Tohunga-a-Toi, Design & Visual Art, Unitec Auckland NZ
Lisa Reihana was born in 1964 and grew up in Blockhouse Bay in Auckland, New Zealand. She began her art training at Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University in 1983 focusing firstly on sculpture, but later moving into time-based arts becoming one of the department’s foundation students graduating in 1987 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Reihana is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine and Ngāi Tu descent tribally connected to the Far North of New Zealand through her father Huri Waka Reihana. Her staged interpretations of Maori concepts and art forms have become signature works, representing a considered and personal translation of Maori cultural values and aesthetics and an expression of the dichotomy of her urban Maori experience.
Reihana’s art practice can be broadly characterised as installation based, however she also works in film, sculpture, costume and body adornment, text and photography. Reihana is informed by eclectic sources including 1970s video art by artists such as Nam June Paik, Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, black feminist theory, indigenous politics and aesthetics and popular culture; her works communicate complex ideas related to community, Maori identity, portability, hybridity, sexuality and gender.
Two significant Te Papa Tongarewa commissions include Native Portraits n.19897 produced for the opening in 1997 and Mai i te aroha, ko te aroha which opened in 2008. Native Portraits n.19897 is at once a media installation, a family album evocative of the familial, Maori, urban and historical communities that Reihana belongs within, and a critique of photographic, museum and ethnographic practices. Mai i te aroha, ko te aroha [From love, comes love] is a ceremonial entrance to Te Papa’s marae Te Hono ki Hawaiki. Using moving image, photography and textile design, Reihana’s installation symbolises a karanga – a customary oratory form unique to Maori women. It also makes visible a core function of Te Papa as a ‘treasure house’1. Made of seven components, and using ‘movement, texture and colour’2, Mai i te aroha, ko te aroha pays homage to the work by Jacqueline Fraser which originally adorned the space as well as referencing art and taonga held in the Te Papa collections including works of Reihana’s own.