Maori Culture for Sale at Toi Poneke

20 May 2013

The economic and social value of Māori culture to New Zealand and the way that it is marketed and sold to the world is the theme of a new exhibition called Mana for Jam at Wellington’s Toi Pōneke Gallery from Friday 31 May to Saturday 22 June.

The exhibition’s curator, Reuben Friend, says it explores the value of Māori cultural capital, and the lengths people are willing to go to sell themselves and their culture to the world.

"Mana for Jam looks at this concept of self-sufficiency, and the idea of ‘selling’ ones cultural capital to the world to earn a living - questioning the appropriateness of some of those actions in relation to Tino Rangatiratanga."

The title plays on the phrase ‘money for jam’ - an expression that originated during the First and Second World Wars. When money and food rations were in limited supply, non-essential items such as jam were seen as luxuries.

In recent years the global economic recession has forced many people to return to the ways of their grandparents, planting gardens and re-learning handicrafts such as sewing and preserving food. For Māori communities, these types of practices are part of their concept of Tino Rangatiratanga.

"Tino Rangatiratanga, at its core, is about autonomy and self-sufficiency. These practices alleviate our reliance on money and help us to cater for our own needs using our own resources," says Friend.

Six artists have contributed to Mana for Jam, commenting on everything from the value of Māori in the New Zealand labour force, to the way Māori television and movie celebrities ‘sell’ their ethnicity on the big screen.

Mana for Jam opens at Toi Pōneke on Thursday 30 May.