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Discovering the meaning of taonga

Artwork by Gisborne student Teoarani Maxwell has made its way on to an online album showcasing toi Māori (Māori art).

The Year 12 student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Horouta Wānanga entered a photography piece called Taonga.

Maxwell, of Ngāi Tai and Ngāti Porou decent, said the art asks the viewer, and herself, to dwell on what taonga is.

“My investigation was about looking into the deeper meaning of what taonga is. Is it just an inanimate object? Is it a living entity? Or is it something that we give life to?”

Asking the question she came up with a series of photos.

“I discovered that taonga has many different meanings, levels of value and worth to different people. It is the taonga that holds and reflects these values of the people that treasure them.

“My final work is of one of our mokopuna holding our whānau taonga that reflects my mother's moko kauae. He Taonga.”

The online album contains artwork that would have been featured in Ringa Toi, an annual exhibition showcasing student artwork with a focus on toi Māori. The 2021 exhibition — which was to have been held at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington — was cancelled due to Covid-19.

“Despite the disruption, NZQA wanted to recognise and celebrate these talented young artists working in toi Māori,” said Alex Bidois, NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Māori.

“Promoting these young artists encourages students to think and talk about our culture and history, while celebrating the survival of traditional art forms such as whakairo and raranga,” Bidois said.

A QUESTION IN ART: Teoarani Maxwell's photography made it into Ringa Toi, an annual exhibition showcasing students' toi Māori. Picture supplied