Who are the custodians of Maori Visual Art?

Free by Tracey Tawhiao

“Free” by Tracey Tawhiao

Thank you for all of your thought provoking responses to the previous post’s question “Is it alright to combine elements of Maori designs and create something new out of them?”

I’m in the middle of reading Tuamaka – The Challenge of Difference in Aotearoa New Zealand by social anthropologist Dame Joan Metge and she suggests…

“The problem of cultural appropriation is particularly acute for the creative artist. Sometimes there is a very fine line between legitimate borrowing and looting. Maori have themselves appropriated most of the things they have ‘borrowed’ from Western cultures and adapted them to their own ends.”

Maori Carving

Maori Carving

The difference lies in the location of power.  Members of the dominant Pakeha culture, with their greater access to power, need to be especially sensitive and observe certain guidelines. The two I suggest are to:

1) Seek guidance and permission from the Maori custodians of the treasures that attract you

2) Strive to be true to the original intention and spirit

Maori are shrewd at picking those who approach them with genuine respect and those who fake it… My own favourite strategy is to work with a Maori partner: I have found that we complement and inspire each other.”

- Dame Joan Metge.

So, I have one more question for you all!

I ask this particularly on behalf of overseas designers and artists who want to incorporate Maori symbols into their work but don’t know how to contact kaumatua…

Who are the Maori custodians of Visual Art that contemporary artists and designers should seek guidance and permission from?

Please Leave a Reply below or email me sofia@sofiaminson.com

Written by artist Sofia Minson from NewZealandArtwork.com
New Zealand Maori portrait and landscape oil paintings

5 thoughts on “Who are the custodians of Maori Visual Art?

  1. A Facebook comment – Jon wrote:

    There are established masters in traditional arts. For modern arts it could probably be whoever promotes themselves as ‘custodians’ the most & get corporate backing?

    Either way an artist should create something out of respect & sincerity & expect to be treated appropriately.

    I could whack a Viking Helmet on Mickey Mouse & call myself a ‘Scandinavian Art Custodian’ but a huge sale still shouldn’t buy me any respect.

  2. There is one thing that every single Maori has in common with each other , Whakapapa , and it is Whakapapa alone that everything Maori exist .
    No thats not a statement , it’s the foundation for an answer .
    So who are the custodians ? .
    All maori who take it upon themselves to become holders of Toi Maori .
    Who do you ask ? .
    Anyone of these Maori , however ,i would suggest one should approach established practitioners of Toi Maori as their knowlege will be vast and secure in that they would trained in the correct arena/s in their chosen fields .
    But , in saying that , there are others that are just as equiped if not more knowlegable then the guns in the main stream , if you know where to look .
    I do think though that when asking for permission , one should think about what they are asking for . For non maori , it may seem a simple thing to ask for the use of Maori art forms as that is all it is to some , maori art .
    But for us to whom these things were left , when asked , we do not hear a request for our art , What we hear is , May we use your whakapapa to add to our art , and that is the brick wall most non Maori will find .
    So for many of us it’s not that we don’t want to share , it’s just not that easy to give away our family lines . BTW i’ve seen your work on FB and they are awsome .

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