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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, Aug 10-30 2021

Mana Whenua and Kaitiakitanga; Two Exhibitions - 2019 Five Pākehā Painters and 2014 Five Māori Painters; Artist Brett Graham; Researching our 'founding document' (1835 He Wakaputanga and 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi)

1. Mana Whenua and Kaitiakitanga

What does it mean to hold mana whenua and te ao taiao, where everything living and non-living is understood to be interconnected? This is a profound way of experiencing the world around me, especially to appreciate people as integral in the land and the land within them. What does it mean to respect Kaitiakitanga, the active stewardship and guardianship of the land within Māori traditionally systems of resource management? Shannon explained efforts to understand being Pākehā, and the notions of mana whenua, kaitaiakianga and te ao taiao, can only come through developing meaningful relationships with tangata whenua in my locale, but I'm nervous to ask so much from others. What am I offering them?

What I do know is this space, this place, and this site where I live, has embedded itself into the fabric of my being; the trees in the forest nearby have breathed my breathe, and I theirs; I have heard generations of cicada fill the valley with their song while I too have raised my family here on the shores of Te Wanganui-o-Tara.

I am deeply concerned for the health of this land. It deserves to live long after humanity has come and gone. How do we repair what we may have broken?

2. Exhibition Five Pākehā Painters: Perspectives of Hawkes Bay

I wonder how other Pākehā artists have attended to their place as tangata tiriti in respect to tangata whenua? When asking Google, this is what came up! - a 2019 exhibition, Five Pākehā Painters: Perspectives on Hawke’s Bay, curated by Jess Mio (Pākehā), which features works by Rita Angus, Jenny Campbell, Geoffrey Fuller, Dick Frizzell and Martin Poppelwell.

Fascinatingly, the show's premise, that Pākehā identity can only be positioned as relative to a Māori worldview, is reinforced by referencing two earlier New Zealand shows: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki's 2014 exhibition Five Māori Painters curated by Ngahiraka Mason (Ngai Tūhoe, Te Arawa, Ngāti Pango); and The Suter Art Gallery's 2007 Pākehā Now! exhibition, curated by Anna-Marie White (Te Ātiawa).

Sourced from The Pantograph Punch 15.04.91

Sourced from The Pantograph Punch 15.04.91

Jade Kake, from The Pantograph Punch, explains - "The 12 artworks, painted between 1925 and 2016, have been presented in a radically new way – not by era, style, medium or oeuvre, but in terms of relationships to land, as viewed through a Pākehā cultural lens but understood in relationship to Māori conceptions of whenua and te ao taiao. An inherent tension within Pākehā attitudes towards landscape is identified at the outset – between appreciation on one hand, and entitlement to resource extraction and modification on the other."

Kake identifies three themes - the concept of dominion and private property ownership; the concept of exploitation, and the landscape as a site of resource extraction; and, lastly, the stylistic choices of Pākehā painters e.g. composition, framing and materials drawn from the Western tradition. She states, "The exhibition exemplifies critical curatorial practice, positioning Pākehā as a political and actively decolonial identity... and an implicit understanding that Pākehā identity and culture can only exist in relation to Māori identity and culture, in the particular condition of settler-colonialism in unceded territories and structured by the unique relationship formed through Te Tiriti o Waitangi."

Kake explains how meaningful the show was for her, with its intention of disrupting the notion that colonial culture positions itself "as normative, with all other cultures perceived as the ‘other'" ... "To see "Pākehā identity and relationship to the whenua framed in this way. Not as the assumed default, the insidious way colonialism reinforces itself as it erases what was there before. Through Mio’s careful curation, a light has been shone on Pākehā as a unique culture and identity, rooted in this land and inextricably linked to colonialism. There is strength in this position. This positioning does, however, raise a number of questions – would another curator have been able to be as bold or explicit as Mio has been? Could the exhibition have been done by a Māori curator? How would it have been received?"

These are important questions as Kake suggests Pākehā are asked to examine their "privileged position of being able to embrace te ao Māori and te reo Māori without necessarily having to confront the intergenerational trauma associated with colonialisation and cultural genocide. Critically engaging with the idea of a Pākehā identity and culture requires Pākehā acknowledging the mamae associated with our colonial past and present. For Māori, this may mean confronting the internalised harmful racist ideas that we often carry, and the shame that many of us experience for not knowing our reo, our whakapapa, our tīkanga. These can be difficult conversations to have."

Kake's insight into the transformative role art plays in our society is spot on -

"One possible critique of the show is that in being so focused on reframing the past, it fails to offer any alternatives to hegemonic Pākehā culture, and therefore doesn’t provide opportunities for Pākehā to imagine a future where their Pākehā identity can be positively defined – relative to Māori – and embraced....This exhibition, although small, is significant. Art has the power to question, to shift our cultural norms. Art can shift power and transform our political and economic systems. What happens here matters in shifting the discourse within wider society. By explicitly naming and describing Pākehā culture, the show is unashamedly political, actively decolonial, transformative and self-reflective. This is the kind of critical curatorial practice we need, if we’re committed to Te Tiriti and serious about our relationship as tāngata whenua and tāngata tiriti."

Links -


3. Five Māori Painters and Artist Robyn Kahukiwa

To contextualise Five Pākehā Painters, here is a link to the 2014 exhibition Five Maori Painters at Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The artists involved were Robyn Kahukiwa, Kura Te Waru Rewiri and Emily Karaka, Star Gossage and Saffronn Te Ratana.

Where Five Pākehā Painters is about land, Five Maori Painters is about people and land. The works are all figurative, mostly female, and personal, drawing on traditional Māori symbols and cultural heritage, contemporary art history and political concerns. In an interview below, Robyn Kahukiwa speaks of her journey to claim her Māori identity through art. It is emotionally honest and political, as are her paintings. Hinetitama is one of New Zealand's most iconic artworks. For me it speaks to pregnancy and the bond between mother, child and the inner world, but for Robyn and other Māori it also speaks to their deep connection to Papatuanuku the land and all other life forms.

Robyn Kahukiwa speaking about her journey as an artist

Whakapapa Birth & Death by Robyn Kahukiwa, 2005, Oil on canvas. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Hinetitama by Robyn Kahukiwa, 1980, Oil on canvas. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Front by Kura Te Waru Rewiri, 2003, Acrylic on canvas. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Te Ipu Kura a Maki by Emily Karaka 2008, Oil on canvas. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Matariki by Star Gossage, 2014, Oil on canvas. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Untitled II, Saffronn Te Ratana, 2000, Pencil. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

4. ARTIST BRETT GRAHAM Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui), Tai Moana Tai Tangata

Maungarongo ki te Tangata by Brett Graham 2020. Wood. Photo by Neil Pardington. Sourced City Gallery Wellington, Te Whare Toi

Maungarongo ki te Tangata by Brett Graham 2020. Wood. Photo by Neil Pardington. Sourced City Gallery Wellington, Te Whare Toi

O'Pioneer by Brett Graham 2020. Wood and paint. Photo by Neil Pardington. Sourced from City Gallery Wellington, Te Whare Toi.

Brett's two large-scale sculptural works shown above are from his recent exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata, held at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition. Like previous works, they show an exquisite technicality of carving whakairo, and simplicity of form. Hanahiva Rose describes these objects of warfare as referencing, "commemorative monumentality, they are not strictly monuments, which are by definition erected in perpetuity. Graham is less interested in the idea of forever than he is in imagining what our future might look like if we better understood the past." (Art News Forum). Like his previous works, Graham is asking us to reflect on why we privilege the histories that we do; histories whose "constructions rely on a resistance to remembering and rearticulating Indigenous agency".

Speaking to place and site, Brett engages with landscapes and their narratives. Anna-Marie White (Manukorihi, Te Āti Awa), who curated the New Plymouth show, explains the show focuses on "the relationship between Taranaki and Tainui Māori, and on Te Kīwai o te Kete, the pact of solidarity they forged during the New Zealand Wars. Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington mana whenua Te Āti Awa hail from Taranaki. The title of Tai Moana Tai Tangata was taken from a remark Ngāti Toa rangatira Te Rauparaha made to Te Wherowhero, who would become the first Māori King: ‘Ka pari te tai moana, ka timu te tai tangata’ (When the ocean tide rises, the human tide recedes). Graham chose it for its relevance to the current global-warming crisis and the fear of rising sea levels."

Brett's works speak with an authority that is unequivocal. They ask me to acknowledge the suffering instruments of warfare have inflicted on indigenous communities throughout the world. What does it mean that my ancestor came to New Zealand with gun in hand to defend the Empire?


Digging deeper into the memories and movements held in this land of Aotearoa, I wish to understand the time around the signing of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and why this document is considered our 'founding document'. I have read from a number of different sources (Waitangi Tribunal, Vincent O'Malley, E-Tangata, Puki Ariki, New Zealand History, Te Ara) and will quote from them to provide a multiplicity of perspectives.

The Treaty is described as "an agreement, in Māori and English, made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs) which aims to support or reflect an agreement between the Crown and Māori to create a nation state". In principle, "the Treaty embodied a partnership in which the Crown, chiefs and tribes would all have a place" (NZ History). [This quote is itself telling i.e. the hierarchy of the members of the partnership!]

History has shown that differences between the English and Māori versions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi have led to much debate about issues of sovereignty. The Waitangi Tribunal, established in 1975, succinctly describes the differences of intentions between the versions (Waitangi Tribunal) -

  • the English version states the British intentions were to protect Māori interests from the encroaching British settlement, provide for British settlement, and establish a government to maintain peace and order

  • the Maori text suggests that the Queen's main promises to Māori were to secure tribal rangatiratanga and secure Māori land ownership.

...quoted from the Waitangi Tribunal...

Article 1 In the Māori text of article 1, Māori gave the British ‘kawanatanga’, the right of governance, whereas in the English text, Māori ceded 'sovereignty'. One of the problems that faced the original drafters of the te reo Māori text of the Treaty was that 'sovereignty' had no direct equivalent in the context of Māori society. Rangatira (chiefs) exercised full authority (‘mana’) over land and resources on behalf of the wider community.

The term used in the te reo Māori version, 'kawanatanga', was a transliteration of the word 'governance', which was then in current use. Māori understanding of this word came from familiar use in the New Testament of the Bible (when referring to the likes of Pontius Pilate), and from their knowledge of the role of the Governor of New South Wales, whom they referred to as 'Kawana'.

Article 2

The Māori version of article 2 uses the word 'rangatiratanga' in promising to uphold the authority that tribes had always had over their lands and taonga. This choice of wording emphasises status and authority.

In the English text, the Queen guaranteed to Māori the undisturbed possession of their properties, including their lands, forests, and fisheries, for as long as they wished to retain them. This text emphasises property and ownership rights.

Article 2 provides for land sales to be effected through the Crown. This gave the Crown the right of pre-emption in land sales.

Article 3

In article 3, the Crown promised to Māori the benefits of royal protection and full citizenship. This text emphasises equality.

The epilogue

In the epilogue, the signatories acknowledge that they have entered into the full spirit of the Treaty. [The United Nations has ruled that Treaties should be interpreted in the spirit in which they were drawn taking into account the surrounding circumstances and any declared or apparent objects and purposes.]

Declaration of Independence

In researching the Treaty however I have come across He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene, the 1835 Declaration of Independence. This document, prepared by James Busby in consultation with Northland rangatira, offers an entirely different perspective on the power relations between rangatira and with the British Crown and the forming of a united confederation of tribes.

The Treaty is not the earliest documented agreement between Crown and Māori. Five years prior to the signing of the Treaty, in 1835, He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene (the Declaration of Independence) was signed at Waitangi by 34 rangatira who represented a diverse range of Northland communities, "including rival hapū and tribal alliances that had recently been at war with one another" (E Tangata). By July 1839, a further eighteen chiefs from the north and two other important rangitira, Te Hāpuku of Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti (Hawke’s Bay) and Te Wherowhero (Waikato–Tainui), had also signed.

Dr Vincent O'Malley writes in his essay Te Whakaputanga: The Declaration of Independence, 1835, "the text of He Whakaputanga further signalled the intended closer cooperation among rangatira and with the British Crown" (E-Tangata).

He Wakaputanga consists of four articles agreed by the rangatira and drafted by James Busby, the official British resident, and translated into te reo Māori text by missionary Henry William. (Both Busby and William would assist in the 1840 Treaty negotiations). Eruera Pare Hongi, a young relative of Hongi Hika wrote out the Māori text.

These are the four articles of He Wakaputanga and are an articulation of Indigenous agency -

  1. The hereditary chiefs of northern New Zealand declared their country to be an independent state (whenua rangatira) under the designation of “The United Tribes of New Zealand"

  2. All sovereign power (kīngitanga) and authority in the land (mana i te whenua) to be held by the chiefs in their collective capacity. There was to be no other legislative authority, except by persons they appointed, acting unde r the authority of laws they had enacted in congress.

  3. The rangatira committed to meeting in congress at Waitangi each autumn for the purposes of framing laws, and invited southern tribes to set aside their animosities by joining the confederation of united tribes.

  4. The chiefs agreed to send a copy of their agreement to the English King. They asked that he be a parent (matua) to their infant state and protect it from all attempts on its independence." (E-Tangata)

The English text was dispatched to both the New South Wales government and the Colonial Office in Britain and while the authorities in New South Wales "were lukewarm in response to news of the document signed by the northern chiefs", the British government acknowledged receipt of an English translation of He Whakaputanga in May 1836, promising “those Chiefs such Support and Protection as may be consistent with a due Regard to the just Rights of others and to the Interests of His Majesty’s Subjects” (E-Tangata).

O'Malley believes He Wakaputanga is "proof that the rangatiratanga (chiefly authority or sovereignty) and mana of Māori had been clearly articulated and asserted. New Zealand had been a sovereign land under the authority of the united tribes before 1840; and, according to the Waitangi Tribunal, that sovereignty was not extinguished by the Treaty of Waitangi" (E-tangata).

Why Te Tiriti o Waitangi Came Into Being

By 1837, James Busby, who had been sent to New Zealand without any means of defence, was concerned about rising threats following an escalation in wars between Northern Māori. Having been personally injured in an attack, he requested help from the British government, and Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson "was dispatched from London in July 1839, with instructions to take the constitutional steps needed to establish a British colony in New Zealand" (Wikipedia). By gaining sovereignty the British government realised they could "protect Māori, regulate British subjects and (importantly) secure commercial interests" that would support their plans for extensive British migrant settlement (NZ History).

In order to wrestle sovereign authority from the United Tribes of New Zealand that had been acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, "the Crown ... would need the agreement of those rangatira in order to alter that situation. For this reason, the text of the Treaty explicitly refers to the “Chiefs of the United Tribes of New Zealand” (“nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga”). Considerable efforts were made to gain the signatures, marks or moko of those who had signed He Whakaputanga when it came time to secure agreement to the Treaty. Officials tried — and failed — multiple times, for example, to gain Te Wherowhero’s signature." (O' Malley, E-Tangata).

Links -


Slowly things are starting to crystalise for me. While it would be easier and safer to limit my field of vision for the thesis to an exploration of process and materiality, random patterning and nature, something in me feels I must attend now to Suzy as a Pākehā. If I don't do it now under the guidance of Massey staff and mentors, I will never do it, and it feels important not just to me but for those who came before me and those who will come after.

Trying to phrase the title of the thesis... I've been mulling over -

  1. Becoming Pākehā/Tangata Tiriti: An exploration of the Space between and the Space that binds;

  2. Becoming Pākehā/Tangata Tiriti: An exploration of the Space that binds the Space between Us; or

  3. An exploration of the Space between and the Space that binds seen through a Pākehā lens

I think I prefer the first title as it separates out both the spaces that need exploring, and it removes the word Us which I think holds assumptions and presumptions and points of view that I feel inadequate to comment on. It is important to define the scope of the Space with the insertion of Pākehā/Tangata Tiriti.

Some ideas:

  • Space between: memories, memories held in names of landscape, history, culture, language, values, opportunities, privilege and politics, prejudice - racial and gender, colonisation, disenfranchisement. injustice, impoverishment, organisation of societies, tangata whenua.... denial of alternatives

  • Space that binds: Te Tiriti o Waitangi/respectful equal partnership, being here in this place and space and time, belonging/home, aroha. manaakitanga, kotahitanga, love of the land, climate change, economy, justice and redress, dimension of simultaneity and multiplicity


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