Kua Tīrama! is an artwork by Robyn Pryor (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe) and Hāmiora Bailey (Ngāti Huarere, Ngāti Porou Ki Harataunga) that ranges across Britomart’s Pavilion Panels on Galway Street and Te Ara Tahuhu, and through the Atrium on Takutai, featuring representations of each star in the Matariki cluster. Comprised of nine panels, each panel represents a star of Matariki, and corresponding affirmations for those who look towards them.


The work received its name from a kōrero given by Haoro Hond (Taranaki, Ngā Ruahinerangi, Te Āti Awa, Ngai Tāmanuhiri): 


Kua tīrama ngā wherokiroki o Matariki, ka mātike tū ki te rangi. 

(The light of Matariki has been dispersed in the sky, it shines bright [for you])

MELINDA WILLIAMS Hāmiora and Robyn, how and when did you first meet?

ROBYN PRYOR We were asked to come together in a forum to talk about a piece of art that AUT wanted to commission in respect of Fitzroy, one of the early colonisers led by Governor Grey and Hobson. What we discovered was unlike the majority of colonisers, Fitzroy didn't like the work he was asked to do and he struggled with it, and eventually it led to him taking his life. We were asked to come together on a regular basis to discuss aspects of that. So we spent up to three months together meeting at those hui, and over that time, Sam became a part of the collective that was running from Te Whare Ngaruru on Pitt Street.

MELINDA And how did your project Kua Tirama! [It’s Lit!] at Britomart, which you worked on together, come about?

HĀMIORA BAILEY Four years ago, I got asked to lead Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori for Auckland Pride. A tuakana of mine, Ems Hayley Walker, and I led a series of live Instagram takeovers for the Auckland Pride account. I was then asked to lead the Kaupapa Māori output for Auckland Pride on a six-month contractor, and I reached out to Jeremy to see if he would support me. And he offered me the same panels that we're now activating together, we have offered those up to emerging Māori & Pacific artists as a public art temporary space. 

We've done that together for three years now [Te Timatanga, during Auckland Pride]. This year he asked me if I knew anyone who would be keen to do a Matariki activation, and I was like, "You know what? I want to do it." I said [to Robyn], "Whaea, let's you and me do these panels, if you're keen." She's been talking to me about wanting to do affirmations and meditations, and I felt we were both waiting for permission. So when Jeremy asked, I was like, "All right, looks like this is the permission we've been waiting for." 

MELINDA The basis of the project is the tuakana-taina relationship. Could you explain what that is and how it functions and how it relates to what you've done here?

HĀMIORA I've been a taina under Whaea Robyn now for four years, and she is of course my Whaea. But within our dynamic, she has been a tuakana of mine. We've been hanging out together every day for the past four years as collaborators. This is our first moment really of making something that reflects on our journey together. She's helped me feel connected to my grandparents, my koro especially, who's passed, and has kind of been my poutoko manawa or my backbone and I've been a safe little mokopuna, processing grief and determination. This project is an honouring of those four years now and of our relationship, hey, Whaea?

ROBYN Absolutely. In different times and spaces, we exchange roles, where Sam becomes the tuakana because his knowledge or mātauranga is different to mine. I get to learn from Sam. And so we will chop and change roles as we need. But generally, I'm a Sam supporter. The tuakana-taina relationship is about siblings in general, older and the younger. You might assume that the older sibling has all the knowledge when in fact it depends on the era that we are brought up in as to the knowledge that we are subject to and the knowledge that we retain. Fortunately for myself, having met Sam when I did, we are able to exchange constantly. 

MELINDA Could you tell me about what you were trying to do or convey with the series of nine works you’ve created for Matariki at Britomart?

HĀMIORA With this work specifically, one thing I was really interested in is mapping that learning. Whaea Robyn and I have developed Te Reo Māori for each whetu, honoring each star with some really beautiful but simple affirmations. And then I developed a series of techniques for Whaea to learn on Adobe. Whaea's starting a service called Waea Ki A Whaea, which means Call Your Auntie. Hopefully, through me showing her these simple techniques, she can make letterheads and be comfortable with some design stuff. And then similarly, we can find really gentle, beautiful ways to acknowledge our whetu. So she's gifting the reo and I'm gifting some design. And together we're both kind of upskilling and demarcating a relationship that we've been fostering for years so that she can go and consult without me and I can get really comfortable with where I'm at in my reo journey.

Weavers will see within the works, there's a sense of mathematics. It's important to reflect that at this stage of the work, we are just teaching the system and the colours. It might reflect sacred geometry and weaving techniques, but in a really light way. We are not trying to replicate any weaving technologies; we are just kind of showing Whaea how to do a gradient and how to do lines. And if you want to put text in, here's how to change the colour. Really basic stuff, but still beautiful.

MELINDA What might the project help people understand better about Matariki?

HĀMIORA Matariki is as much about the whenua as it is about the stars. For example, through Waitī, we are talking about the star, but also about the rivers at the same time. The panels [representing the stars] are beautiful, but the affirmations are really important because they ask people to form a relationship with te taiao [enviromment] and I think in the city that's really important within Te Tau Hou Māori [the Maori New Year].

Te Reo Māori was built through migrating languages that shifted throughout Te Moana Nui A Kiwa (the Pacific) and once arriving in Aotearoa, grew from Te Taiao (our natural enviroment), within the language and how we speak of our Atua & our whetu we affirm our relationship to place. And Te Tau Hou Māori is for everybody. If you love Aotearoa, te reo Māori is inspired by the landscape. It's part of who we are as a place and a people. Hopefully everybody feels that sense of affirmation and mānawanuitanga from this work.

ROBYN: Matariki has in place the three principles of past, present, and future, the past referring to Ahunganui [storing and sharing food], the present referring to Hunganui [gathering with loved ones] and the future is about Manakonui [hopes and dreams]. We've drawn our meditation and affirmations from our Mātauranga Māori, from Te Taiao and nature, and our relationship and how we relate with others. In conversation with another moko, Hana Burgess, we celebrate Whanaungatanga through it defining our epistemology within Te Ao Māori: we exist because we relate, and through how scant our relation is in the city, we know that people in the city need a balance. The city is so imbalanced, and the affirmations and meditations are about helping with that balance and finding a little peace.

MELINDA Matariki has really grown in New Zealand's consciousness over the last few years, and more and more people are celebrating or marking it, which is great to see. How are you seeing that come through in what’s happening around you?

ROBYN It's been great through Professor Rangi Mātāmua, great that he's been able to advocate for Mātauranga Māori to be acknowledged this way, all the way to the point of a national holiday. In terms of tikanga, Matariki is something that has been celebrated for years and years. What I'm finding now is people are first asking about Matariki and then trying to find ways to be a part of a celebration, which is great. Last year we held space on Karangahape Road in an empty shop and for five weeks we rolled out two kaupapa a day relating to Matariki. Matariki is what brought us all together, but we were able to tease out and celebrate people's different ways of being.

MELINDA How will you each be celebrating Matariki this year? Do you have a tradition? 

HĀMIORA Back home, my whānau light a big bonfire on the beach, and share kai. We have a big Matariki this year as a whānau in terms of mine and Whaea’s town whānau, because we lost a friend last year. Both of us have experienced quite a bit of tangihanga this year, so I'm looking forward to acknowledging Te Kete o Taramainuku and allowing them to take flight.

ROBYN Arohanui.

HĀMIORA Yeah, arohanui. I am looking forward to releasing that period of mourning, and acknowledging the big net of Taramainuku. Ill also probably I'll think about my roads back home to Hauraki and how the whenua grieved this year - how the winter impacts our roads and my whānau who are at home. I’ll think about getting warm and slowing down and getting intimate and sitting with my Whaea and planning all the work that we're going to do now that we are both in this new stage of evolution. 

ROBYN The town family that Sam talks about, you could say are our whāngai family, and they're all from the city and from Karangahape Road. For myself, at home generally we would have a celebration at the marae. All the families come together. We find a way to have that release, as Sam has mentioned, of all those who have passed up until that time. After that release, it's a matter of celebrating our children because they are our future. And it's generally around kai.

This year, again, we will be celebrating on Karangahape Road. We are currently programming for a three-week stint, starting on Sunday 23 June. We'll probably have a dawn service to open. We also have a pick-a-path where nine stations have been chosen with some korero at each station. We're offering the business owners an opportunity to come and co-create part of the programme with us if they choose.

This will take place from our Whare Ngākau on 14 East Street, Karangahape Road, Auckland CBD, 1010. Nau mai, haere mai.

On display from late June until early August. Free. Viewable anytime, as the works are in Britomart’s public spaces. Accompanying brochures featuring each of the works in the series are free to take away.