IN a poignant reminder that Māori is still a living language, elders from the Māori community – Australian and New Zealand – led a large crowd from the National Gallery of Australia’s Australian garden into the heart of the new exhibition, “Māori Markings: Tā Moko”.
The procession, involving energetic ritual incantations, followed a smoking ceremony by Ngunnawal elder Paul House and his son Reuben.
Once in the “Tā Moko” gallery, the NGA’s head of programs and education, Katie Russell, introduced the crowd to New Zealand High Commissioner Dame Annette King, who presided over a one-minute silence acknowledging the victims of the Christchurch shootings.
There followed recitation by all present of the Christchurch response, which began: “Our values provide a guiding light in our darkest hours.” The statement of positivity was devised in Canberra between the local community and the New Zealand High Commission.
Rotorua councillor of 42 years and a leading advocate for Maori culture Trevor Maxwell was on hand to praise the initiative of the curator for Pacific Arts at the NGA, Crispin Howarth, for bringing to light the traditions of Māori face-marking in an exhibition showing 250 years of the art form, and concluded with a rousing song or “waiata” joined by most members of the crowd.
Dame Annette took to the podium again to welcome visiting artists and to elaborate on the significance of the exhibition in bringing Australians and New Zealanders together, also praising Howarth’s initiative.
The formalities finished with another arousing waiata sung by Isaac Cotter and Canberra Tumanako Māori Cultural group of adults and children.
“Māori Markings: Tā Moko”, National Gallery of Australia, March 23 to August 25. Free exhibition. Artist talks by Tamahou Temara, 11am and 1pm, Saturday, March 23 live demonstrations of the Māori arts of weaving and Tā moko, 10am and 2pm. All welcome.