Emily’s gift from Glen Innes to the world

July 12, 2022

Emily’s gift from Glen Innes to the world Emily’s gift from Glen Innes to the world
Emily's Gift video

Emily's gift from Glen Innes to the world

Treasured Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki artist, Emily Karaka, has exhibited all over the world, but her last work which was on show in Glen Innes kept the focus close to home, as she revisited her memories growing up at the foot of Maungarei.

Emily was raised in Tāmaki hearing the sirens warn of the blasting as men quarried Maungarei - work which carried on until the 1980s. “As tamariki growing up, it was scary. We would hear the siren and we would count to 10 and then we would hear the explosion,” she says.

Forty years on, the 14 maunga in Tāmaki Makaurau, including Maungarei, are protected and co-managed by Auckland Council and Mana Whenua under the Tūpuna Maunga Authority - an arrangement which Emily played a part in. “I said at the time. ‘How would you feel if you might never have access to your ancestral home?’ she recalls.“It could have been owned by someone who wouldn’t allow us to go on to the maunga.”

Emily’s latest painting is a tribute to Maungarei and Potaka, tūpuna of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, entitled Maungarei Past Present Future, which was part of the Matariki exhibition at The Good The Bad Gallery in Glen Innes. This stunning work hung in perfect harmony with the vibrant pieces produced by her whanaunga, the artists and sisters Clarissa and Iris Kirkwood.

Emily has another 14 Matariki Ring of Fire paintings on show at Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery in Titirangi until 18 September

Tāmaki Regeneration (TRC) has supported Emily by providing her a dedicated studio around the corner from the gallery as part of its work to revitalise Glen Innes town centre. Her studio is in the same TRC building as Reserve, the newly opened innovation hub for business start-ups, and above TRC’s next GI project – a food court which will be open for business shortly.

“The studio has given me a place where I can just shut the door and do what I want to do; without that support I wouldn’t have been able to get the Te Uru show done,” she says. Emily is also encouraging other artists t and helping to showcase their work. ““It is significant and important for Mana Whenua to have a platform to show our art. It’s part of the health and wealth of a society,” she says.

Chantel Matthews-Perawiti, whose Pou Ora sculpture, entitled Ko Au Ko Koe, Ko Koe Ko Au” – I am you and you are me, sits at nearby Maybury Reserve, is set to exhibit with Emily next year. “I used to live in Maybury Street, so things keep connecting; Tāmaki is all about connections,” says Emily. But first Emily plans to head overseas as she showcases Māori art to the world. Arts ambassador Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi has invited Emily to be artist in residence in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The city is well known in art circles because the Sharjah Biennial is among the top 10 art exhibitions internationally. After her artist’s residency, Emily would then exhibit her paintings in London and New York.

She also has a book coming out celebrating her 40 years as an artist. “It’s all coming to fruition. I didn’t go to art school, but I had the school of life. I’ve had a pretty good teaching from here,” she says.