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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art by Nigel Borell

If you were lucky enough to visit the ground-breaking 2020-21 exhibition staged by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, this book will already be on your wish list. For those that couldn't make it, Toi Tū Toi Ora offers you a tiny glimpse into what you missed.

The gorgeous hardcover book tells the story of contemporary Māori art from the 1950s to the present day, with more than 200 works by 110 Māori artists. From carving to painting, video art to jewellery, body adornment to weaving, this collection is a powerful expression of the vast creativity and diversity within Māori art. Rather than arranging the art chronologically, Borell links the pieces across time and place through the Māori creation story to reveal profound connections to whakapapa, whenua and the spiritual world.

Every work is illustrated in full colour and described in both te reo Māori and English. Detailed author biographies accompany a comprehensive chronology of contemporary Māori art by the exhibitions assistant curator Taarati Taiaroa and a powerful foreword by Moana Jackson.

We have spent hours poring over the pages, captivated by the incredible story telling and skill of the artists.

Toi Tū Toi Ora is the physical embodiment of ka mua, ka muri - the past is in the future. The whakatauki articulates concepts of time and space, conveying how we walk into the future guided by the past. Toi Tū Toi Ora is both a legacy and a beacon. As Elizabeth Ellis says in her afterword, it urges us to "continue to aspire for more for Māori art". Imagine the possibility if more of our world followed the powerful blueprint of Toi Tū Toi Ora.

This incredibly powerful publication will continue to inspire, educate and challenge people, like Borell did with his milestone exhibition. Proudly affirming the meaning within - Māori art stands strong and in good health - this book, like the exhibition, is simply sublime.

Reviewed by Rebekah Lyell

Penguin Random House NZ with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, RRP $65


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