the Secret Path

Exhibition by Tini Whetū, The Platform Project

the Secret Path | Ed Ritchie, Moewai Marsh, Hemi Hosking, Madison Kelly, Aidan Taira Geraghty, Mya Morrison Middleton, Ollie McPherson | George Street, Ōtepoti

08.05.22 | written by Stacey Kokaua

“It’s an interactive art scavenger hunt!” I say, fully investing in the pitch.

“But will you be talking to anyone?" Owen asks. Owen is my six year old son and what he is trying to ask is, Are we going to a gallery space where I will like it at first but you will talk to another adult for too long and I will get bored and someone will probably stress-whisper at me not to TOUCH the most interesting thing in that space?

“No, we will be our own team and we will be walking around finding things.”
Owen and Joseph, photo by Stacey Kokaua.
the Secret Path is an interactive exhibition which ran 16–30 April, coinciding with the school holidays. It isthe work of Tini Whetū and the Platform Project. Tini Whetū is facilitated by Piupiu Maya Turei (Rāngitane, Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi me Ngāti Kahungunu) and explores the possibilities of what Māori curatorial practice can be while maintaining a playful and light-hearted approach to curation. In this spirit, the Secret Path begins with the picking up of a small pink booklet and using it to discover a series of contemporary artworks shown on George Street, Ōtepoti’s main retail street. The connection to George Street is the focus of the Platform Project, a new Dunedin Dream Brokerage initiative, who are supporting projects which connect local arts to the community while George Street is being upgraded. Within each artwork is a clue for a word which combines to make a secret passphrase. Intrigue, suspense, contemporary art from local artists; certainly a family activity we could all enjoy.
Night patterns, Ed Ritchie, 2022 (detail). Photo by Murray Eskdale.
At the beginning I assumed this exhibition was mostly designed to engage children… until we came to the first work. Ed Ritchie’s Night Patterns was installed in the opening of a shop that was once a haberdasher run by Mrs Elizabeth Dreaver. Night Patterns referenced both the architecture and the mosaic that still bears the Dreaver name. My family has lived in Dunedin since 1995 and I have never noticed the mosaic despite having walked past it hundreds of times. In this way, the Secret Path makes clear to the participant that this experience is about connecting you, child or adult, to the city in a new and creative way. The works draws attention to abandoned retail spaces and locally owned businesses, as physical structures and as points of activity and history.

I asked my eldest, Joseph, who is six years old, which work he had enjoyed the most. I had assumed it was Moewai Marsh’s Hidden Between Mānuka, as the drawing he created afterwards was influenced by her rendering of black Mānuka trees on kōkōwai. Instead, he replied, “The one with the letters and the bright colours,” referring to Hemi Hosking’s digital print, He Nui Koe. Joseph, in his purple t-shirt with unicorns and rainbows, enjoys bold colour, geometric lines and images made abstract by skewing perspective — such as those presented in He Nui Koe. He reminds me that we can appreciate different artistic styles for media, composition, use of colour and influence.

I asked Owen what work he enjoyed and he said, “The one at the church.” The church he meant was Knox Church, which was opened in 1860 and retains much of its original architecture and stained glass windows. The city changes, while it remains a stoic reminder of Dunedin colonial history. When we arrived at the grounds of Knox Church, Owen found other objects that he thought could be the artwork: A wrought-iron drain-pipe covered with clover-shaped holes; a bronze plaque; a wooden frame holding up a tree. And then he found it: Muramura, a word we use in Cook Islands Māori to mean red but we learnt means ‘colourful’. Framed by the window, lengths of ribbon and fabric fell woven in coloured streams to the floor. We stood there for a while.

He Nui Koe, Hemi Hosking, 2022. Photo by Murray Eskdale.
Alok Vaid-Menon describes art as “being alive (and meaning it)”: “Artists live so ardently they make ‘there’ ‘here’ and ‘then’ ‘now’. They know home less as a destination, more an escape plan.”1

No group of people is more present in their lived experiences than young children. They never see those risks such as cars on the street, but will point out a wispy pink cloud or a small white flower. Or, as in this case, the drain-pipe cover, the plaque, the shimmer of ribbons. For children and artists, life holds constant potential for wonder and beauty. the Secret Path applied this type of philosophy to art, providing the participant a re-framing of Ōtepoti.

By having the artworks dispersed across the city, each artwork is viewed as an individual installation. There were works that draw upon the more subtle organic tones such as Hidden Between Mānuka, Aidan Taira Geraghty's Tangata, Kia Ua!, and Like the Town, I Dig and I Look where Madison Kelly created a mudflat habitat with oil, paper clay, linoleum, paper and sand. I would elaborate more on how I enjoyed Tangata, Kia Ua! installed at a local cafe, RdC Espresso — I caught a glance at the pāua eyes glowering from the deep tones of the wood. However before I could really look at it, Owen smacked a drink out of his brother's hand that splattered on the concrete outdoors area. We left quickly after we found the next clue. There were works that used bold colours like Ollie McPherson’s Jordon’s Milk Bar On George Street and Muramura. In smaller gallery spaces works can easily fight for attention or there may be tension or philosophical jarring as the viewer goes between the works that take on diverse perspectives or practice. In this case, however, by asking the viewing to traverse a large space, each work is given ample breathing room allowing it to present itself on its own terms.

Finding Night Patterns. Photo by Murray Eskdale.
By searching for clues and following a map, each work is re-framed once more; from artwork to puzzle. This experience invites the viewer to be more present as they traverse the city, more conscious of the history that frames the paths we walk along everyday as we rush to the next meeting. It brings events from then into life now and actions from there into places used now. It is no coincidence that the involvement of young Māori artists creates an experience where all participants are asked to consider our own positionality within the whakapapa of Ōtepoti, and consider with our children our vision for the city’s future.

the Secret Path is an exhibition by Tini Whetū and The Platform Project, 16 – 30 April. Artists: Ed Ritchie, Moewai Marsh (Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Waiora), Hemi Hosking (Ngāti Tahinga, Tainui, Awhiro), Madison Kelly (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Pākehā), Aidan Taira Geraghty (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha), Mya Morrison Middleton (Ngāi Tahu), Ollie McPherson (Ngāti Maniapoto).

All images courtesy of the artists and Tini Whetū. 

You can view PDF version of the Secret Path booklet here

Article image: Muramura, Mya Morrison Middleton, 2022. Photo by Murray Eskdale.

    1.  Alok Vaid-Menon, Instagram post, 2022.

ISSN 2744-7952

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