names held in our mouths

“The past is alive in us, so in more than a metaphorical sense the dead are alive – we are our history.” – Epeli Hau’ofa

Cultural knowledge, within Māori and Moana communities, is often passed on through familial lines, both orally or embodied in particular practices and ceremonies. As with any knowledges, these practices are always in flux, responsive to shifting conditions. Colonisation, capitalism and migration have had a particular impact on how practices are continued. Some fall out of use; others adapt to new materials; still others continue on, fuelled by social functions and significance.

The exhibition names held in our mouths considers the structures and pathways six artists and collectives employ to revive or sustain their art, with a particular focus on dormant or at-risk practices. Working primarily outside of formal institutions, these modes of revival and transmission, which range from transnational exchanges, museum studies, and close reading of texts, often depend upon and result in a collective impulse. They also expose a number of oscillating concerns, such as the twin needs of protectionism and open sharing; revival and adaptation; local and global influences. It is often cited in Tongan and Māori language, that we walk backwards into the future. As artists consider what to safeguard for the posterity, we can conceive of the present as a moment pregnant with the past, both informed by and activity constructing our future histories.

Sosefina Andy, Nikau Hindin, Louisa Humphry, Wikuki Kingi, Pacifica Mamas, Kaetaeta Watson, The Veiqia Project. Curated by Ioana Gordon-Smith.

Download the Names held in our mouths e-publication, including video interviews with each artist.


08 June - 18 August 2019

Opening function Saturday 8 June, 4pm

Photos by Sam Hartnett