Collecting earth

Pūrākau tells us how Hineahuone was formed by Tane with the whenua of his mother Papatūānuku. This gift of the mother giving part of herself to make and then nurture new life is why I have chosen each imprint to represent the four generations of wāhine in my whānau. I have kindly been gifted 3 natural pigments for these works:

The darkest red comes from the side of a volcano called Maunganui Bluff on the West Coast by Waipoua forest. I will use this pigment for my nanny and grandmothers imprint of the wheku. The wheku represents an ancestor. Volcanoes have so much activity inside them they are almost otherworldly, so I chose this pigment for both my grandmothers who has passed, as it best relates to those who have passed yet still remain active in our lives.

The brighter red is from marae up north Ngai Tawake. I will use this pigment with my mothers imprint which is of a kete. The kete to me represents manaakitanga, aroha and mana wāhine. The marae to me also represents those values and the whare tangata of a mother, so was my choice for my mum.

The much lighter red, almost beige, is ground down Totara heart wood. I will use this for the imprint representing myself, an imprint of my pounamu which is bound with an imprint of a leaf. Wood these days is often cut down and shipped out away from the soil it grew, this spoke to me as I have always felt a longing for my home, Nuhaka. The imprint of my pounamu speaks of handed down taonga and whakapapa.

The last yellow pigment is collected by myself and my kids close to where we currently live at the river, Te Awa Kairangi. I chose this for my daughters imprint of the Mangopare ki Nuhaka kōwhaiwhai pattern. My daughter is our whānau connection back to Te Ao Māori & Te Reo Maori so using the kowhaiwhai pattern from the tāhuhu at Kahungunu marae in Nuhaka places us all back home even though we are afar which is represented with our new locations pigment.

Whānau taonga

My dad’s parents are from Aberdeen, Scotland. My dad was born and never left Upper Hutt. My mum is from Nuhaka. Our family house had lots of little trinkets but did it have many taonga. Recently I realised it did, they were things I never really considered, they were just things that had always been there. But that’s why they are taonga to us, they have lived with us through the tough times and the celebrations.

Kauae raro

After Izzy introduced me to kōkōwai and I caught the pigment bug and I discovered Kauae Raro, a NZ collective who explore natural pigment. And long story short, the amazing Sarah Hudson, who is in Kauae Raro, invited other indigenous artists during the first NZ lockdown to take part in a project resulting in a magazine. This magazine is beautiful and allows the reader to peek into intimate conversations between Sarah and each artist. I related completely to many, if not all artist responses, discussing the artists close connection when using natural pigment.

One millimeter out

Building is a numbers game, one mil out is too much, so there’s been lots of mis-cuts, lots of cuts the wrong way, lots of money gone on petrol instead of groceries, lots of times I wanted to chuck in the idea as the Wardian cases were just a cover not the actual artwork. Kids are back at the workshop with me again today and we almost finally have one case done, almost, then three more to go.

Cutting with the jig we made
Handles with pins glued ready to go

School holidays

Being a māmā while studying and working ain’t bloody easy. I love my course mahi, I just wish I had the money to still pay our bills so they I didn’t have to rush round tired and stretched. But it is what it is hopefully all the hard work in every area of my life will pay off eventually. The Wardian case construction is so much more fiddly and time consuming than Clayton and I expected so I had to bring the tamafreakies to the workshop this week, thank god for mokotube and youtube.

Artists displaying mounds

When I was going through the exploration phase of conventional painting and I stumbled onto imprinting into kōkōwai, I was applying the pigment to A3 art paper so I didn’t think initially about going larger. For this series I am happy with my decision to stick to small mounds for the small whānau taonga I will be using, but I am really enjoying this process and think I will continue to use it so wanted to look at others who had presented mounds of some sort as art pieces.

Elliot Glenn Punahau Collins

Rawhaki/Massed, heaped up, 2018. Harakeke seeds, endless supply.

I saw this piece in an exhibition at Toi Poneke, the entire exhibition, ‘Te Reo Pākehā’, he’d put together with Mac Langdon was so well put together. I finally felt what it was like to really feel and understand an entire exhibition without having to read the wall labels, it penetrated deep into the difficult places of history for Māori, and made us acknowledge the mamae. I will never forget this exhibition, and I will never forget the mass of harakeke that looked to just grow from under the wall and the fact you could take some of it away to plant and start a new piece with.

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono – To The Light (Installation View), Serpentine Gallery 2012

My google search popped up this installation of Yoko Ono’s, three mounds of earth sitting straight on the gallery floor, named Country A, Country B and Country C. Each mound is identical, says it’s likely showing that all countries are the same at the core. From my indigenous view point, I wonder if it’s about how non-indigenous see all land as just land, and how they feel they can take it and move it with the right amount of money. Most likely is correct as Yoko Ono’s life was more about striving for world peace.

Terence Koh

Terence Koh – Nothingtoodoo – performance at Mary Boone Gallery. February 19, 2011

The google search isn’t a quick and easy research method for this type of search, but a day of using many different sentence searches does seek out more and more artists showing mounds of some sort as ephemeral art. One that really caught my eye due to the striking white on white on white, was this work of Terence Koh’s. It’s a massive cone of salt, he moved around it on his knees, not his hands and knees but just knees, every opening hour of the gallery it was shown in, 8 hours a day, five days a week! He is walking on his knees for peace. Is it for world peace or inner peace? What ever it’s for it would be painful, but maybe that’s the point, that it’s painful fighting or waiting for peace.

Kids and pigment

Aside from my own practice, I am an educator at the Dowse Art Museum. Constantly trying to think of new child friendly workshops can be a mind juggle when every other day I am immersed in deep conceptual kaupapa for my course. So when I can I try to link in methods I am using from course into a less heavy child friendly option. Today we used pigment that I collected with my kids and taught the class how to use this earth to paint. They had previously been on a visit to the landfill and a recycled goods store so we continued the conversation around what messages we could share with others about the world of waste. And we discussed collecting pigment and other natural resources, how we must nurture them and allow them to replenish. It was a great success.

Thanks Bob

I came in to the workshop without my defeatist attitude, and knew it was going to be a better day when Clayton told me that Bob was letting me use some Pine he wasn’t using, thanks Bob! We cut the first Wardian case, and assembled the frame to see what we needed to change. My thought of getting rid of the pitched roof was validated when I saw the ridge would massively affect the view of the imprint in the mound. Putting a test mound in it was obvious I also needed to go bigger, originally the base was for approx an A4 space, but the work needed more like A3 to have the space to breathe.

To build or not to build

After my last two mis-starts to build the Wardian cases myself I took a little shopping trip to see if anything I could buy already made could potentially fit the job.

But, in the end nothing up to standard and my stubborn streak to not give up gave me the push back into building them myself. I decided to be a bit easier on myself though and reworked the design to not include the pitched roof and the base.

Cutting glass

So I wasted a day already prepping wood I couldn’t actually use, but seems it wasn’t the only day that was going to be wasted. Today was not so much wasted I suppose as it was a realisation of how long it takes to cut glass. I purchased recycled glass so it first required a thorough clean, but when held at direct eye sight you could still see stains in the glass that I just could not remove. Then cutting it resulted in a bunch of smashed glass and crooked cuts, I did get better but after a day I didn’t even have enough for one Wardian case let alone the four I was hoping to build. I went home frustrated again then for my sanity and also aware of time ticking by I decided to outsource this part and put in an order to MetroGlass.

Cutting doors

My husband is in the army and has to frequently be away for extended periods of time, recently on long stints apart I have turned to a little DIY around our home. The latest reno was removing most of on kitchen cupboard doors, so when I decided to make wood and glass Wardian cases I thought this could be a great second use for them. Annoyingly after a day removing handles, hinges and cutting to a useable size we realised the wood had been made to look native but was in fact just MDF. I was pretty gutted that we couldn’t use the doors apart from the handles, but also worried as I didn’t really have a day worth of time to waste, but hei aha…

Wardian Cases

I have decided to use the kōkōwai mound imprints as my final works to exhibit this semester. I want the actual mounds themselves, not just photographs, to be in the exhibition space. I will imprint within the space with whānau taonga. I want them open and uncovered at the opening as I see them as the living breathing taonga with which I imprinted them. Considering what to cover them with after the opening so that the kōkōwai remains intact was a bit of a debate with myself. I liked the idea that if the aircon blew some of the kōkōwai particles, or if a person sneekily touched it, that it some of the kōkōwai would secretly remain even after my works are removed. Also thinking of the mauri within these taonga I did not want them to be restricted or closed off from us. I considered jars, perspex boxes and $3 Kmart glass salad bowls. The jars and bowls didn’t feel right because of food taking making the taonga noa. The perspex felt disconnected and a quick fix. But then on having a conversation with a workmate I learnt about Wardian Cases.

The Wardian case was an early type of terrarium, a sealed protective container for plants. It found great use in the 19th century in protecting foreign plants imported to Europe from overseas, the great majority of which had previously died from exposure during long sea journeys, frustrating the many scientific and amateur botanists of the time. Joseph Dalton Hooker was one of the first plant explorers to use the new Wardian cases, when he shipped live plants back to England from New Zealand in 1841, during the voyage of HMS Erebus.

I think the Wardian case is a perfect way to still acknowledge the mauri of the taonga inside. Simultaneously it comments on indigenous taonga that remain in museums, disconnected from it’s people. I will try to build some Wardian cases myself with the help of Clayton our local MacGyver.


Pigment hunters

Thanks to Israel Tangaroa-Birch I have been using the left over kōkōwai he gifted us last semester, it comes from the side of a volcano called Maunganui Bluff on the West coast by Waipoua forest. Other students received some from his marae up north Ngai Tawake. Today I took my tamariki to search for some natural pigment where we currently live, we ended up at the awa and it was a definite success.

Revealing the trauma

The base of these paintings (shown below) were made when I was playing with paint in water. Those initial paintings where I relinquished control and let the water and the paint decide what would be reveled were basic and ugly to be honest, but I re-lived moments looking through them. Moments I had buried deep, moments I will grieve forever, moments where I bled on my whenua, moments I am not willing to talk about but have decided to share visually inspired by John Pule’s works.

More indigenous inspiration

Saffronn Te Ratana

Ngāi Tuhoe

Drips paint onto cardboard and paint brushes, carves into set acrylic paint. Creates environments like forests. Thoughtful of her responsibility as an ancestor. Explores acrylic paints whakapapa, as kokowai pigment whakapapa to the whenua.

John Pule


Creates forests, oceans and other environments. Seems to let the paint blobs create the landscape. Includes text that locates you, often talking directly to the location of himself or his people.

Jasmine Togo-Brisby

Australian South Sea Islander

Fourth-generation Australian South Sea Islander, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, great-great-grandparents were taken from Vanuatu as children and put to work on an Australian sugarcane plantation. These works and more examine the historical practice of ‘blackbirding’, a romanticised colloquialism for the Pacific slave trade. Jasmines practice includes painting, early photographic techniques like wetplate photography, and sculpture. I visited Page Galleries this week to specifically check out these works in her show because I am exploring creating plaster casts for my final works this semester. I liked the size not much larger than a serving plate, and the dust raw mat black finish was stunning.

Mana whenua

So many Māori artists these days, no matter if brought up in Te Ao Māori or learning about this part of their heritage, create work that is engaged with mana whenua, mana tiriti, mana tangata, mana wahine and tino rangatiratanga. So many works can connect to all those forementioned topics, this is because they are all intrinsically entwined. So it is easy to find Māori artists who talk to the conversations of Mana whenua, I decided to choose the two who have had the most impact on me in recent times, Israel Tangaroa-Birch and Tina Ngata.

Israel Tangaroa-Birch

Ngā Puhi, Ngāi Tawake, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka

Use of pattern like unaunahi. Use of text including oriori, whakataukī and karakia. Paints with light.

Tina Ngata

Ngāti Porou

Not as much known artwork, but constantly know for her fight for Te Ao Māori from whenua to tangata and everything in between.

Darcy Nicholas

Kahui Maunga, Te Atiawa nui tono, Ngati Ruanui, Tangahoe, Tauranga Moana and Ngati Haua

Stunning colourful layered paintings. Locating people with their land. Paintings and sculptures.

Shona Rapira Davies

Ngati Wai ki Aotea

Painter and sculptor Shona creates large scale works that engage with the space as well as the audience. I like her works scale, use of traditional pattern and telling of wāhine Māori narratives.


Searching for mōteatea from my iwi and exploring the meanings behind them should have been something I did a long time ago, but better late than never. I visited the library, researched online and looked through past iwi wānanga booklets. Many of the waiata I knew that we often sung back home nowadays was contemporary, the challenge of finding something much older made me search further and deeper. There were so many I loved, but when I heard a recording of ‘Penei tonu ai’ I was instantly transported by to one of my whare, listening to my koroua on the pae while I sat by the flag pole warmed by the hot sun. And then when I researched for translations of the kupu I knew it aligned with my last semesters work and my feeling that that work was unfinished. I put a call out on my iwi facebook group asking what whanaunga knew of the song and will update this mōteatea page as I continue to learn about it.

Indigenous inspiration

Looking for indigenous painters who apply paint unconventionally to the canvas I discovered Samantha Hobson and Sonya Kelliher-Combs.

Samantha Hobson


Samantha is a painter who uses pigment and a conditioner like Floetrol to make the paint run. She applies the runny paint with squirt bottles and hands. Paints about land, her people and old stories. I like the vibrancy in her colours and the blacks that they emerge from or into depending on how you look at it.

Sonya Kelliher-Combs

Alaskan Native

, Sonya, uses synthetic, organic, traditional and modern materials to move beyond the oppositions between Western and Native culture, self/other, man/nature.  She examined their interrelationships and interdependencies while also questioning accepted notions of beauty. She draws from her ongoing struggle for self definition and identity in the Alaskan context. I was drawn to her use of objects to apply paint, imprint the paint and being left on the canvas.

Blue skies of Montana

Mahi kāinga i te rā was to allow a waiata to inspire what we paint. Blue skies of Montana by Ronnie Milsap was my waiata. Ronnie is native to North Carolina in America, he was born blind which his whānau believed was because of a sin, so his mother left him to his grandparents in the Smokey mountains. His grandparents believed he would have a better future with the blind school so handed him over and that is where his musical talents were discovered. The lyrics of Blue skies of Montana are direct, acknowledging the lands that were taken from the native americans, the battles that were fought and the treaty of promises that the white man did not abide by. I immersed myself in the song playing it on loop for most of the day. I thought of the common thread of this type of colonisation across the world and here in Aotearoa, it was as if the song could have been sung by any indigenous person. I started to paint thinking of the colours sung; Blue skies, Hungry for the yellow gold, Wearing a red bandana, I see the smoke. I named the unconventional methods I used.


Black lives matter

Really interesting kōrero i te ata nei about the BLM movement before and since George Floyd’s death. The overall whakaaro spoke to the whakataukī ‘He aha te mea nui o te Ao, He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata’. Angela Davis spoke of our need to act collectively with urgency saying how “only a global movement can eradicate racism”. This was a great reminder that we have to all partake in uncredited work to influence change. How long are we going to wait for others to do for us what we can do for ourselves? This made me recall the whakatauākī na Timoti Karetu “Me kōrero Māori tātou, ki te kore i nāianei, ā hea?”, he talks about one finding time to learn Te Reo Māori, if not now, when? I feel motivated to continue doing what mahi I can to be an agent of change.

We were given a old nursery rhyme that had developed out of racist histories and we were asked to produce anything as a reflection on our rhyme. Mine was Eenie meenie miney moe. I decided to make 2 short videos the first a reflection of the rhyme, the second a reflection of my first video.

Peita peita i te kāinga

Started to explore other unconventional methods of applying paint at home with the tamariki. It was pretty messy and fun but probably got paint in a few places I shouldn’t have so if I paint with the kids definitely need ample amounts of space. I liked the para kore practice I used in class so I knew I wanted to do a set all from the same paint somehow. So the first one Ānga was me and the kids having races over the paper with their toy dinohead cars. Second I used the paint that had accumulated on the sides for my method named Kiriwera, where I dipped my finger in the paint and rolled onto the paper. I loved how these prints that you can be identified by can represent you as a person, so I started to think of all the people/tīpuna who are in my make up, and I created my visual of this. The last method I used I called Patapata, I dipped some paper towel into the cup I washed my paint brushes in from mixing the paint at the start, then I dropped and squeezed the paper towel creating light watercolours on the paper.

Ānga – momentum, driving force

Kiriwera – hot skin

Patapata – to drip, drop (as of rain)

Unconventional painting

Today we begun exploring unconventional methods of applying paint. Adding Floetrol to thin the paint without losing colour intensity like you would from adding water. We then filled a glass, put canvas on top and tipped over then released the paint from the cup lifting it up.

I enjoyed the look of the paint that had run off the canvas so used this as my second unconventional method stamping the canvas into the dregs of the first one. Accomplishing zero waste with this method, I named this method Para kore.

Waewae taku haere

Ngatai Taepa 24/07/2020

Ngatai Taepa, Te Atiawa and Te Arawa, visited tauira at Pūtahi to share the new waiata we will be singing to tautoko the opening of the new whare at the Wellington Campus sometime in the future. Beautifully composed by Kura Moeahu, Te Ātiawa, the waiata shares the historic Māori landmarks of Te Whanganui-a-Tara. I have lived in Wellington for most of my life and never really knew much Māori history from the area, and I love being able to learn our history by connecting to stories about people and places I know.

Pae tukutuku -website

Developed a simple website today to hold my mahi this semester instead of a visual diary on paper. I’ve kept it quite plain, partly because I like a simplified look and partly because the free version doesn’t easily allow lots of the customisation that I was use to with my previous website. I will still be carrying a sketch book on me for when inspiration strikes outside of my home, I have only started writing and drawing more in the last 2 years and found it really helpful in advancing.

For now will be where I can share my journey


Ia wiki ia wiki we will have a whakataukī to focus on for the week. I am on my reo Māori journey so am stoked that we will be incorporating more of our reo in our every day lives. I also love discovering the intended whakaaro behind whakatakī and reimaging some of the narratives into life now. Hopefully it will lead to more kōrero Māori around campus. Kia ora ai te reo Māori, korerotia!

Let’s go

Robert Jahnke 2019

First day back at Toioho ki Apiti was nice and easy.

Was awesome seeing our family in the flesh again after Covid-19 kept us apart for so long. Shared kai and waiata practice were great ways to feel back at home.

The kaupapa this semester is Mana whenua again, so I’m hoping to extend on my works I created last semester and develop my whakaaro even deeper. We are exploring paint for the first few weeks but I’m keeping my mind open along the process so I am not sure yet what medium I will use for my final work.