(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

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