Artist Zena Elliott and Tānikoniko exhibition

By Heeni Brown
  • Auckland

Tānikoniko is a new exhibition at Mangere Arts centre that is an incorporation of patterns with symbolic meaning in te ao Māori like tāniko, tukutuku, raranga and whakairo. 

One of the Tānikoniko artists is Whakatāne born and Te Teko raised Zena Elliott who has four of her own pieces on display.

Elliott says "When I first saw Tānikoniko I thought about it and oh, Tāniko but then I also like started to think about it and it's more about Tā; is to draw and Nikoniko; is to adorn but I interpret a little bit of a way where it was...doon doon doon."

The Waikato Institute of Technology graduate has a Master of Visual Arts with Distinction. She is also motivated by modern and traditional techniques.   

"I'm inspired by popular culture techniques and processes and stuff like that, but I also have real interest in Māori arts so I'm inspired by the carvings, the paintings, the tukutuku, the tāniko and I want to incorporate those ideas into my practice as a way to acknowledge where I am, and where I come from and who I am."

 The Ngāti Awa descendant has been a part of 15 exhibitions and says her journey as an artist has not been an easy one.

 "I started off back in the 90s it was very difficult for Māori, for me anyway, for Māori artists, contemporary artists to be out and accepted into mainstream gallery places and stuff like that."

 "I ended up doing DIY exhibitions so I was able to build up my profile as an artist, as a young artist, doing those sorts of things. A lot of experimental and building up a community was how I was able to do that."

 The Tānikoniko exhibition runs from May 22 to July 1.