"My art is about healing and empowerment, cultural reconnection, and passing on my ancestral legacy" - Visual Artist and Illustrator Izzy Joy discusses how her Art reconnected her with her identity as Māori.
By Tayi Tibble
Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, known as 'Izzy Joy' is an illustrator and artist based in Te Whanganui a Tara. I came across Izzy's work when I saw she was involved in a recent exhibition 'Ritual Space' at the Potocki Paterson Art Gallery, earlier this month. Izzy's work is distinctly gothic, mythical and witchy... I wasn't surprised when she said she came from a line of wāhine toa, healers and matakite! Izzy chatted to us about her mahi and how she used her art to journey further into the Māori world and vice versa; how Te Ao Māori helped her find her 'voice' in her art.
ko ngāi tahu, ko ngāti kahungungu ki te wairoa te iwi
"Art is something that's a huge part of me, it's how I understand and interpret the world around me, and how I express myself," Izzy says.
"I grew up mostly detached from Te Ao Māori. I knew I had whakapapa, that I was "part māori", but never really explored it until I reached my twenties. There's a history of mental illness and deep sense of whakamā in my ancestral line, which I later came to know as the effects of inter-generational trauma and abuse stemming from colonization and dispossession. But I come from a sacred bloodline of wāhine toa, healers and matakite. I think this is where I get my deep sense of connection with the whenua and my intuition from."
"I come from a sacred bloodline of wāhine toa, healers and matakite. I think this is where I get my deep sense of connection with the whenua and my intuition from."
Izzy completed an honours degree in graphic design at Massey University in 2014, but left feeling "completely lost and burnt out." She says she has always battled with anxiety, but at that time "the constant panic attacks were overwhelming."
"I also started struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome in my dominant hand. My Aunty (Keri Lawson-Te Aho) saw the need in me for healing and cultural reconnection, and took me to see Mark Kopua, who gave me a tā moko on my hand and wrist in the form of Hine Nui Te Pō, for guidance and healing. That was really the time when I started to connect with te ao māori, and when I started to find the voice in my art."
"Most of my work these days incorporates a combination of the themes that are important to me. the things that make me wahine, a lover of nature, and a bit of a goth. at the core, my art is about healing and empowerment, cultural reconnection, and passing on my ancestral legacy. Through the ritual practice of linework, I help to heal my ancestors, and thereby myself. My wāhine tupuna walk with me through my artwork."
Between her own projects, Izzy works as a freelance illustrator. She has completed commissions for Otago University Māori Health department, NZ Post, Action Station, and Fightback Magazine, among various exhibitions and murals around Wellington.
Earlier this year she illustrated the Ready to Read book How Kiwi Saved the Forest which Izzy describes as her "biggest illustration job."
Izzy is also the author of two e-books, Io Wahine: The Story of Hineahuone and Arohatahi: The story of Rangi and Papa.
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Toi Māori Aotearoa's blog is purposed to keep you up to date with the latest happenings going on both here at Toi, and across the Māori arts scene in Aotearoa, and abroad.