May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Exhibition documents Auckland’s ‘Urban Pa’

4 min read

Photojournalist Qiane Matata-Sipu opens her first solo exhibition, IHUMATAO, taku tangata-taku whenua, Friday 3 May at the Mangere Arts Centre Nga Tohu o Uenuku.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 8.47.29 AMThe show documents life at Ihumatao Pa, cementing tomorrow’s history in an exhibition about whanau (family), tikanga (culture), and toku oranga (way of life).

Qiane is a storyteller. Her passion is people and her craft is words and still imagery. Documenting an untold story and putting in it a space for all to experience, read, see, learn, engage, and enjoy, is her happy place. At 27 she has already made a successful career from telling people’s stories, working as a print journalist, photographer and magazine editor, before starting her own media and photography business ( in 2011. While those roles have paid the bills, it has been her documentary photography that has filled her soul.

Along with magazines and newspapers both here and abroad, Qiane’s work has featured in Huia Publishers’ book People of the Land and in exhibitions in Auckland and Wellington – from her 2008 showing of the10th Festival of Pacific Arts at the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards in Wellington, and the Arts Pasifika Awards in Auckland, to her photo essay on her late grandfather,Kua hinga te Totara i te wao nui a Tane, featured in Corban Estate Art Centre’s Matariki Exhibition in 2010 and, a joint exhibition with her 75-year-old grandmother at Alberton House in 2011, titledToi Tuku Iho – art through generations.

Her first camera was an old Kodak Pocket Instamatic with cartridge film. “It was actually my mums, but she soon realised, once I got my hands on it, I wasnt giving it back,” she says. Her love of still images grew from there and she purchased her first professional camera at 19. She now shoots in digital on a Canon 5D Mark II and is the owner of a Polaroid 300, “just for fun”. You will never find her without some sort of camera in her bag.

Qiane is inspired by photographers like Ans Westra and John Miller. She aspires to one day have her work gain the same level of significance in New Zealand history as theirs has. Her passion for raw, real imagery, and her photojournalistic style, fills her need to document life and share her world view.

Of Maori (Te Wai o Hua, Tainui, Nga Puhi, Te Arawa) and Cook Islands (Rarotonga, Mangaia) descent this self-taught photographer says her heritage plays a big part in her work and her aspirations to connect and share the stories of indigenous peoples.

“I am the product of being raised by a village. My life’s lessons, values and creative talents have come from a long line of strong Maori women. My integrity and passion for people were passed on by strong Polynesian men. My whakapapa and my upbringing have given me a unique view of the world around us. My life’s experiences have given me a burning desire to document and share the biographies of indigenous people around the world. Starting with my own.”

IHUMATAO – taku tangata, taku whenua is Qiane’s first solo photography exhibition. It documents life at Ihumtatao Pa, in Mangere – Auckland, cementing tomorrow’s history in an exhibition about whanau (family), tikanga (culture) and toku oranga (way of life). Having grown up as a ‘pa kid’ herself, and then seeing the environmental changes the area has undergone, and the social changes that have naturally occured, she felt it a necessity to freeze this time and space in history.

“Some say Ihumatao Pa is one of the longest continual settlement of Maori in Aotearoa, that basically means, my whanau got off the waka, set up home and didn’t move. To this day the kids own the culdesac, the dogs roam free, and no matter who’s front door you land on, behind it is an aunty, cousin, nanny or nephew ready for a catch up and a cuppa.

tea. All three streets surrounding the marae are resided by family and no matter who’s child you are, the nannies’ words are law. Not many Aucklander’s know the pa even exists, which interests me even more considering it was there long before the city became the buzzing metropolis it is today.

While years of development have changed the surrounding environment and urbanisation has crept onto our doorsteps, our now ‘Urban Pa’ is still very much a reflection of yesteryear.

“I remember seeing an old article in Te Ao Hou magazine about the pa. It featured my great grandparents with my grandmother’s siblings, who were just kids. Replace those people with one’s from today, and you could easily recreate that same picture.

“I hope this show not only gives people an insight into the lives of Maori, of mana whenua, of another section of Auckland’s community, but that it also makes people stop and think about how they live their own lives and what sort of “community” they themselves are a part of.”

IHUMATAO, taku tangata-taku whenua runs from 4 May 9 June?Where: Mangere Arts Centre Nga Tohu o Uenuku (Cnr Bader Drive & Orly Ave, MangereTown Centre)?Time: Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm – Sat/Sun: 10am-4pm

For interviews contact Qiane Matata-Sipu [email protected] or 0210390362 High resolution images are available on request

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