Five Māori Painters: Kura Te Waru Rewiri

Five Māori Painters: Kura Te Waru Rewiri

Buck Nin had the most influence on me. He must have seen something in me I suppose. He sent me off to Ilam School of Fine Arts. And somewhere, in some conversations I had with Buck Nin he mentioned why he sent me to Ilam. In the 1960s, ’70s, he considered the Ilam School of Fine Arts as a school of painting. So he saw me as a painter, before I did. Rudy Gopas was my painting tutor and he actually said to me “Never forget that you are Māori.” and I went “What did he say that to me for?” “Of course I’m Māori! I’m never going to forget! Look at this!” And I went away and thought about what he was saying and it was about, I think he was trying to get me to show that in my work. Well I go off in my own direction. Fifteen years later… …it’s that direction. The kōwhaiwhai has always been in the back of my mind, you know but I stopped myself because my thinking was that they came from a European, Western influence. So with that whakaaro (idea) in my head I stopped that thinking for about two decades, I suppose and then in the 2000s the kōwhaiwhai came quite strong in my thinking and I just had to do something about it I think I wanted to get away from how we viewed them in the whare (house), the gallery of the whare and to look at kōwhaiwhai as having a life that comes not just from Te Wao nui a Tāne (the forests of Tāne) but comes from in here, inside. So my challenge to myself was how to do those different and it was in the layering of paint It came with, I said “If I can layer paint, I can layer pattern.” And then when I started to layer them, I went “This is awesome!” It was creating spaces in between pattern in between the main structure of the pattern and then the sub-structures of the pattern I started to make float and it was just saying all sorts of things to me about a Māori abstraction, that there’s heaps of potential. And it’s not trying to put it in the realm and keeping it in the realm of a toi (art) way of thinking but to let it go. And I think that’s what kōwhaiwhai is about. You can’t hem it in by the parameters of a rafter. We never had the carved whare (house) in the north when I was growing up. We just had halls built on marae. And Rātana was very influential in the north and so I grew up with the pastel colours that the whānau (family) used to paint in the whare and I think that influence came from Rātana pā (Rātana community). It was that sort of thing that influenced my sense of colour. The number of panels is in reference to my name, Te Waru, so eight panels. It was a challenge for me to actually add something to paint ’cause even then, it was in the late ’80s, I wanted to be a purist painter just pure painter, you know, but it was in there when I saw the rākau (sticks) I went, “Oh this will push me.” I need to put the rākau on my canvasses. The rākau came from the kānuka bush around the wāhi tapu (sacred place) My father actually blessed the rākau when I went to use it because I did ask him, and say to him “Is it tapu to take this, Dad?” and he said “No.” “I’ll bless it for you.” So he blessed them for me and then I took them back to my garage in Otara and set up the panels. There’s a figurative form that’s white in each panel that sits above the rākau and that’s in reference to the pou-rāhui (marker post) which is used in incantations to lift tapu (restrictions) or to place tapu. So it’s all referencing back to our kaitiakitanga o te whenua (stewardship of the land) around wāhi tapu. That sort of thinking was going on in my head at the time being even a reference to the Treaty of Waitangi you know, that the land had been taken from us and you have to stake the claim if not through pou-rāhui then by pou-whenua (post). Preparing to get to the canvas takes a lot longer than the actual making because I insist on myself waiting for layers to dry properly. That takes a while so I’m twiddling my fingers, waiting, waiting, touch, touch. Go away, come back, and then put the next one on. So I don’t like to try and complete anything to finish. I think what I have noted in some of the developments, that works are actually done to completion so there’s no more and the ‘no more’ is of concern to me. Don’t know what’s going on in here, but it’s that journey that’s a continuum with paint.

2 thoughts on “Five Māori Painters: Kura Te Waru Rewiri

  1. Kura is am amazing woman for me to witness also… I wish I could be there right now— thank you for posting this it is feeding me…thank you Kura…

  2. Hello, I´m from New Zealand´s antipods – from Portugal. Fascinating (and surprising) your work – indeed it reveals a lot of creation spirit and innovation. I will keep looking whenever and wherever possible for your exhinitions. Congrtulations ! J. Alexandre

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