MOTUTAPU, a collaborative project by Tāmaki Makaurau artists Benjamin Work and Brendan Kitto, is the conclusion of a four-year exploration of the shared histories of Motutapu, or sacred islands, throughout Moana Oceania, including Tongatapu, Rarotonga and at the entrance to the Waitematā Harbour in Tāmaki. These sanctuary spaces, gateways for voyagers departing from and arriving at the mainlands, were where the lifting of tapu and making things noa (free from the restrictions of tapu) occurred, connecting navigators with their ancestors and kainga. For the artists, who travelled to three of the Motutapu locations and engaged with key knowledge holders, the journey became deeply personal, connecting to their own genealogy, centering on reconnection and reconciliation, joining communities across Moana Oceania through time and space.
The exhibition, built around the juxtaposition of Work’s evocative paintings (including the hanging Piha Passage and free-standing Mata Pā screens) and Kitto’s photographs of Motutapu ki Tāmaki Makaurau, Motutapu ki Tongatapu and Motutapu ki Raraotonga, is currently on show at Te Uru – Waitakere Contemporary Gallery (11 June – 11 September 2022), and includes the launch of an accompanying publication MOTUTAPU.
For the latest installment of Street Treats, we are serving up a selection of pieces, pastes, pixels, petals and beyond. From a reminder of an old pal’s legacy, to epic collaborations and tiny treats, the streets have provided a range of goodies. That is, of course, the joy of the urban environment as a setting for creative (and naughty) interventions, there is no curation. The result echoes the physical presence of our cities, where thousands, indeed millions of people interweave as they go about their own concerns, trials and aspirations. Any city is a collection of individual voices and the art of the streets reflects this diversity, each piece the compulsive expression of an individual that can be read in infinite ways by the passing audience. In a world where online communication has become increasingly toxic and antagonistic, the art in the streets provides something different, still capable of asserting beliefs and ideologies, but devoid of the escalating tensions or echo chambers of comment sections. Indeed, as one image attests, often the response to uninvited additions is not so much beautification as silencing, ensuring a monochromatic environment. So enjoy this platter of pictures and relax, our cities and our communities are not monolithic, and the streets provide the platform for that multiplicity…
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is a strange beast. It is the only mega-city in Aotearoa, and when you touch down from Ōtautahi it is hard to comprehend the sheer spread of the northern metropolis. While you can easily navigate Christchurch’s inner city in 15 minutes, Auckland’s urban centre seemingly sprawls on forever, with each area displaying a distinct identity. Our quick trip to Tāmaki meant we didn’t get to endlessly explore the diversity of the city, but we did get to see a fair bit of art. Of course, there is no chance we could have achieved a full coverage of the city, but what we saw, we loved. Auckland has the longest and largest history of Aotearoa graffiti and street art, so spotting a legendary figure’s name or character, whether fresh or faded, is always a possibility, but still exciting for a nerd like me, while you can always find a new name that is on the come up as well. It also has a truly urban feel, where you can get lost down alleyways, led by the trace of some preceding presence who was compelled to leave their mark. It is a real city, and it’s streets are always talking…
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