Fresh From The Field — Tirama Mai – By Ariki Creative
Design Assembly loves to profile the breadth and depth of design practice in Aotearoa. For July we’re celebrating Māori design, designers, and illustrators.
Delivering innovative and visually captivating art pieces that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Māori traditions, Ariki Creative walk us through the Tirama Mai project for Christchurch City Council.
The brief that guided the creation of various artistic installations for Tirama Mai 2021-2023. The collaboration between Ariki Creative, Pixel Productions Limited, Art Fetiche Litesite, and Christchurch City Council aimed to captivate and inspire visitors through immersive experiences that celebrated Puanga, Matariki, and Māori culture.
Reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and plan for the future.
Illuminate the unique perspectives of Matariki and Puanga.
Engage and captivate visitors through visual, auditory, and interactive elements.
Incorporate traditional Māori art forms, storytelling, and cultural symbolism.
Create a sense of wonder, connection, and community spirit.
The Design Response
In 2021, our collaboration with Art Fetiche resulted in the creation of five captivating light boxes for the Tīrama Mai event. Known as Ngao Matariki, these structures beautifully illuminate the night, sharing narratives and metaphors through their radiant glow, akin to the intricately carved traditional Māori art. They serve as a source of energy, cutting through the darkness like the sharp edge of a toki or uhi.
Each of these five light cubes, crafted by Art Fetiche and featuring graphics by Ariki Creative, tells a distinct story that symbolizes the arrival of a new day or the advent of a fresh season. They represent various tohu or signs associated with Matariki for Ngāi Tahu:
1. Puaka: Rigel or Puaka, the South Island’s rendition of Puanga, is the seventh brightest star in the sky, visible above Tautoru (Orion’s Belt) during the early morning in the eastern sky.
2. Te Kore – Te Pō: Signifying the infinite potential of Te Kore and the profound darkness of Te Po, representing the separation of Ranginui and Papatuanuku.
3. Te Ao Marama: Depicting the long-lasting light of day, encompassing the knowledge and wisdom shared throughout history.
4. Te kete Mātauranga: Reflecting the act of sharing and seeking new knowledge, the designs showcase the art forms of taniko, kete, and raranga, with kowhaiwhai patterns at the core, symbolizing whānau and community.
5. Mahinga Kai: This design pays homage to Tuna (Eel), a traditional staple food found in the rivers and streams of Otautahi (Christchurch) and Horomaka (Banks Peninsula). It serves as a reminder of our responsibility as kaitiaki to protect and preserve our natural resources.
Moving to 2022, our collaboration continued with the creation of Muramura te Mahara, an immersive light and sound experience crafted by Lightsite in conjunction with Ariki Creative. This 21-meter-long archway guides visitors through a captivating journey at Tīrama Mai, as it narrates the Ngāi Tahu origin story, drawing inspiration from Te Waitatatanga Mai o Ngā Atua by Ngāi Tahu Leader Mataiaha Tiramōrehu.
Furthermore, the installation titled Ngā Whetu, Ngā Manu symbolizes the ten stars that mark the commencement of the new year festivities in the night sky. These stars include Puaka, the Matariki star cluster, and others such as Pōhutukawa, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Tupuānuku, Tupuārangi, Ururangi, and Hiwa-i-te-rangi. Each star carries a unique indigenous narrative, representing various seasons and aspects of Māori culture, such as mahinga kai (traditional foods) and their gathering methods.
The emergence of Puanga and Matariki acts as powerful symbols, guiding our anticipation for the upcoming year. Māori experts, known as Tohunga, traditionally observe the Matariki star cluster to predict the abundance of the harvest. Bright and clear stars are indicative of a warm and prosperous season, while hazy stars caution against colder weather and potential crop challenges.
The artwork featuring the ten stars delicately placed among trees, resembling birds, adds an enchanting touch to our surroundings. They radiate brightness, clarity, and intricate adornments, symbolizing hope and warmth. Respected Māori scholar Professor Rangi Mātāmua, Chief Advisor for Matariki and Mātauranga Māori, explains that each star within Matariki represents different elements of the environment, such as connections to the deceased, a wishing star, and representations of the earth, forest, fresh water, salt water, rain, and wind. These elements are cherished and celebrated as they contribute to our overall well-being. It is our duty to care for these spaces, ensuring their health and vitality, as it directly impacts our own health and well-being.
Fast forward to 2023, and the collaboration between Ariki Creative and Christchurch City Council for the Tirama Mai event continues for the third consecutive year. Our team at Ariki has provided extensive support to CCC, capturing a series of photographs featuring tamariki, encapsulating the essence of reflection, celebration, and future planning. Additionally, we have been involved in scriptwriting and radio advertisements in partnership with NZME, as well as the design and production of billboards and posters, showcasing the captivating wonder of this unique event.
Among the new commissions for 2023 are the Tomokanga installations, representing the transitional spaces and time that allow visitors to engage in reflection, celebration of the present, and planning for the future. These portals are adorned with Toi Maori, drawing inspiration from traditional Māori carving, tukutuku, kowhaiwhai, and raranga. They beautifully convey the themes of mahinga kai, mana atua, toi tangata, toi matua, and storytelling, creating a multi-dimensional experience for all.
Furthermore, the Town Hall Tukutuku Panel (2023) titled Purapura Whetu serves as a stunning testament to the vastness of our starry sky. The animated layers above the panel, adorned with kowhaiwhai patterns, depict the art of weaving and the profound connection of whakapapa, embodying the infinite ties that bind us to our ancestors and future generations.
Throughout these projects, we have strived to meet the requirements set forth in the brief, delivering innovative and visually captivating art pieces that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Māori traditions. We encountered breakthroughs and challenges along the way, each presenting unique opportunities for growth and learning. The opportunity to bring together art, technology, and storytelling in a way that captivates and engages audiences has been particularly interesting and rewarding. The collaborative nature of these projects has allowed us to showcase the collective creativity and talent of our team and partners, resulting in memorable and immersive experiences for all who engage with Tirama Mai.
The Design Team
– Hori Te Ariki Mataki: Kaihautu and Creative Director
– Taane Flanagan: Toi Māori Lead
– Damian Rarere: Multimedia
– Eli Taueki: Toi Māori Designer
– Te Aotahi Rice-Edwards: Toi Māori Designer
The Client Team
Christchurch City Council
Image credit: Christchurch City Council