The intention behind Words Remain was to showcase the diversity of Māori Writers among Māori. Each piece on display, is distinctively unique to each writer, and yet ultimately, the exhibition provides an overview of the various viewpoints and styles occurring in contemporary Māori poetry.
The exhibition will run from the 15th October to the 1st of November.
On Friday the 12th of October Toi Gallery opened their lastest exhibition, Words Remain - Ngā Kupu Ka Mau Tonu. We celebrated the opening with bougie platters, drinks (orange juice!) and a series of readings from our featured emerging writers, and two esteemed guests/Māori literary icons, Patricia Grace and Briar Grace-Smith, who made the event really special.
The gallery space was set up with seats, and a few very modern bean bags borrowed from Capital E (thank you!). The atmosphere was warm and relaxed and friendly. It was practically a full house. Guests filled up all the seats, the bean bags, the floor. Even the doorway was packed with people. By the end of the night, all that was left from our catering was a few olives, a bread roll, and a single piece of sushi, a sure sign of success and an awesome turnout! The poems were mounted down one wall, and in the corner, a mic stand from which our writers would read their poems. It has now been replaced with projections of the readings, that will be available to view for the remainder of the exhibition.
Our featured emerging writers include; Aziembry Aolani, Hana Pera Aoake, Tayi Tibble, tokorima Taihuringa and Nicole Titihuia Hawkins.
First up was Aziembry Aolani (Hawaiian and Māori). Aziembry is currently studying poetry at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Aziembry read his poem You Dare Speak.
“You plant fables, as if filling her dead vase of body was as simple as breathing.”
Hana Pera Aoake (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Raukawa) read parts of a long form text, Body Fluids are Poetic, not Slime but Nectar. Her piece explored love, relationships, colonisation, her friends, astrology with a repeating refrain “please help me, I am hurting very much.” Hana’s poem on display is mounted differently from the others, smaller in size (A3) and sealed in beeswax. “They used to tell us not to walk through the grass/ Leeches but pakeha women/ wearing Margaret’s pearls, and Pera’s pounamu/ Remember placing a searching hand beneath the clucky chicken to find her still warm eggs.”
Esteemed guest, Patricia Grace read next; Moon Story, her take on Rona and The Moon. She explained that she didn’t want Rona to ‘be a victim’ and so it has ‘a better ending.’ “The night that Rona badmouthed the moon, she did it because she wasn’t in her right mind. Even before she tripped and fell, she was feeling stressed. So much had happened that day, and at the end of it, she had been left with far too many responsibilities.”
Tayi Tibble read next (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānua a Apānui). Tayi read poems from her book, Poūkahangatus; Our Nan Lets Us Smoke Inside, which is on display, Identity Politics (which you can read here) and a series called Tangi in The King Country, which she said she had never read aloud before. “Our nan lets us smoke inside/ but only when we drink wine and play cards/ on the kitchen table i feel glamorous/ when i drop my ash into the paua shell in the middle…” Copies of Poūkahangatus are available to purchase at Toi Maori Gallery.
tokorima Taihuringa (Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Apakura, Maraatua, Ngāi Te Rangi) read an array of poems, but controversially not Pouakani, his poem on display. “Oh NZ / You were born knowing the kiss of/an axe cut as it swung in biting/ splits--chips flying to the ground/ you became inert in sleeping…”
Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Pāhauwera) read her poem on display The art of learning (kupu hou). “You stir the sea water in my veins/ causing all wounds to contract/ from the valleys of Te Upoko o te Ika/ to opaque paper cut slithers…”
To close the night, esteemed guest Briar-Grace Smith read a piece of fiction, titled, Born Still that retold the story of Hina, set in an dystopian world where humans are barren and can no longer reproduce. Briar Grace -Smith said she wanted to tell the story from Hina’s perspective as she is a figure who is “often not mentioned.” “Hina’s hair trailed down her back like a wave of fizzing, hissing sea foam. Her eyes were shiny, as if someone had smoothed glad wrap over two buttons of the grayest sky and pushed them deep into the lunar whiteness, of her skin. She was the only girl in a home full of brothers…”
The response to the exhibition and our readers were extremely positive. Guests commented not only on the quality and talent, but also on the humility in the room.
For more images of the exhibition and our opening night, you can follow Toi Māori Gallery on Facebook and Instagram.