Young Māori artist Huriana’s work is founded in story-telling and personal culture, raising awareness of minority communities and issues.
You’re an artist and illustrator. How would you describe your style or approach?
My practice is primarily influenced by my love of storytelling, and most of my art tends to reference my Māori whakapapa and takatāpui identity. I’ve always wanted to reflect the beauty and diversity of those communities in everything I make, and I guess I’d describe my style as a mix between cartoons and realism. It’s not quite photo realistic but it’s also not in the style of traditional cartooning either.
We’ve previously seen your work at Britomart as part of the Present Tense : Wāhine Toi Aotearoa poster series. Can you talk a little about the works you created for that exhibition?
The first piece, entitled ‘Tangata Whenua’ was actually based around a quote from my aunty, Sina Brown-Davis, who is someone that I admire a great deal. The quote talks about the intrinsic link between the mana of both whenua and wāhine Māori and aims to serve as a challenge to those who claim to whakamana the land but refuse to do the same for wāhine Māori.
The second piece, entitled ‘Ihumātao’ was pretty simple in terms of imagery, but I wanted to seize the opportunity to promote the Protect Ihumātao movement in a widely used public space like Britomart station.
Many people will know your work from Ihumātao. How do you feel about the point the movement to save the land from development has reached – as well as the role your artwork is playing in amplifying those conversations?
I’m proud of the work that SOUL has done so far, and it’s been exciting to see so many people from across Aotearoa and the world lending their support to this campaign, it really has been such a pivotal moment in modern Māori politics. I’m also glad that development has been stalled for now and I hope a resolution can be reached soon. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to illustrate a very small part of the movement to protect Ihumātao, and I’ll always be grateful for the relationships that have been cultivated because of that mahi, in terms of the movement.
What impact do you hope the movement has had, and will have, beyond Ihumātao itself?
I think that the campaign that SOUL have led has come to represent not only Ihumātao, but the wider struggle for tino rangatiratanga and Māori land rights in general. I think it’s telling that so many people from so many different communities have come together for a common goal. My hope is that the momentum that the campaign has garnered will continue and that it will continue to inspire tangata whenua as well as tau iwi to stand up and fight back when they see injustice being done against our people.
You’ve painted a range of native tree species for our Green Christmas reforestation project here at Britomart. Do you have a favourite?
Definitely Kahikatea! I love the fact that they can support entire ecosystems within their trunks and branches and they were also used pretty extensively for carving in Tūhoe tradition as well, which is one of my iwi.
What else are you working on at the moment?
Mostly trying to get Christmas commissions out of the way at the moment, grant applications and trying to make time for more personal projects over summer.
What are your plans for the summer holidays?
Spending time with family, working on a few personal projects and (hopefully) taking some much needed time off!