“Māori art is inseparable from Māori culture. It is like a living organism that exists in the spirit of our people and drives them toward wider horizons and greater achievements”—Toi Māori Aotearoa website.
Pūkana is an exhibition developed for the Alexander Turnbull Library to showcase its collection, with Te Reo Māori as a major theme. Pūkana was open at the National Library of New Zealand through 2019–2020.
Key objectives for the exhibition, branding and marketing were to increase public awareness of the diverse taonga in the Turnbull collections documenting the heritage of Māori performing arts and the importance of collecting and preserving this unique heritage: engage diverse audiences, specifically Māori youth aged 15-35 with the Library collections; use te reo Māori as a language of engagement; strengthen relationships with Māori through engagement.
Performance is at the heart of Māori culture and the way Māori engage with each other and the world, whether to celebrate, seduce, entertain, express dissent or anger, or grieve.
Traditional forms of performance – karanga, wero, haka, whaikōrero and waiata – connect the living to the spirit realm and invoke emotions, known as ‘te ihi’, ‘te wehi’ and ‘te wana’.
The late Wharehuia Milroy explained ihi as a kind of vibration that swells up from your core, compelling you to act; wehi as a connection with atuatanga, a spiritual or god-like state; and wana as a feeling that rises up within you as a result of an action performed by someone else. These qualities also apply to contemporary Māori performance.
The brand development sits at the heart of all aspects of the design – exhibition, environmental graphics, and marketing. It features a unique, hand drawn typeface – named Haehae – that visually embodies the exhibition themes of dynamic performance, rhythm and musicality.
The typeface design was also specifically targeted to a youth audience through its visual links to contemporary music and sporting typography.
The triple striped font, however, takes its inspiration from haehae – straight or curved parallel lines used as surface patterning in whakairo (carving). The haehae stripe was also used extensively as a supporting graphic device where it was rotated and overlaid to create distinctive patterns for each themed section of the exhibition.
The entry window graphic combined the triple stripe into the familiar diamond shape of the patikitiki tukutuku. Patikitiki symbolises the patiki (flounder fish), strength of women, provision, abundance, prosperity, a good harvest, plenitude and hospitality. In Pūkana, patikitiki can be seen as metaphor for these qualities as they exist in Māori performance. In Māori mythology it is also believed that knowledge pertaining to artistic pursuits such as carving and tattooing originated from the realm of Tangaroa the ocean deity.
The brand colours are the signature Māori colourways red, black and white: Te Korekore (black), potential being; Te Whai Ao (red), coming into being; Te Ao Marama (white), the realm of being and light.
Pūkana was awarded a silver medal in the Best Awards 2020
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