Artist Profile: George Parata Kiwara

Ngati Porou, Te Aitanga a Mahaki

Mixed Media Artist

Most of my life has centred around my journey with Te reo, and as a second language it has taken me into the universities of Aotearoa and into the classrooms of Auckland. I still teach in a relieving capacity as I believe the reo and my art go ‘hand in hand’.

I was born in a small town called The Araroa on the East Cape of the North Island, however my whanau (family) moved to GIsborne when I was still a child. I have Ngati Porou and Te Aitanga a Mahaki tribal origins, that is the GIsborne area and the surrounding parts of the East Cape. Because my parents travelled in between GIsborne and the East Cape, you will find that much of my art revolves around this travelling back and forwards between, rural and urban Maori communities. Later on when I travelled to Auckland to live and study I think it made my transition to big city life a little easier.

Throughout my childhood I always felt aware of my ability to draw. Teachers often singled me out and pushed me to develop this side of my personality and art has always had a significant place in my life. I am a self-taught artist and in the last 5 or so years I have decided to bring my art forward and let it take a front seat in my haerenga (journey).

My paintings are based on contemporary Maori experiences, my experiences from my perspective. I feel a need to tell stories through my work that presents the everyday – a visual language removed from traditional forms of story telling through known Maori symbolism and mark making. I have also created many paintings based on my break-dancing days growing up in Gisborne during the eighties. As Rangatahi we were drawn to street dancing of the Bronx youth in New York because it was high energy and performance based. As pohara (poor) rangatahi from the working class suburbs of Aotearoa we shared a lot of common traits to our American influences.

My goal is to tell stories that hopefully get closer to the truth. I suppose my motivation is the notion that if Maori don’t tell their stories someone else will tell it for them. My kuia (female elder) is adamant that we are not to give our stories away for others to tell on our behalf.

In the two paintings Farming Toko and Fencing out the back , my brother and I are working with our Papa, at a very young age, imagining Mark Twain type characters such as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, rangatahi (youth) surviving in a world that most would see as extremely tough – kids making the most out of their situation – adaptive and creative.