He po, he po, korihi te manu, takiri mai te ata, ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea.
After three and a half years of full-time study at the Learning Connexion there comes a time for quiet reflection and for me, that moment has arrived. I feel it best that I look back at the time I spent there, the best way I know how.
When you first wander through the gate and up the drive, an epic explosion of colour erupts from out of the bush; the intent, no doubt, to ward off evil spirits that lurk within. It’s somewhat successful. Students still need some form of direction. Young, vulnerable and impressionable minds abound. They tread lightly comforted by the presence of a big stick.
A lot can be learned from the mere presence of others. The line between tutor and student blurs rather rapidly – students have much to gain from their peers. They exploit and encourage. Some of the more knowledgeable on-site, pay to be there.
In looking back at what you have achieved, whether it’s time well spent or not, the goal remains. When you leave, TLC is better because you were there, and not because you’re not. As I have always said. “Make TLC a better place tomorrow than it was yesterday.”
The key ingredient is knowledge. Don’t let a lack of knowledge be a deterrent. During my time there, much discussion has centred on people at TLC being labelled, talented and skilful. I tend to disagree. This talent or skill is simply knowledge. Learn knowledge and then apply knowledge – sounds simple.
So having made such a bold statement, what knowledge have I acquired in the past three and a half years? I know the continued presence of indigenous art is vital in attracting students and potential students on-site. To be an acknowledged school of art and creativity here in Aotearoa; this is essential. It must be encouraged. I recall a young Samoan student taking up one such challenge. He gave voice to his art and, through that, to his culture. A timely word of caution; those artists who bring with them valuable knowledge gained elsewhere (read here carving schools and the like), again tread carefully. As you well know, once you train under an acknowledged ‘master carver’ his name and his mana remains stamped indelibly all over your mahi until you, yourself, attain such status.
One thing for sure, my time at TLC was well spent. To revisit a memorable quote from this year’s graduation. “I didn’t simply let shit happen; I made it happen.” The common thread that bind us all to each other and to TLC was, and is, art. We each have stitched a thread or eight to the fabric that is TLC. Remember that! The time spent in the pursuit of this thing called art has not only been character building, but it has also forged and created life-long bonds and relationships. For that TLC, we all salute you.
My intention when arriving at TLC was to be indulgent. I came to indulge myself. And I have. Our people, our culture and our art have all been elements of my mahi. At times, this has been a lonely and isolated hikoi. Now, it is no longer the case. Maori art will thrive. Plant the seeds and watch them blossom. In my time there, the development of such art has grown, thanks to an incredible roster of like-minded individuals, people to whom I am indebted to – Mauriora whanau, mauriora.
Another intention was not only to develop a strong body of work, but also to end my time at the Learning Connexion with works that clearly showed the impact from my tenure at Taita. One such piece was my final bronze.
This work quickly gained a life-force of its own. I was simply a facilitator of chance. The immediate and dramatic impact at first masks the true intent of the work. Hei Tiki are generally regarded as fertility charms or symbols. To be confronted with such an icon as we are, damaged beyond repair, will raise issues. But before we allow our work to take us there, we must first consider who we are ourselves.
The kaupapa this work speaks of and resonates strongly with, is child abuse. Having no mouth to speak with, having no heart to feel love with and having no limbs to protect themselves – it’s all there. No real need for any narrative. Personally the absolute beauty of this work was that it gave others the opportunity to engage. Not just as visual art, but to engage with the process, the kaupapa, and the story. It allows others to engage with the work on a personal level. My gratitude here goes initially to Dennis Berdinner and Shelley Seay, and also to my Advanced Diploma group, students and tutors alike.
In drawing my close association with TLC to a close, I am reminded of a comment tutor John Cornish made to me in my final assessment regarding my leaving TLC. He made mention of lyrics from the song Hotel California by The Eagles; ‘You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.’
Having said that, however, after three and a half years – Jonathan, you can have your school back, Koro has left the building.
Nga mihi nui, Mauriora, Whanau, Mauriora!