Courtenay Place light boxes

A New Zealand first, Courtenay Place light boxes form a highly public exhibition space in the midst of Wellington’s central city environment.

Tanya Ruka, Te Pōrūrū and Te Aorūrū


Artist:Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka

Until 18 September 2022

Ko au te whenua, te whenua ko au

How do we protect and enhance the mauri within an urban environment? asks Te Whanganui-a-Tara based artist Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka in the Courtenay Place light box exhibition for Matariki 2022. Whakapapa Te Pō Te Ao turns the light boxes into a series of digitally woven pou whenua which are derived from the natural phenomena of Te Aro and the local environment.

Whakapapa Te Pō Te Ao acknowledges the whenua and awa above and below the city streets. “Past, present and future coexist within the whenua,” says Ruka. “Our tupuna are the soil and the water. They hold our collective memory, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. We are alive because of them, by acknowledging this truth we enhance the mauri and we build our relationships with the natural world even within an urban environment.”

Whakapapa Te Pō Te Ao responds to Matariki as a time to recount the past seasons and set new plans for the coming year. Guided by the Maramataka, Māori lunar calendar, Ruka filmed the area surrounding the light boxes once a month during 2021. The focus of the filming was to capture the natural elements as they are now. Ruka’s key consideration was how we experience the three major awa sources - Waitangi, Kūmutoto and Waimapihi streams that were once a source of kai and are now below the city streets. Ruka then translated here video imagery into digital weavings for the light boxes. One side of the light box images references Te Whakapapa o Te Pō and the other, Te Whakapapa o Te Ao. Together, the whakapapa of light and dark capture a story of time unfolding in Courtenay Place from a kaupapa Māori perspective.

The colour sequence of the digital weavings is based on the rainbow, the colour of light, referencing Te Ao Marama our world of life and acknowledging the rainbow’s meaning of importance to the people and community of Te Aro. In honouring our past we strengthen our future.

About the artist

Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka is a Māori Indigenous artist and designer living in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa. She is of Ngāti Pākau, Te Uriroroi, Te Parawhau, Te Mahurehure Ngāpuhi, and Waitaha Hokianga descent. Ruka has a Master of Art and Design from Auckland University of Technology and works as an independent indigenous researcher on projects that seek to elevate indigenous knowledge systems and voices within the environment. This includes connecting with Indigenous nations globally through her work as research communications lead with Native Land Digital.

Whakapapa Te Pō Te Ao website

Tanya Ruka bio website

How to exhibit

For info on how to have your work exhibited in the lightboxes, see our exhibition opportunities page.

Previous exhibitions

View information and images from past projects. 

Contact us

Eve Armstrong, Senior Arts Advisor

Mobile: 021 227 8207