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).














w a a n a k a - learning in the dark

9 November 2016

Art Seen: November 03

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at works by Moana Tipa, Emily Jackson, and an exhibition from Blue Oyster Gallery.

Untitled, by Moana Tipa.
Untitled, by Moana Tipa.
‘‘Wanaka — Learning in the Dark’’, Moana Tipa and Maraia Te Kahika (School of Art Gallery)

At the School of Art's gallery, Moana Tipa presents two mixed media series in charcoal wash and oil stick, accompanied by waiata from Maratia Te Kahika.

The works explore the legal and spiritual custodianship of land. With one series, this land is rendered as dark foreboding shadows against a plain canvas sky. It has a strong physical presence, yet is rendered in the most minimal of terms.

The dark earth becomes a metaphor for the days of winter in which the traditional ''learning in the dark'' takes place. In one particularly effective trio of pieces, dark land recedes beneath a distant horizon line, as if we are rising above the world and looking back.

The second series of works adds words, both in the form of exhortations against injustice and as a timeline displaying significant points in the history of land legislation.

The timeline is bright red, the only colour in the otherwise monochrome work, and is presented alongside topographical washes of grey. The use of red, white, and black, so common in Maori political art, is no coincidence.

The visual display is accompanied by Te Kahika's a capella voice, the words of the song becoming both a lament and an uplifting anthem of strength and hope.





w ā n a k a …  learning in the dark

  an exhibition of  paintings & sound

 MOANA TIPA painter / researcher

 MARAHIA TE KAHIKA singer/song writer/compose 



Waanaka - Learning in the Dark (2016} is three bodies of work:  Whakatātūtū – (Measure the Depth - 2015) an Advanced Diploma graduation exhibition from The Learning Connexion, Wellington with Dr. Peter Adsett,  the acapella sound track Aku Moutere  (Mara TK)  and Waanaka - Learning in the Dark.  Each work navigates landlessness,  loss and a legislative influence and doorway now some 349 years old, still open.

Wanaka - Learning in the Dark deals with death in the spirit of the land and hastily erected for sale signage on pristine shore front land. ‘Whose laws are operating here’?  

I visited Wanaka in winter 2016 to walk on ancient land sites with a view to understand something of the power I’d once felt in that land and to make work that would complete the  Whakatātūtū series of  paintings.

My immediate concerns about the landscape were affirmed by the research of local historian Mr. Ritchie Hewitt of Wanaka who escorted me to some of the well known home places, gardens,  ancient & sacred sites - waahi tapu.  

His research collection of Maori life and history in that area,  triggered a deluge of information that included the research of Fulbright Scholar, Dr Ann Brower and her publication in 2008 Who Owns the High Country.  

Her work reveals the continuing influence and ideas of John Locke, the 17th century writer, political theorist and philosopher, 349 years after it was written.

Dr Brower states “… according to Locke, improving and working the land creates a moral right to ownership…” (for lease-holders). She also asserts… “bureaucratic pathologies and not the law had governed land reform. The bureaucrats, not ministers, and not judges, were directing the biggest land carve-up in New Zealand’s short history”.

By 2006, twenty-two land tenure review processes had been ‘settled’ meaning  by that time, 58% of Crown land holdings in the Southern High Country had been transferred into private ownership,  subsidised by taxpayers at a cost of $18.5 million.

What are those figures in 2017?



Whose 17th Century ideas / Treatise continue to influence legislation in these lands   (Nā wai ngā whakaaro, me ngā tuhinga ō nehe rā,  i whakaawe ai ngā hanganga ture ki ēnei whenua?)

Whose words sown like seed still bloom and enslave? (Nā wai ngā kupu whakapononga - i ruia ano nei he kakano - e puawai ai?)

Appeal to Heaven, release the curse that enslaves;  the Wind that renews already stirs! (Me Inoi ki te Rangi, kia wetekina nga kupu whakapononga,  e tawiri ana Te Hau whakamohou)


                a k u   m o u t e r e     -   m y   i s l a n d s


             mara tk / vincent olsen-reeder / mark vanilau 


Kei hea aku moutere?                            Where are my islands

i  tauwhiro ra i ahau                              that nurtured me?

Taku waka te whiua                              My canoe has been cast

ki te koro Parata e                                 into the throat of the Parata

E te Kaihautu                                        O great Captain

Whatungaro te whenua i a  taua            The land is lost to us


Kia mahara ki te wa o te ora                   Remembering the times I was alive

Titaha ki tai                                          Now, swaying at sea

Pae ki uta                                             whilst the land is stable


Ua ia tagata ese                                     There’s a stranger

I o’u laufanua                                        in my home

Ua tulia i matou i a’au                           I’ve been outcast into the ocean

Ma ua fai o’u matafaga                           Sharks inherit these shores


E kore te uku, e piri ki te  rino              Clay doesn’t stick to iron

Engari  te uku e mau ki te kiri               But it does stick to skin


Kia mahara ki te wa o te ora                   Remembering the times I was alive

Titaha ki tai                                          Now, swaying at sea

Pae ki uta                                             whilst the land is stable



  1. Roll back the stone

    Charcoal wash / untreated canvas

  2. Untitled

    Charcoal & acrylic wash /untreated canvas

  3. Untitled

    Charcoal wash / oil stick / untreated canvas

  4. Untitled

    Charcoal wash / oil stick / untreated canvas

  5. Untitled

    Charcoal wash / oil stick / untreated canvas

  6. Untitled

    Charcoal wash / oil stick / untreated canvas

  7. Whose words?

    Oil stick / graphite / acrylic wash

  8. Sown like seed

    Oil stick / graphite / acrylic wash

  9. Appeal to heaven

Oil stick / graphite / acrylic wash



Fullbright Scholar, Dr. Ann Brower – Who Owns the High Country (Craig Potton Publishers 2006)

 Ann Brower   Whither the Crown’s interest in South Island high country land reform

J. McFarlane:  Lincoln PhD thesis 2011: Cutting up the high country: the social construction of tenure review and ecological sustainability – chapter on Ngai Tahu perspective 

Yale Law School – Lillian Goldman Law Library

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina (March 1, 1669) (the Colonist Blueprint)

J.D. Lewis:  Carolinas Lords Proprietors 1668:  Anthony Ashley Cooper – Lord Shaftesbury - the Fundamental Constitutions (Colonist Blueprint) John Locke – Political theorist / philosopher 

Johnathan Bennett:  John Locke - The Second Treatise of Government

David Armitage, Harvard University: Carolina & the Two Treatise of Government

Morag Barbara Arneil BA. MSc. John Locke:  All the World was America

John Quiggin Australian Economist:  John Locke – Against Freedom 

John Quiggin:   Zombies Stalking the land – dead ideas still walk amongst us

Kenan Malik:  John Locke and the Not Quite so Glorious Revolution -

 Kenan Malik:  The Quest for a Moral Compass – a Global History of Ethics

Review – Cleveland State University

Bible:  New King James Version

Amos 5.24 Let Justice roll down like a river …

Matthew 28.2 … and rolled back the stone

 Thanks to:  Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu  (Ngai Tahu Fund)






Moana Tipa: