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Best of Wellington: LISA REIHANA

Lisa Reihana takes over Wellington as this year’s Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts’ Artist in Focus.

Best of Wellington: LISA REIHANA

May 9, 2022 Travel

Over the autumn months, world-renowned multimedia artist Lisa Reihana (Ngāpuhi — Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tū-Te Auru) will be spread across the city displaying a number of projects perfect for both audiences new to her work and those who know it well.

With exhibitions in London, New York and Paris; a slew of well- deserved awards; and collaborations with the likes of Christian Louboutin; the 2017 Venice Biennale representative has a CV that not many people can rival.

Reihana tells me that being the artist in focus “has been really amazing”, however with Omicron and parts of the festival programme being cancelled, “the focus has gotten even more focused, so to speak”. Despite the strange times, Reihana has created works that will still be able to be shown, in a city she loves. “It’s the city I like to go to. It’s great to have a city that you don’t live in that you love.”

When I talk to Lisa, she’s still finishing elements of Kura Moana, a new series of site-specific works, along the waterfront commissioned specifically for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts. Inspired by stories of Kupe, the legendary Tahitian explorer, Kura Moana is a kind of art trail packed full of inflatables, augmented reality and large-scale projections, which also draw on the skills and work of such other artists as Jahra Wasasala, Ngatai Huata and George Turner.

It was important for Reihana to make work which was free to access, outdoors and able to be chanced upon by families, as well as to give people a reason to come into the city and enjoy the waterfront — a key aspect of the whenua down there, according to Reihana. “I wanted to think about children and what they might enjoy, so there’s lots of funny little things that are quite different.”

All told, there’s a terrifying amount of work in Reihana’s Pōneke take-over, including an exhibition at Page Galleries which had just opened as we speak. Reihana tells me it’s gardening and Netflix that she does for fun, but I feel as if the real fun is found in making her work, which with Kura Moana has been generously extended to audiences of all ages. “It’s been such a tough time for everybody, I wanted to bring something celebratory.”

In addition to Kura Moana, Reihana’s work can be found at Te Papa with the exhibition New Histories and a presentation of the famous in Pursuit of Venus [infected]. While many New Zealand audiences will be familiar with the epic work, this is the first time that the final version has been shown in Aotearoa.

Additionally, over the Johnsonville-Porirua motorway, Pātaka Art + Museum will host the exhibition Lisa Reihana: Nomads of the Sea which includes the New Zealand premiere of moving-image work Te Wai Ngunguru — Nomads of the Sea (2018), previously exhibited in NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.

All in all, it makes a showcase of Reihana’s work not to be missed.

Lisa Reihana: Nomads of the Sea
Pātaka Art + Museum, 17 Parumoana St, Porirua
until 3 July 2022

This column was published in Metro 434.
Available here in print and pdf.

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