WAIRUA 

Rona Ngahuia Osborne & Dan Mace  

Exhibition Premiere
Proudly presented by 

 
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Exhibition publication proudly presented by

 
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A Space Gallery
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 110
September 27–October 29, 2016
Reception: Friday, October 21, 5:00–8:00pm
Artists Talk: Friday, October 21, 5:30pm, as part of Art Crawl
With support from 

 
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In their Canadian exhibition premiere, partners and creative collaborators Rona Osborne and Dan Mace present three video works connected by wairua, a Māori concept relating to the spirit or soul. Wairua also refers to universal energy, a thread woven through all the works, each of which utilize abstract personification and sound to explore the physical world, the stars and human ritual. 

The exhibition is accompanied by an essay written by Fiona P. McDonald, PhD. 

To read the essay, visit A Space Gallery for the exhibition publication or visit our website.  

Artists’ Statements on the Works Presented: 

 

Te Taki 

As you enter the gallery you are met by a Māori warrior, a kaiwero, presented at eye level, almost life size on the wall directly in front of you. A pūtātara (conch-shell trumpet) sounds. The warrior’s confrontational stance and glaring eyes seek out your gaze as he flicks the blade of his taiaha fiercely, poised for combat. Behind him stand the shadows of his ancestors, gathered here to welcome you into their space. He kneels slowly, and lays a single feather on the ground before you. As he backs away, a woman approaches, calling to you, and to the people from whom you have descended. Her voice ebbs and flows, becoming a spiritual rope that wraps around you, pulling you in, making it safe for you to enter.  

The taki, or challenge, is a fundamental aspect of formal pōwhiri, the ancient Māori ritual of welcome. Rich in symbolic meaning and visual spectacle, the underlying purpose of pōwhiri is for a tribe to determine the intention of a visitor or group of visitors: are you coming in peace, or to make war? The feather represents an offering placed before our manuwhiri (our visitors) as a gesture of goodwill. The taki is both a challenge and an invitation to communicate. To enter the space is to pick up this challenge and accept the invitation. 

Te Taki is presented with the kind permission of the Museum of Waitangi, where it is held on permanent display. 
www.waitangi.org.nz 
 

Whetūrangi 

Whetūrangi is an immersive audiovisual installation that explores a striking star cluster in the night sky. These stars are known by many names around the world, including Makali’i, Subaru, The Seven Sisters, Thurayya and Pleiades. In Aotearoa New Zealand we know them as Matariki. In our stories, Matariki consists of seven individual stars: Matariki, Tupu a-nuku, Tupu-a-rangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-a-rangi and Ururangi. Whetūrangi presents these tūpuna whetū, these ancestral stars, in the form of seven women. They are represented by seven separate video loops arranged in the shape of the constellation. The style of costume and general presentation of each wahine, or woman, is carefully constructed to reflect characteristics of the star she represents. Whetūrangi features a rhythmic, musical soundscape created by the tūpuna whetū themselves – some play instruments, some use vocal sounds and words. The seven loops are of differing durations – as a result, the soundscape is organically evolving and will never be the same twice. Each character’s soundtrack is an enchanting waiata, a song. Singing together in the darkened room, this waiata becomes a wānanga – an immersive, educational experience that presents the seven stars of Matariki in a culturally enriching environment.  

The artists would like to acknowledge our production team on Whetūrangi for their energy and support in creating this work:

Camera and lighting: Mairi Gunn
Sound: Mike McCree
Performer: Huia Mārama Osborne
Assistant: Ngaio Matariki Osborne-Mace
 

Elemental 

Tangata Whenua – people of the land. 

Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand, home. 

These two concepts stand firmly at the centre of this work. As Māori we carry with us the mindset that we belong to our land. Our environment, the place in which we stand, informs our identity. Knowledge about our tūrangawaewae in the form of stories, songs and art is treasured and passed down from generation to generation.   

Elemental is, in part, a homecoming: a response to the mountainous rainforests of the Wekaweka valley, in the Far North of New Zealand, where Rona grew up and where we now live with our own family. 

The work consists of four individual projections: HAU (air), WAI (water), AHI (fire), and WHENUA (earth) – the essential elements of our physical world. Each projection occupies a separate wall and consists of a moving portrait depicting the face of each element, supported by looping environmental textures representing their domain. 

The artists would like to acknowledge our production team on Elemental for their tautoko and aroha in creating this work:
Camera and lighting: Mairi Gunn
Performer: Ngaio Matariki Osborne-Mace
Makeup/art department: Huia Mārama Osborne
 

About the Artists: 

Rona Ngahuia Osborne  
(Clan Fyfe, Clan Caduggan, Kai Tahu) 

Rona was born in Auckland in 1974, but spent her formative years in the wild bushy mountains of Hokianga in New Zealand’s far north. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the Elam School of Fine Arts. Rona’s work primarily references cultural and historical themes in Aotearoa, combining strong Māori imagery with colonial symbols. Her work spans a range of mediums, including paint, photography and audiovisual installation. Rona is also well known for her textile work under the moniker Native Agent. 

Rona exhibits regularly in both group and solo shows. She has recently returned to the wilds of Northland, where she now lives and works with her husband Dan and two daughters. 
 

Dan Mace  
(Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngaiterangi, Clan O’Boyle) 

After 16 years, Dan Mace still struggles to describe what he does for a living. In a general context what he does involves crafting ideas, alone or with friends, and then communicating them to an audience. In a more practical context, Dan brings these ideas to life across a range of linear and non-linear formats, including animation, illustration, photography, film and television directing, opening titles design, motion-based museum installations, live event visuals and experiential art projects. 

Dan acknowledges his mixed Māori and Irish heritage when discussing his practice.  

Both cultures have rich histories of visual communication through traditional art forms such as carving, weaving, performance and jewellery. Dan’s use of digital media to convey narrative and emotional experience can be described as a contemporary manifestation of Indigenous storytelling.