Featured Artist – Natasha Te Arahori Keating – Ngati Tuwahretoa, Ngai Tuhoe, Te Ati Hau Nui-A-Paparangi

he taonga tuku iho - natasha keating1

Mixed Media Artist

Natasha is a mother of three children and a Maori Artist who has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for 20 years. She is passionate about the Arts and has worked in theatre, TV and film production.

I create contemporary ‘Pou’, totemic portraits that reflect the lives, loves and heartache of Maori women, today. ‘Pou’ are the figurative carvings of our ancestors, which line the walls of our wharenui (meeting houses) our whare tipuna. They represent our different illustrious ancestors, and the stories and lessons, which surround them. I take my cue from the artistic practice of my ancestors and bring it forward to today in my own style, which I have developed over the years.

My ‘Pou’ are emotional reminders of the very real struggles we as Native women face in a world that generally chooses to ignore us. The portraits I create proudly confront the audience, subtly stating, yes we do exist and yes we have survived, and yes we actually thrive.

I am interested in the misrepresentation of Native women throughout history. Through paintings, photography, advertising, and tourist items, the images of Maori women have been through the European creator. These are sometimes comical, often sexual and invariably anthropological. I consciously choose to dispel all myths by re-appropriating our own image. I allow the audience to look into ‘our’ world, to share the trials and tribulations that we face in present times. I wish to populate the world with Maori women imagery made by a Maori woman.

I work on re-cycled native timber, which is another story in itself. I connect with the mauri, the ‘life-force’ inherent in these discarded pieces of wood. Once great ‘toa’ of our forests, children of Tane Mahuta himself to now floorboards, weatherboards, furniture, and firewood that come into my hands. I am only adding to the story, connecting my story, ‘our’ story, ‘her’ story. Our colonial heritage connects us. The mass deforestation of Aotearoa mirrors the colonisation of its indigenous peoples.

I understand that a lot of our pain and dysfunctionalism, as Maori women, stems from our history. It is the future I am interested in and I hope that the wahine(women) I draw/paint, reflects the present, the now, with an eye toward a strong and healthy future.

The wahine I create are very vaguely self-portraits. They reflect what is going on in my life, my family, my community at the time of being made. However they can be whoever the viewer sees her to be. The viewer will connect with a look, with a feeling and recognise something or someone.

Natasha recently spent two months in Rarotonga, Cook Islands as an ‘artist in residence’ through the Te Arerenga Residency program in Arorangi.

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