An immersive exhibition that explores art through our connections with the Pacific will be unveiled at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū on 30 May.
Developed by the Gallery’s curators in collaboration with Stephanie Oberg, an independent writer and curator of Cook Islands heritage, Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania brings together a bold and exciting mix of traditional and contemporary art forms, including tivaevae, raranga (weaving), whakairo (carving), painting, works on paper, video, sculpture, photography and installation art.
At the heart of the exhibition is Christchurch’s public collection, including spectacular new acquisitions displayed for the first time. They are complemented by key loans of taonga from significant collections around Aotearoa New Zealand.
Exploring themes of navigation, belonging and identity, the exhibition’s title refers to the adventurous, resilient Pacific octopus (te Wheke in te reo Māori), a symbol of early voyages of exploration from the Polynesian homelands of Hawaiki.
“We’ve often viewed art, and our collection, through the lens of our ties to Europe and Western art history”, says lead curator Felicity Milburn, “but we wanted to try a new perspective – from Moana-nui-a-kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) outwards.
“Te Wheke offers a way to think about how we are linked across time and place. It’s a rich and exciting viewing experience that reaches back to the Pacific, and also out into the world beyond it, strengthening old connections and finding new ones.
“These works tell many different stories – they’re beautiful, complicated and sometimes confronting. We’ve tried to open up space for conversations about the relationships and tensions that shape our past, present and future.”
Te Wheke also reveals the Pacific Ocean as a place of both vulnerability and resistance, threatened by natural forces like earthquakes and tsunami, as well as harm caused through human actions, such as colonisation, climate change and environmental exploitation.
Te Wheke is free to the public and runs for two years, with multiple change-outs adding new works and perspectives. It is accompanied by a catalogue (available from the Gallery’s Design Store from April) and an exciting programme of talks, a children’s activity trail, making workshops, artist interventions, a family fun day and a not-to-be-missed performance by the acclaimed Pacific Sisters collective.
Te Wheke: Pathways across Oceania is free to the public and runs for two years, with multiple change-outs adding new works and perspectives. It is accompanied by a catalogue (available from the Gallery’s Design Store) and an exciting programme of talks, activities and workshops.