Maori group wins Golden Lion in Venice

Mataaho Collective’s Takapau, part of the "Stranieri Ovunque, Foreigners Everywhere" exhibition...
Mataaho Collective’s Takapau, part of the "Stranieri Ovunque, Foreigners Everywhere" exhibition at the 30th Venice Biennale. PHOTO: BEN STEWART
A former University of Otago fellowship winner has gone on to be awarded one of the world’s most prestigious art prizes.

Artist Bridget Reweti is part of the Mataaho Collective, which was awarded the Golden Lion at the 60th Venice Biennale for its large-scale work in the main curated exhibition.

The Venice Biennale is dubbed the Olympics of the art world and Mataaho Collective’s achievement was described by Creative New Zealand as "the equivalent of winning a gold medal".


Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) was awarded the university’s Frances Hodgkins Fellowship, which aims to aid artists, in 2020 and 2021.

The Mataaho Collective comprises four Māori women — Reweti, Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson and Terri Te Tau.

Its large-scale work Takapau is an installation made of woven and latticed polyester hi-vis tie-downs and was recently shown at Te Papa.

It opens the Arsenale section of the Biennale and serves as a waharoa or gateway to the rest of the show.

The exhibition "Stranieri Ovunque,— Foreigners Everywhere", has been curated by the Venice Biennale’s artistic director, Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, and features 331 artists.

Eight Māori artists will feature alongside Mataaho, Sandy Adsett, Brett Graham, Fred Graham and the late Selwyn Te Ngareatua Wilson.

"Referring to matrilinear traditions of textiles with its womb-like cradle, the installation is both a cosmology and a shelter", the jury said in its citation for the prize, which was read by jury president Julia Bryan-Wilson.

"Its impressive scale is a feat of engineering that was only made possible by the collective strength and creativity of the group."

- Staff reporter,  additional reporting RNZ