The deeply personal search for identity, whakapapa and whanau is the kaupapa behind a new photographic exhibition by Ngati Porou artist, Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett.
Ko Tōku Taumata Tonu, Ko Hawaiki is an impressive show case of work by the talented twenty two year old who has just completed his fourth year studying towards a Bachelor of Design in Honours at Massey University’s Wellington campus. Chevron (Te Whanau a Te Aotaihi) created the exhibition as part of the requirements to fulfil his final year research project. His whanau, fellow students and the artistic community had the opportunity to view his mahi, when the show ran for ten days in October at the Kallio Kunsthalle art space in Wellington.
A significant element of Ko Tōku Taumata Tonu, Ko Hawaiki (My summit lays within Hawaiki) was also inspired by Chevron’s father, the late Koro Peachey, who passed away last year. Photographs, poems, and carvings created by his father, who was also an artist, featured as part of the exhibition.
“After Dad died, I felt quite lost. I didn’t know who I was, so I knew I wanted to focus on being more connected with my whakapapa. The project is about me finding Hawaiiki, as it’s a place where we Maori believe we came from. So the photographs are a representation of that journey, and to show people who my Dad was, who I am, and who my whanau are. From understanding my whakapapa, it has helped me to move more confidently in the world.”
Whanau play an important role in Chevron’s life, and among his family members who are depicted as striking photographic portraits in the exhibition, include his Grandfather, Robin Peachey Sr. (Ngati Porou), his Nanny, Charmaine Whaanga (Ngati Kahungunu/Rongomaiwahine) and Mum, Rita Bell (Pakeha).
Three marae that are close to Chevron’s heart also feature prominently in the show. In keeping with the journey home theme, Chevron travelled to Te Araroa where his grandfather’s whanau come from, to photograph Hinerupe marae and Te Aotaihi marae.
“It was mean as to go back up to the Coast,” Chevron reflects about his experience. “It was very special to return after so many years and the wairua was out of this world. I met new people, learnt new mātauranga and went to new places. Looking at Whetumatarau really inspired me as a person to understand my whakapapa and helped drive my mahi.”
“I was also blown away by nature, especially growing up in the city it was cool to feel the laid back and relaxed lifestyle. My favourite moment was when I crossed the field in Rangitukia to greet the waka Nukutaimemeha with my bros, Chai Tempara and Timi Walker. To be able to feel the mana of the land, looking at Hikurangi, hearing Waiapu and feeling the breeze of the ocean was very calming for my wairua.”
Chevron says he is very appreciative of the support of his friends who accompanied him on his journey home.
“These fellas [Chai and Timi] helped me a lot with the project, took me around the motu and introduced me to some whanau up those ways. Also another dope experience was meeting Robin Hapeta who gave me an awesome wananga on Te Aotaihi and the region of Te Araroa. I cannot wait to get back up there again and spend more time learning about our people.”
The third marae which Chevron is close to is Koraunui marae in Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt. Koraunui was a central focal point for his whanau as a child growing up, and it was also where he learnt the art of Mau rakau by attending wananga at the marae. His Mau rakau training led to further involvement in the world of martial arts, where he has made some great accomplishments.
Chevron is currently New Zealand’s national Maori open weight and Middleweight champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as well as Japan’s Grand Prix Open Weight and Middleweight champion. Over the past year he has also competed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments around the globe, travelling to cities such as Rio De Janiero and Tokyo. In February, Chevron will visit Australia to attend the Oceania trials for the World Pro tournament.
If studying and martial arts training, wasn’t enough to keep the young artist busy, Chevron is also a key tutor/mentor for Te Mangopare o Taita, a mentoring programme for boys from single-parent families and disadvantaged backgrounds at his former school, Taita College.
Now that Chevron has completed his studies, he says he is excited about what the future will bring and building his photographic portfolio.
“I am really excited to start my first major project outside of the University walls. I am just organising to go up the line again, while trying to fit it within my busy schedule. The focus will be based around the whakaaro of descending from Māui. I aim to go around the region photographing tangata whenua, whenua tapu, marae and everyday Coastie things to learn about what it is to be Ngati Porou."
"We are beautiful people and there are so many things that make us a unique iwi, such as our whakapapa, whenua and stories. This really inspires me as an artist to produce work reflecting our world and Māoritanga is a major driving force. Now I want to go out into the world showing them who we are as people and let them communicate with Te Aō Māori.”
Chevron’s passion for capturing images has helped him in many ways. Not only has photography helped him to navigate his way through some difficult experiences, it has also led him towards a life-long journey which will provide unlimited opportunities to grow and develop as a person.
“I found a love for photography due to how it offers me the chance to engage with the world and learn about culture. It is such an amazing tool for art and it holds so many qualities that cannot exist anywhere else. To make art I need to interact with people, be involved within the community and really gather an understanding of the subjects, otherwise I find it too thin. So having this ability to have a korero with and be with people, while making work about them is such an honour. I am grateful photography creates these experiences and I just wish I learnt about this earlier!”
- To view more images from Chevron’s exhibition and other portfolios of work go to:
- Watch an interview with Chevron at http://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/knocking-boys-into-men-with-ju-jitsu-2016110610