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Te Waka Toi Karahipi recipient Kylie Tiuka with a painting from her Whakahokia mai te mauri series.

Urewera descendant receives art scholarship

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Kylie Tiuka says her Tuhoe tupuna (ancestors) were the inspiration for turning her love of art since childhood into formal study for a university degree.

The Master of Mäori Visual Arts student received a Te Waka Toi Karahipi scholarship earlier this year for a series of paintings from an exhibition entitled Whakahokia mai te mauri.

The exhibition focused on her connection through her art to her tupuna. “The works reflected the natural surroundings of the Urewera, the people, genealogy and histories of Tuhoe,” Ms Tiuka says. The former pupil of St Joseph’s Mäori Girls’ College in Napier has been studying and working in the creative arts sector for the past nine years.

She completed a Diploma of Computer Graphic Design at the National College of Design and Technology in Wellington, then a Bachelor of Mäori Visual Art at Toimairangi – Te Wänanaga o Aotearoa in Hastings before enrolling at Massey and graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma of Mäori Visual Art last year.

“I have been interested in creative arts from childhood; it’s nice to be rewarded for doing something that you love. My tupuna have been the catalysts for my academic study of Mäori art. My mother and grandmother also played a part and were collectors of European antiquities. My parents took me to galleries and museums when I was quite young.”

Ms Tiuka acknowledges her Tuhoe ancestor who practised ta moko (Mäori tattoo). “I am conscious of the artistic legacy of my tupuna Te Hokotahi who practised ta moko as well as other tupuna whose work is still visible today at Te Whai-a-te-motu marae in Ruatahuna. It inspires my desire to connect visually with my ancestors through the medium of paint.”

While she has spent the majority of her life away from her Urewera tribal homelands, she maintains a strong spiritual connection through her art practice and matemataeaone. “My spiritual connection to my ancestral lands and my people has always been strong,” she says. “It relates directly to the concept of matemataeaone, a relational framework that is cyclical in nature and links Tuhoe descendants to each other, and to the environment.”

She is working on her final exhibition towards her master's degree to be shown at Iwi Art gallery in Wellington at the end of February. It is an installation of painted sculptures associated with Te Whai-a-te-motu Marae. “The exhibition will be a further expression of my Tuhoetanga through art.”

As a scholarship recipient, Ms Tiuka joins another esteemed line of artists. Graduates from Massey to have received the Te Waka Toi Karahipi have included Aimee-Rose Stephenson, Ngaahina Hohaia, Israel Birch, Glen Skipper, Aimee Ratana, Hemi Macgregor and Kelcy Taratoa.

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