Mataaho collective awarded global top prize a ‘monumental achievement for Māori art’

The Mataaho collective has been awarded one of the most prestigious awards in the art world, the Golden Lion, at the 60th Venice Biennale.

Established in 2012, the collective is made up of four wāhine Māori Erena Baker-Arapere (Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and Ngāti Raukawa), Sarah Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Pūkeko, and Tūhoe), Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāi Te Rangi), and Dr Terri Te Tau (Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa).

They produce large-scale installations, which include Aka, a 14-metre-tall installation that was developed for the Akadakone exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada

But their latest work, Takapau, won them the big prize at the prestigious Venice Biennale.

Takapau is inspired by whāriki takapau, finely woven mats that elevate and add mana to special events such as weddings, births and tangihanga.

In the citation for the award, the award jury president, Julia Bryan-Wilson, spoke of the “impressive scale” of the installation made possible by the collective strength and creativity of the group.

“Referring to matrilinear traditions of textiles with its womb-like cradle, the installation is both a cosmology and a shelter,” she said.

Accepting the award, Sarah Hudson made a point to acknowledge one of their members who couldn’t be in Venice l

“In 2022, we started researching this work by looking at customary Māori birthing mats. It’s fitting that our fourth member is currently preparing to give birth for the first time.”

Creative NZ’s Pou Arahi Toi Haniko Te Kurapa says this award is a nod to the Mataaho’s hard work and dedication. It’s also a reminder of the weight Māori art has in the world.

“Miharo katoa ana, tata tonu te hemo take manawa na te mea kua roa nei rātou te rōpū Mataaho e mahi ana o rātou mahi.

“There have been lots of Māori artists who have travelled the world on different platforms, looking at how we can infiltrate Māori art globally and I think we’re doing that amazingly,” he said.