Square comes alive with the sound of Māori aute making

06 November 2015

Central Auckland will be filled with the sound of rhythmic tapping next week as an Elam School of Fine Arts student continues on her mission to revive the Māori practice of aute or tapa making.

Nikau Hindin, of Te Rarawa and Ngapuhi descent, will present a public performance of aute/tapa beating in Aotea Square, joining together individual pieces made over the last few months by friends and family.

The final-year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Fine Arts conjoint student at the University of Auckland recently held a wānanga aute, a weekend event where local aute was collectively made. It is believed to be the first time this has occurred in over a hundred years.

The young student, who is passionate about Māori indigenous knowledge, was the recipient of the inaugural Sir Hugh Kawharu Scholarship at Auckland Museum last year.

Honouring the late Ngāti Whātua leader, the prestigious scholarship is awarded to students of Māori descent who have an interest in cultural heritage, and provides invaluable access to the archives held at the Museum.

Nikau’s fascination with aute began following a student exchange at the University of Hawai’i. There she learnt the practice of beating kapa – the Hawaiian term for aute/tapa. The process resonated with her and was stunned to learn that Māori had also made tapa cloth.

As part of her studio practice at Elam School of Fine Arts, she recreated the traditional tools used by her ancestors to make aute. Nikau hand-crafted beaters from pohutukawa, manuka and kauri wood, using toki/adze and pipi shells, based on the historic examples held in the Auckland Museum.

She has been using her beaters on strips of bark from an aute tree, growing beside the Waipapa Marae at the University.

Nikau will be using her handmade tools in her aute-beating demonstration in Aotea Square as well as gifting aute (mulberry) tree cuttings to people interested in growing and making their own.

“I really feel that when I’m beating aute and physically replicating the movements of my tupuna it is nourishing for me on many levels; physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually,” she says. “That is what I’m striving for, while also reviving this beautiful art”.

Part of Nikau’s artistic practice includes video installation which will be on display at the upcoming Elam Graduate Show at the end of this month.

Public performance of aute beating
Thursday 12 November,
On the grass in Aotea Square,
Queen Street,
Auckland Central.

The 2015 Elam Graduate Show
Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November,
Elam School of Fine Arts: 20 Whitaker Place, 5 Symonds Street (Elam B) and 25a Princes Street (George Fraser Gallery), the University of Auckland.

To find out more about Nikau’s project visit kapatotapa.tumblr.com

For more information about the Elam Graduate Show visit www.creative.auckland.ac.nz

Media queries to m.playfair@auckland.ac.nz