Clatsop Community College is honored to present Uku-Aoteroa-The Spirit of Materials, a ten-day cultural exchange with six visiting indigenous Maori clay artists from Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Invited artists include Colleen Waata Urlich, Baye Riddell, Dorothy Waetford, Todd Douglas, Carla Ruka, and Rhonda Halliday. These highly respected artists are supported by New Zealand Maori Art organizations, Creative New Zealand and Toi Maori Aotearoa to act as cultural representatives to communities around the world. The exchange will feature a series of events in the Astoria community that will provide a rare opportunity to interact with people from a unique indigenous culture.
A special exhibition of Maori clay artworks will be held in the CCC Art Center Gallery, 1799 Lexington Avenue, Astoria, from May 7 to July 30. This exhibit will open with a welcoming of the artists on Thursday, May 7 at 6:00 PM. The Maori artists will be in attendance and available to share their connections to their work and its surrounding mythological and historical origins.
The artists will also give a free public presentation at the CCC Performing Arts Center, 588 16th Street, Astoria, called, Uku-Aotearoa-The Spirit of Materials on Friday, May 8 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM. This presentation will include a conversation that will engage the community by examining critical issues surrounding cultural landscape, collective and individual vision, and the value of myth and memory. Nancy Cook, CCC Writing Instructor, will lead artists in a discussion on the spirit of materials and related relevant questions.
Artists, students and community members are also invited to participate in two all-day hands-on clay workshops led by the Maori artists on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM for both days in the CCC Art Center Ceramics Studio, 1799 Lexington Avenue, Astoria. Seating is limited for this event; please contact Richard Rowland for additional information.
The Spirit of Materials Cultural Exchange is centered around the broad potential of the arts and humanities, and will cultivate the North Coast community’s knowledge of post-colonial indigenous identity and creativity. Events will include sharing of stories and meals, challenging dialogue, cultural/collaborative art-making workshops, and educational outreach. Community members will have an opportunity to learn about and consider the traditional and evolving meaning of oceanic arts. Our community will also have the opportunity to develop relationships through personal interaction and examination of shared values. This exchange continues the rich cross-cultural history that has existed at mouth of the Columbia for thousands of years.
Colleen Waata Urlich, who is leading the traveling Maori collective with Baye Riddell, has been sculpting, molding and nurturing Maori art for years. She is a Maori clay artist and senior foundation member of the National body of Maori clay workers. Colleen has been involved with various Maori art initiatives. She is a founding member and coordinator for the Maori contemporary clay artists’ movement that begun in the 1980s. Colleen, along with Manos Nathan, Maori clay artist, participated in the Pacific Rim Exhibition in 2012, an indigenous gathering of artists from around the Pacific Rim that took place at Clatsop Community College.
“Our return to Astoria with a group of younger clay artists, who have yet to experience the warmth and hospitality offered to us on our first visit, has been keenly anticipated. Our regret is that Manos Nathan has been unable to join us but all the current participants worked with Richard Rowland, ceramic artist and CCC Instructor, in January 2014, during the International Indigenous Artists Gathering “Kokiri Putahi,” in Kaikohe at Kohewhata Marae – a traditional meeting place – which brought together some 145 indigenous artists from Alaska to Australia,” says Urlich.
Baye Riddell began his vocation as a ceramicist in 1973 and has been working as a full-time ceramicist ever since. In 1987, he co-founded Nga Kaihanga Uku, a Maori clay workers’ organization. “When I took up pottery in the early 70s there were no Maori ceramic traditions to refer to and so my first attempts to express my culture in fired clay were very tentative and clumsy. I was nicknamed “the Native” in the local pottery circles at the time who were mainly influenced by Japanese and European approaches to ceramics. Since those days however I have been privileged to be a part of the birth and growth of an exciting Maori ceramic movement which has forged a unique identity in the ceramic world.”
Dorothy Waetford’s early career began as a performing artist as a member of the contemporary Maori dance company Taiao based in Auckland. Excited by developments in the contemporary Maori art scene, her interest led her to choosing clay as a preferred medium for art making. “The rich, cultural heritage I come from is the ground beneath my feet in the space I work from. In that space, I search for sculptural forms connecting the past with the present and use clay as a medium to transfigure the spiritual into physical, contemporary space.”
Todd Douglas is a fulltime ceramic artist living and working at Muriwai Beach. Primarily self-taught, Todd's work is recognized for utilizing a broad range of ceramic techniques and surface treatments as well as combining materials such as clay, wood, lashing and LED lighting. “As soon as I touched clay, I was hooked. Bringing together the four elements – fire, earth, air and water, clay is like no other material. It has fascinating physical properties such as its malleability but it also has many cultural and spiritual significances. As it is at the heart of so many creation stories, it’s a reminder of the interconnectedness between people/s.”
Carla Ruka is a contemporary Maori clay sculptress. Her inspiration and ideas descend from her ancestors. The clay artworks and images she has developed over the years are based on the korero of her Marae (Mahuri), Kapa haka (Maori Performing Arts), Maori Spirituality, indigenous cultures, her whanau and the Taitokerau/Hokianga area. “Clay is my therapy. It molds and develops images of my wairura (spirit). As a contemporary Maori Clay Artist, the artworks and images I have created over the years descend from my ancestors and are inspired by the people around me.” “I continue to surround myself in cultural and community activities.”
Rhonda Halliday is a Maori clay artist whose work focuses on learning more about her cultural heritages, Maori and Pakeha, and finding an identity that integrates the two. "Our ancestors used metaphors to express themselves in their artworks; to tell a story, an historical account of a person/s or an expression of thoughts and beliefs. My work is also a metaphor used to express personal feelings from research into the many areas of history between my Maori and Pakeha connections. There are still many more conversations to be captured in clay."
“These gifted artists have been selected by the Maori to honor and keep the life of their ancestors and their communities alive. Clatsop Community College has brought another educational and cultural experience that can impact our blended and evolving global community.” Richard Rowland