Te Taniwha: The Manuscript of Ārikirangi

Te Taniwha: The Manuscript of Ārikirangi

Ngā kupu whakamahuki nā Richard Niania

Photographs by Joyce Campbell

Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi
Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade, Wellington

27 July – 20 October 2019

Friday 26 July, 6:00pm: Exhibition opening

Saturday 27 July, 2:00pm: Exhibition tour with artist Joyce Campbell, Ngāi Kōhatu kaumatua Richard Niania and guest curator John C. Welchman

Tuesday 30 July, 5.45pm: Public lecture John C. Welchman: The Uncanny and Visual Culture, Venue:Old Museum Building Theatrette, Massey University

Joyce Campbell   Taniwha V  from the  Te Taniwha  series, 2010, silver gelatin photograph

Joyce Campbell Taniwha V from the Te Taniwha series, 2010, silver gelatin photograph

Te Taniwha: The Manuscript of Ārikirangi is a new iteration of Richard Niania and Joyce Campbell’s decade long project to capture and preserve kōrero (narratives) about the people of Whakapūnake te maunga (the sacred mountain of the Wairoa region) and Ruakituri awa (a major tributary of the Wairoa river). At the centre of the exhibition is a rare manuscript containing hymns, prayers and whakapapa written by the Rongowhakaata warrior prophet and founder of the Ringatū faith, Te Kooti Ārikirangi Te Turuki. This is one of the founding documents of Te Haahi Ringatū mentioned by Judith Binney in an appendix to Redemptions Songs, her biography of the prophet. Alongside this important document are other notebooks containing material written by various hands relating to the new faith, the vessel they have been stored in and an unfinished kotiake (bone club) that have been handed down through the generations.

These taonga have been in the care of the Kūnaiti, Ranapia and Niania Whānau of Te Reinga for the last one hundred and fifty years. They were given by the prophet to Niania’s ancestor Paratene Waata Kūnaiti in 1869 and handed to Niania by his grandmother, Pare Īhaka Ranapia-Niania in 1988. She was the last ever Pou Tikanga (church leader) of Te Parihi o Whakapūnake (the Parish of Whakapūnake) of Te Haahi Ringatū at Te Reinga where Niania still lives.

Accompanying these artefacts are photographs of the manuscript, taken by Campbell and printed digitally for this occasion, and a translation by Niania of the first prayer contained in Ārikirangi’s notebook, together with his commentary on his Whānau’s role in Ārikirangi’s historic journey through their whenua (land).

This is an historic occasion, marking the moment when the manuscript at last enters public life. The exhibition respectfully acknowledges Te Kooti Ārikirangi Te Turuki as a man of enduring wisdom whose thinking and vision led to the founding of an ideology, Ringatū, and the eventual establishment of Te Haāhi Ringatū, in 1931, as an official branch of Christianity that continues to be practised in Aotearoa New Zealand today.

Photographs and video from other bodies of work in the Te Taniwha series are installed in the exhibition spaces surrounding the Kirk Gallery. They draw on the mythology, history, and ecology of Te Reinga and the Ruakituri Valley, referring, in particular, to the mythic water-dwelling creature, Hinekōrako who lives there. Often using anachronistic equipment and sometimes printing in a field darkroom, Campbell’s inspired chemical manipulations of light offer unique evocations of the mystery and materiality of her subjects.

Richard Niania (Ngāi Kōhatu, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa) is based at Te Reinga in the Ruakituri Valley near Wairoa, where he is tribal historian and kaumātua of his Ngāi Kōhatu Hapū. He was educated at St Stephen’s School, Bombay and attended Victoria University in 1973. In 1975, he returned to Wairoa to work on the Tauwharetoi Incorporation until he joined the Department of Māori Affairs in 1987. When the Department was devolved, in 1989, Niania returned to Victoria and, in 1991 completed the BA he had begun in 1973.  He returned to Te Reinga in 1992 taking up leadership roles in Hapū, Iwi and Community organisations in Wairoa and greater Ikaroa-Rāwhiti region. He has worked with Joyce Campbell on Te Taniwha since 2010, a long-term project resulting in several exhibitions relating to the hītoria (histories) and pūrākau of Te Reinga and its people.

Joyce Campbell (b. 1971 Aotearoa New Zealand) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Auckland New Zealand. She has an MFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland (1999), where she is now Associate Professor. She has lived, studied, taught and worked in Southern California and has undertaken residencies in New Zealand and Antarctica. Her recent work utilises anachronistic photographic techniques, such as the daguerreotype and ambrotype, as well as conventional analogue and digital photography, video, film and sculpture. She uses these to examine the collision of natural and cultural systems often in extreme environments. Her interests have led her to render visible microbial colonies, crystals in the process of formation, silver dispersing into colloidal suspension, the migration of glaciers into the ocean, distressed coral reefs and dead forests, river gorges in rural New Zealand and California’s desert washes and industrial brownfields. She has exhibited throughout New Zealand, and her works have been included in solo and group exhibitions in Australia and the U.S. She is represented by Two Rooms, Auckland, Bartley + Company Art, Wellington, and Nadene Milne Gallery, Arrowtown and Christchurch.