National | Exhibition

Wāhine, an exhibition of mana and prestige

Wāhine, weaving together intimate sound stories and powerful portrait photography, is an immersive multimedia art exhibition that amplifies Māori women's voices around Aotearoa.

It was launched at Te Whakarewarewa Village in Rotorua today.

Tūhourangi, Ngāti Wāhiao and Te Arawa Kapahaka extraordinaire Ngamoni Huata was at the centre of this exhibition, sharing her life stories and experiences of the past to teach and empower the listener in the changing world of the present.

“I think they can look at quite a few things so they can have a look at themselves. It's where you want to be,'' Huata said.

Wāhine offers communities an opportunity to come together, to be enriched and inspired by these raw, honest, and vulnerable stories – stories that touch on the joys and inspirations, the troubles and tribulations and the resilience that has moulded the wāhine.

The deeply personal words of each interview are woven together from real-life recordings captured by the women themselves and accompanied by portraits taken at each woman’s home, marae, or chosen location.

Ngamoni Huata launched

The artist, Loren Pasquier, is from France. She started Wāhine on Waitangi Day 2020 at Whakatū Marae in Nelson and portrayed Māori women from around New Zealand.

“I am thankful and privileged to be part of these remarkable women’s stories. When you come in the whare here you will be given a pair of headphones and you get to go around and explore the photos and feel if there is one you feel drawn to and then you can sit, put the headphones on and dive into her story,” Pasquier said.

Today Ngamoni Huata and her portrait and audio recording were launched and joined 13 other wāhine from around the country who were on display.

The aim is to empower the listener with the experiences and knowledge from their stories and give a platform for the female voice to be heard.

As it travels around Aotearoa, Wāhine expands at each new location, inviting wāhine from local iwi to join the kaupapa and hold space for the other women.

Kapahaka expert

Huata’s mokopuna, Tiahuia Ropotini, was excited along with her family to have their nan at centre stage at today’s exhibition as only months earlier it was younger sister Panahce Ropotini-Huata who graced the Hastings Wāhine exhibition with her portrait and kōrero.

“Now it’s up to us to carry the traditions she has learned from her ancestors and parents. We her family are blessed she has installed in us these skills and passion,” Ropotini said.

In 2000 Ngamoni published her book The Rhythm and Life of Poi, encouraged by Sir Tīmoti Kāretu. She is a renowned kapahaka exponent and has worked alongside many kapahaka greats, including Bill Kerekere, Ngapo, and Pimia Wehi.

She has been a performer and judge at the senior kapa haka level for more than 60 years with her kapa Tūhourangi- Ngāti Wāhiao. She has a passion for poi and correcting people when they don’t know the words or actions properly.

Whakarewarewa tradition

Here at the Wāhine exhibition, her stories derive from her growing up in Whakarewarewa Village at Te Pakira Marae, her family, Māori language, traditions, and customs such as working with raupo and making tourism work for her and her whānau.

Louise O'Shea, a visitor from Australia said, “It just touched me in my heart it was glorious, it was just her joy, that is what it was, her joy touched me.”

And Minirapa Hazel-Whare visiting from Port Waikato said, “Being here today was a bit of a shock to me. Unannounced to me I would be in the presence of 14 very strong wāhine.”

The Wāhine exhibition is being held at the Whakarewarewa Village in Rotorua and finishes in June.