Exhibit to showcase female empowerment

Savannah Kerikeri prepares for her "Mana Wāhine" exhibit and workshop in her studio  yesterday....
Savannah Kerikeri prepares for her "Mana Wāhine" exhibit and workshop in her studio yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
A pair of emerging Dunedin artists hope their exploration of Atua wāhine (female gods) will remind audiences that although the system was made for men, life starts with women.

Savannah Kerekere and Michael-Lydia Winiana are the artists behind the two-day "Mana Wāhine" exhibition which starts tomorrow.

Ms Kerekere said the Mana Wāhine theme was inspired by "female empowerment and the divine feminine".

"I'd been researching, for fun and art purposes, Atua wāhine (female gods) and their stories, because you always hear about Māui and Tāne and Tangaroa — all those names that we're really familiar with.

"We know Papatūānuku, but not a whole lot of others."

Ms Kerekere immersed herself in those stories, using them to inform her artistic creations, she said.

"As I moved along, I started realising that we have a lot more wāhine Māori in the modern day whose stories don't get told either."

She said she had been hearing many stories recently from women around dismissals and misdiagnoses in health settings.

"They'll say ‘have you gone for a walk?' or ‘maybe you should go on a holiday, you seem stressed out' and sometimes it's a tumour or a spinal injury.

"It's just insane."

Building off this idea, she created a series of artworks telling the stories of those women.

"It's about creating awareness that women in general, but also Māori women, really have to advocate for themselves in all settings, not just health settings, in all walks of life."

They also planned to exhibit art focused on affirmations and identity — a topic Ms Kerekere had struggled with.

"Sometimes being the fairer girl in a Māori setting, you get a sense of imposter syndrome, and that's followed me around my whole life."

Ms Kerekere grew up in Dunedin where she said she was considered a "half-cast girl".

"Then I lived in Porirua and Wellington and other places like that where there's a lot more brown-skinned people and I was the white girl.

"I literally got nicknamed Britney Spears in one of my high schools."

The exhibition would include a workshop where participants will get to play around with textures using a unique paste. .

"It's really fun to make different shapes and textures with the paste and move it around with different tools and your hands and get messy."

She warned a few of her pieces explored more serious topics around mistreatment and misunderstandings.

She was excited to present a collection with an important message.

"I think it's important to embrace divine femineity, mana wāhine, for everyone, the whole community — life starts with women, and that's incredibly special."

The exhibit is free and will run for two days from tomorrow at the AYU Community Space.

The workshop takes place tomorrow.