(K)IWI Notion of a Nation

Photo: NEIL DUDDY - Manukau Courier

Exhibition tells artist’s story

By JESSIE COLQUHOUN – Manukau Courier

In 2004 Don Brash’s Kiwi/iwi election billboards sparked controversy. But they also fired up the imagination of a young south Auckland arts student.

Of Pakeha and Ngati Maniapoto (Tainui) descent Reuben Friend explores the notion of nationality in a new exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara.

(K)IWI – Notion of a Nation aims to highlight some of the tensions that exist between the cultures.

“My work is not just about my story, it’s the story of all of my family and how I identify with being Maori and Pakeha,” he says.

“It doesn’t try and reconcile events of the past, it just helps me to form where I came from.”

The series of six paintings are red, white and black and have an image covered in a kowhaiwhai pattern of repeating koru.

“I’ve had people ask me ‘What is the dominant image – the kowhaiwhai or the other image?’, he says.

“When people look at me it’s the same – what’s dominant? Maori or Pakeha? It’s neither – I’m both.”

The exhibition is the outcome of Mr Friend’s work on his masters degree in Maori visual arts from Massey University.

He paints in the evenings and weekends and by day works as the curator of Maori and Pacific arts at the Wellington City Art Gallery.

Now based in the Wairarapa, Mr Friend grew up in Otara and Mangere Bridge.

He says he wanted to bring his work back to south Auckland so it would be accessible to the Maori and Pacific community.

“It’s really cool to bring it home to where I grew up.”

(K)IWI – Notion of a Nation is on at Fresh Gallery Otara until Saturday 13 February.


Find Reuben Friend here: www.ReubenFriend.com

The making of BIG LEGS (2009)

I made this drawing into a large scale textile installation for BLOOD + BONE, my first solo exhibition in December 2009. It was installed hanging from the first floor balcony of the St Kevins Arcade atrium on Karangahape Road in central Auckland.

Made from 10 ounce canvas duck, the work hands at around 4.5 meters long and approximately 2.4 meters wide. Black outlines were created through hemming the edges with a tight black zig-zag stitch. Detail of the jandal / flip-flops was created through machine sewn applique of black cotton commonly used in Cook Islands tivaevae quilt making, sourced from Fare Pareu in Otahuhu, south Auckland.

BIG LEGS (2009) is a self portrait.

The work is made to be viewed from the front primarily – it is not lined so the back has exposed stitching and drafting lines.

The work was attached with bulldog clips to a length of rope tied to the supports of the bannisters surrounding the atrium first floor balcony. Hanging down from the first floor to the ground floor, the work moved in the breeze and was visible from Karangahape Road.

Thank you to Leilani Kake and Luisa Tora for their support, feedback, time and energy in helping me to install the work.


My father, Kaliopate Tavola, has established a blog platform to communicate issues, history and developments with our village – Dravuni, located in the northern part of the Kadavu group of the Fiji Islands. He is new to blogging, but I’m happy that a kaidravuni (someone from Dravuni) can provide a first hand Dravuni insight into our island and history.



Mereia, BLOOD + BONE series 2009 // Permanant marker on high visibility polyester vest

Luisa Tora with her portrait vest.

Very happy to have held my first solo exhibition // Photo by Luisa Tora.

Thank you so much Luisa, Leilani, Kesa and Kenneth, Melissa and Claire, Filani, Favaux, Carmel, ‘Ava, Marilyn, Le’ua, Ina, Ioka and Saolo, Lorna and Samantha, Linda T, Sam and Janet, Tanu, Czarina, Jim, Ioane, Nicole, Lorraine, Wiremu, David, Maila, Giles, Siliga and Luisa, Tessa L and Tessa K… vinaka vakalevu.

More photos from BLOOD + BONE here