations of Kupe’s anchor stone and an imagined version of the Endeavour, the vessel sailed by Cook on his first voyage to the Pacific. Paintings inspired by Tongan Ngatu barkcloth by Glen Wolfgramm and Dame Robin White celebrate connections between Oceanic communities, while photographs by Samoan artists Yuki Kihara and Greg Semu question the strength of those connections.
The exhibition title can also be read in the Maori language, referring to ‘a place to bind your waka’.
Main image: The Arrival by Greg Semu, 2015
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