Tini Whetū Project Space is an experimental art gallery and space, curated by Piupiu Maya Turei (Wairarapa Moana, Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi). Tini Whetū is situated in the upper-level of Yours on Moray Place, in both the corridor leading to Evening Bookstore and the bookstore itself.
Piupiu has been doing art curatorial work in Ōtepoti since 2019 and has curated shows at the Polytech, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and for Dunedin Dream Brokerage. Tini Whetū is Piupiu’s first permanent gallery space of her own. The space came to be early this year, after Evening Books put out a call-out in hosting an art gallery to complement the space.
Having come from an academic art background and working in curating for a number of years, Piupiu is aware of the many barriers in the art world of Aotearoa, particularly for Māori. Her curatorial practice is about removing these barriers for the artists and public alike. “I’m really interested in not being exclusionary,” said Piupiu. “It’s not about a gallery which shuts people out because the content is gate-kept. Artworks are open and accessible for anyone to understand, however they want.”
In creating a gallery that is inviting to the public, this is about showing engaging exhibitions while not presenting them in ways that exclude the audience. “It’s about finding other ways to put out art. Not heaps of big words, just lots of big feelings.” For artists, Piupiu’s focus is on how their experiences in creating then showing this art can be most enjoyable for them: “That’s the experimental part of the gallery for me. Less ‘how I’m showing work’ and more ‘how do I go about showing the work?’…How do my politics around mutual aid, sharing, giving people autonomy and power, relate to running a gallery?”
Piupiu’s curatorial practice is also shaped by her anarchist upbringing. Her mum was involved in multiple anarchist groups, manifesting in Tini Whetū holding a space at the anarchist co-op, Yours. “The crossover for me, of te ao Māori and anarchism, is centred around the idea of manaaki,” said Piupiu. “Everyone has a place.” Piupiu’s hope for Tini Whetū is ultimately that it will be a space where everyone feels safe in encountering, interpreting, and learning about art. More personally, Piupiu also hopes it can be a place of connection for Māori anarchists where they can feel “this is us - this is my cultural self, my actual self and my politics, as an art gallery.”
Tini Whetū’s grand opening was on February 22 with two exhibitions: Te Mahi Peita, by twelve local Māori artists, and Kare Ā-Roto, by Angus Tahere Hayes. The coming together of Te Mahi Peita particularly embodies the creative freedom Piupiu aspires to in her curatorial process. The artists were invited to directly draw their art onto the walls with paint pens over three sessions. “There was lots of laughter and we listened to music. [Installation] is the most stressful part but it made it feel really chill and easy-breezy.”
Through installing directly to the walls, the exhibition also speaks both to the use of graffiti as a political tool and to the earliest artistic tradition of rock paintings. Kare Ā-Roto is from the private collection of the late artist, Angus Tahere Hayes, a takatāpui community worker and artist in visual art, writing, and music. The title loosely translates to emotions and the painting depicts an individual brushing their hair.
You can see both exhibitions now at Tini Whetū, on the upper-level of Yours. Follow Tini Whetū on Insta at @tini.whetu.projectspace.
Exhibitions and artists
Angus Tahere Hayes
Te Mahi Peita:
Vicki Lenihan (Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Ngāi Tahu)
Heramaahina Eketone (Ngaati Maniapoto/ Waikato)
Megan Brady (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Pākehā)
Jessica Hinerangi Thompson- Carr (Ngāruahine, Ngāti ruanui, Ngāpuhi)
Madison Kelly (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Pākehā)
Georgina May Young ( Te Ūpokorehe, Te Whakatōhea, Pākehā)
Mya Morrison-Middleton (Ngāi Tahu)
Toa Emmett William Makapelu (Pautini Ngaitahu)
Aidan Taira Geraghty (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha)
Aroha Novak (Ngāi te Rangi, Ngāti Kahungunu)
Zoe Hikairo Moreho (Ngati Maru, Ngati Hikairo, Tainui)
Jacob Tucker (Ngaati Apakura)
Piupiu Maya Turei (Wairarapa Moana, Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi)