Māori and Pacific creatives weave art and tech together for digital exhibition

Mana Moana 2

I am Hine by Tina Ngata and Terri Crawford.

Two Massey staff members are the curators of Mana Moana Volume 2: Digital Ocean, an immersive web-based digital art experience running from July 17-25 which will explore our relationships with the ocean, climate change and highlight indigenous knowledge and stories.

Curated and conceived by artists and staff members of Whiti o Rehua School of Art Rachael Rakena (Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi) and Mike Bridgman (Tongan, Pākehā) and produced by arts production company Storybox, Mana Moana brings together leading interdisciplinary Māori and Pacific artists to collaborate on multimedia and moving image artworks.

The online exhibition will feature more than 20 leading creatives from across Aotearoa including visual artists, dancers, musicians, filmmakers and poets such as Michael Tuffery, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Louise Potiki Bryant, Warren Maxwell, Horomona Horo, Laughton Kora and more.

The installation is being presented on a new and unique immersive digital art platform developed in response to Covid-19 restrictions. The digital gallery platform builds on the success of last year’s award-winning Mana Moana event, seen by thousands at the Whairepo lagoon in Wellington in 2019, which received Gold at the 2019 Best Design awards and was selected for the Nuit Blanche Toronto Arts Festival in Canada.

Co-curator Rachael Rakena says Mana Moana is underpinned by values of mana, vā, collaboration, activism and indigenous knowledge, and provides a Māori framework that enables and encompasses indigenous moana perspectives.

“The mana of the moana is something that Moana people across the whole Pacific share as an idea, as this source of energy, and power and something that we really respect,” says Rakena.

The installation is being released during Matariki, traditionally a time of reflection and renewal, which co-curator Mike Bridgman says is significant.

“The Mana Moana connection to Matariki centres the important relationship we need to maintain the rhythms of our environment, and the synching of Māori and Pacific ideologies.

“This year Mana Moana Digital Ocean is attached to the tail end of the Matariki lunar phase of Tangaroa. It wraps up our Matariki celebration period to focus on the future. We pay tribute to the past, bringing together our offering, the harvest of ideas and knowledge from artists, providing creative nourishment for the mind," he explains. 

Massey connections

Mana Moana has strong connections with Massey University. Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Creative Arts (CoCA) Professor Claire Robinson, says the College is delighted to support Mana Moana’s kaupapa, which foregrounds indigenous voices and highlights how creative arts and technology can work together.

"Mana Moana talks about climate change and rising sea levels through the powerfully creative lenses of our indigenous people - we need to take notice. It is art as activism in its most potent form,” she says.

Joining their Massey colleagues in Mana Moana are artist Kura Puke (Ngāti Tawhirikura, Te Atiawa), Associate Dean Māori at CoCA, who collaborates with digital and spatial designer Stuart Foster, senior lecturer at Nga Pae Mahutonga School of Design and Kurt Komene (Ngāti Tawhirikura, Taranaki), knowledge specialist in the Toi Māori team at CoCA.

Te Rina Warren (Rangitāne, Matakore, Ngāti Whitikaupeka), Senior Lecturer from Te Pūtahi a Toi, School of Māori Knowledge, has composed a pao that brings the view into the Mana Moana Digital Ocean space. Artist Jasmine Togo Brisby (South Sea Islands) is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts at Massey, and Massey alumni Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu), Regan Balzer (Ko Te Arawa, ko Ngāti Ranginui) and Kereama Taepa (Te Arawa, Te Ātiawa) have joined alongside prominent alumni Dr Johnson Witehira and Dr Karlo Mila. 

Mana Moana also features within a wider global cross-indigenous research platform, called The Space Between Us: Col(lab)orations Within Indigenous, Circumpolar and Pacific Places Through Digital Media and Design, involving researchers and artists from the Canadian, Circumpolar and Pacific regions. Rakena and Dr Witehira are on its Indigenous leadership team. The research platform examines different models and methodologies in digital and new media that actively develops indigenous knowledge, advances training opportunities, capacity building and indigenous cultural resurgence.

Head of Massey's Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Professor Huhana Smith (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga), says Mana Moana is playing an integral role in developing this global research platform further and advancing digital knowledge and media. "I am proud that so many of our Toi Rauwharangi creatives are leading this work," Professor Smith says. 

Mana Moana Volume 2: Digital Ocean launches at www.manamoana.co.nz this Friday July 17 from 6.30pm.  There will also be an online webinar from 7.30pm, when contributing artists are interviewed by Tina Ngata and facilitated by Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul. You can tune in through this link.

Video previews of the new artworks will also screen in Wellington’s Odlins Plaza July 17–25 as part of Matariki ki Pōneke.

Mana Moana is funded by Creative New Zealand and Wellington City Council and is supported by Massey University.


Dr Karlo Mila, Michael Tuffery, Dr Johnson Witehira, Warren Maxwell, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Kereama Taepa, Louise Potiki Bryant, Tina Ngata, Terri Ripeka Crawford, Kura Puke, Stuart Foster, Kurt Komene, Horomona Horo, Laughton Kora, Regan Balzer, Cathy Livermore, Jess Feast, Rob Thorne. Curated by Rachael Rakena and Mike Bridgman.

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Toi Rauwhārangi
College of Creative Arts
Wellington, Aotearoa