I am a self taught art maker.  I started drawing when I was nine and went to an art school for kids set up by art educator, Gordon Tovey at King Edward Technical College in Dunedin (1956).   Use of other media came a little later and continued informally into adult life alongside the disciplines of music, songwriting, recording,  commercial writing & production for radio, that led to arts journalism, facilitation and curation.  
In the time of the Settlement of Ngai Tahu  with the Crown, the arts were seen as way to move the tribe forward and away from grievance.    I facilitated events featuring the work and thinking  of Ngai Tahu artists across performing, visual and language arts disciplines.  Coupled with my re-established faith in Christ, a need to paint grew,  alongside accelerated dimensions of colour, form and thought.  After four dynamic years with my iwi Ngai Tahu,  change was on my horizon.   I was interested in the application of the arts as a tool to build and strengthen skill amongst people groups and communities where there was less opportunity for creative development.  I was uncertain how that would transpire. 

At intervals between 2003 and 2009 I trialled arts programmes as a tool amongst prisoners in Canterbury Prisons. The idea was to use the arts to begin talking / thinking about vision and goals for their future.   I made art alongside men, women and youth, and took small collections of their work to public audiences outside the wire.  There were a number of smaller and some large scale works and events developed  over a period of 6 years including the Ruia Prison Arts Fund Raising exhibition (see Prison Art pages).

I received an Arts Access Aotearoa National Award for Arts Services to Prisoners in 2007.  On the back of that I joined two other writers to develop a National Prison Art Strategy for Arts Access Aotearoa and the Department of Corrections Wellington (2008-2012).  That work was completed in a time of major constraint;  the new Key government, a global economic downturn and complex restructuring of government departments.  

 In this period I met with The Learning Connexion who were delivering NZQA programmes to prisoner populations across New Zealand.  I was offered a series of scholarships between 2010 and 2015 that would familiarise me with their entire curriculum, activate a formal arts practice and introduce me to an all important understanding of materiality;  the use of, and to some degree a pursuit of mastery of  materials in order to have that material information translate into the narrative of work.  (See Arts Workshop on this site).















21 January 2014


A number of ideas influenced these works;  the death of my Ngai Tahu / Kati Mamoe father and the notes of his great-grandfather Joseph Pita Tipa - (1896) about the waka Arai Te Uru.  The names of its 138 'survivors' were - for the sake of remembering them,  those  given to rocks, outcrops, hills, ranges, mountains, streams, rivers and reefs between Kaikoura and Kaitangata.  Another influence was the celestial navigational pattern, 'Te Ka o Makali'i (The Canoe-Bailer of Matariki) that would guide Maori and Polynesian voyagers across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (The South Pacific Ocean) over a 400 year period.  Of interest also are the marks of whakairo (carving) and raranga (weaving),  communicating ideas of time, location and direction.

Some researchers believe the waka Arai Te Uru beached at Matakaea (Shag Point), North Otago about 800 years ago.  Others say it existed only in the dimension of the spirit.  Preparing this work for exhibition touched unexpectedly into the frequency of testimony - the resonance of a truth told again;  about a people, a place and a time, lives with each telling.

With thanks to:

  • The International Learning Connexion (TLC) Wellington NZ
  • The Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hawaii
  • Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Wellington
  • The Ngai Tahu Fund
  • The Hocken Library - University of Otago
  • Te Runanga o Moeraki
  • The Forrester Gallery - Oamaru 
  • The Aigantighe Gallery, Timaru






Moana Tipa: