A Māori creative reconnects with his roots through art after feeling the ‘pull' to return home.
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A Māori creative is reconnecting with his roots through art after feeling the ‘pull' to return home.
29-year-old Richard Green (Ngati Porou, Te Rarawa) was living in Australia when he was drawn back to Aotearoa to reconnect with his culture.
"Whakairo (carving) kept jumping out. It was like 'hey, come back'.”
Although carving is Green’s primary medium, he describes himself as a multi-disciplinary artist.
His journey has now brought him back to his Northland roots, where he enrolled in the ‘Tai o Hī Tai o Hā Wānanga Toi Series’.
"That was my little push to get me back into toi Māori (Māori art).”
This six-month programme is run by Toi Ngāpuhi, a local iwi arts agency.
The course is for taiohi (youth) aged 18-28 who are actively pursuing a career in the arts.
Green is one of 19 talented creatives from this year's intake and he’s the oldest student on the course.
"I only just scraped in… they raised the age limit for this round.”
Green also says the programme is a great platform to launch themselves as artists.
"It shows you how to express your art in a consumable way.”
All taiohi have produced art to feature in the 'He Kākāriki Pōwhaitere' exhibition at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
The ‘kākāriki pōwhaitere’ is a parakeet that leads its flocks into the forest, and the artists aim to express their intrinsic connection with the environment in this exhibition.
Green has created a series of 'karanga manu' (traditional bird whistles) that mimic the sound of bird calls in the forest.
He has used pounamu, purpleheart wood and metal to create these taonga (treasures).
Green says this is symbolic of the different karanga (calls) that brought the group together.
"My piece represents the calls of the past, present and future”.
Green was excited to hear his taonga played for the first time.
“The kōrero (conversation) began there. Building the wider kōrero for the piece as a whole,” he says.
Green hopes to further connect to his tribal roots through the ‘Tai o Hī Tai o Hā’ programme, saying it was his turn to come home after living in Australia.
"I felt disconnected. I didn't feel like my normal self.”
During his time overseas, Green showed great interest in street art, tattooing and graffiti.
Upon returning to Aotearoa, he reconnected with his culture through traditional art.
"It's time to learn the whakapapa of our (Māori) designs and how I can use them to tell my story”.
Green also wants to tackle the stigma around ‘struggling artists’, and says they can generate their own livelihood through their work.
“I don’t want that to be a reality for myself or any other rangatahi (youth).
“It’s becoming more and more common for artists to live and provide for themselves”.
‘He Kākāriki Powhaitere’ is open until August 16 at Te Kōngahu Gallery, Waitangi Museum.