Māori art has a new home

Dean McLeod, pictured at last week’s opening. Photo: Michael Jeans. 

Following the opening of the Wairau Gallery in Whangarei earlier this year, Cambridge now has its own dedicated space for Māori toi (art). Te Toi Whakaahua gallery celebrated its formal opening on February 25, where approximately 40 patrons were greeted with a powhiri from exhibited artist Michael Matchitt, live music, and a speech by founder and director Dean McLeod.

Dean, a Wintec visual arts graduate, created the space to support up and coming artists, with mentorship and artistic support being a large part of the kaupapa.

“Te Toi Whakaahua is the end of a dream and the start of a reality.” says Dean, “I’ve always dreamt of starting a gallery where I can support artists and give them a voice”

Artist Kayla Delvene was among the first artists to exhibit their toi at the gallery.

“Being takatāpui tangata and having this space to showcase my mahi toi is such a beautiful thing and to have someone like Dean create this space for tangata whenua is amazing and so impactful”

Opening night at Te Toi Whakaahua drew a sizeable crowd, but Dean urged patrons not to overlook any of the art.

“The artist is always trying to tell you something, you just have to look. Stop at every piece and ask yourself if you like it. And if you don’t – why?”

Whakairo (carving) artist Michael Matchitt was also exhibited at the gallery opening, featuring intricate pieces. The nephew of renowned artist Para Matchitt, Michael brings a hint of legend to the space.

Other artists exhibited include Pounamu Wharekawa, an indigenous artist in Kirikiriroa, and Julie Anne Spittlehouse. Julie died in 2017, leaving the last of her many artworks to her children.

Te Toi Whakaahua is at 32 Victoria Street, Cambridge.

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