Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square
Ka mua, ka muri is a new sound and moving image installation by Aotearoa New Zealand-based artist Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) that explores our experience of time, history and song. The exhibition consists of a two-channel film, which uses the road movie genre as its starting point, and locates two sisters in the immediate wake of an unnamed tragic event. Following on from his most recent work what was or could be today (again) (2019), the work includes two original songs developed by Te Ao in collaboration with Kurt Komene (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki Whānui). These function as both script and score and reflect a social embodiment that privileges poetic imagery.
The exhibition's title, Ka mua, ka muri, is derived from a whakatauki (proverb) often cited as a central guiding principle within Māori ideology. Meaning “to walk backwards into the future," it suggests time exists on a continuum where past, present and future co-exist and are inherently tethered through ancestry and action. Central to this is an understanding of the critical importance of language as a vital means to maintain links to indigenous knowledge systems, culture, and identity, a theme that recurs throughout Te Ao's practice.
The process of translating between different languages also features regularly in Te Ao's work, often as a method with which to invite shared authorship and a multiplicity of voices. For With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods (2017), for example, Te Ao translated into English a love lament written in 1846 by the daughter of a Ngāti Tūwharetoa chief, while My Life as a Tunnel (2018) includes translations into Māori of the 1960 classic blues song “This Bitter Earth". In this exhibition, he has developed a text installation consisting of different translated versions of his poem Taapapa, which has been translated into English by Krissi Jerram, into Māori by Kurt Komene, and into Anishinaabimowin by Mawla Shawana.
Ka mua, ka muri has been co-commissioned by Oakville Galleries and Remai Modern, with the support of Creative New Zealand. Oakville Galleries would like to thank the Mississaugas of the New Credit Association, especially Cathie Jamieson and Caitlin LaForme, Mossman Gallery and Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University
Listen to the inaugural episode of our podcast series with Art Metropole featuring conversations with artists on literary and/or language influences in their lives and work.
This episode features Frances Loeffler, curator of Oakville Galleries, and Jonathan Middleton, director of Art Metropole in conversation with Aotearoa-based artist Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa). The episode was recorded in the library of Oakville Galleries on 28 January 2020.