Extended Whānau

Ōtairongo

The very best project in each discipline at the Best Design Awards is awarded the supreme, Purple Pin for work that truly raises the bar for New Zealand design.

Tyrone Ohia, FDINZ

Purple Pin 2020
Graphics: Ōtairongo
Studio: Extended Whānau

The Client

Maree Sheehan (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Raukawa, Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whāoa). Maree is an award-winning sound artist and composer whose work includes commercially released albums and singles, music for films and dance, among others.

The Challenge

The brief was to design a visual identity for Ōtairongo: a world-first, solo exhibition by Sheehan that pushes at the boundaries of contemporary Māori art. The show seeks to interpret and represent the unseen dimensions of mana wāhine identity through audio-portraiture, experienced within the realm of Hine Raukatauri.

Using only sonic elements as her palette, each portrait captured the wairua and mauri of three wāhine Māori: Dr. Te Rita Papesch, Moana Maniapoto and Ramon Te Wake. More than a simple interview or storytelling, this installation used immersive binaural sound-capture technologies to combine kōrero, waiata, the marae, whānau and whenua to create a 360° sound experience. The works are presented in darkness, elevating aural perception and approaching a renegotiation of how wāhine Māori might be interpreted and represented.

The Solution

Extended Whānau’s approach was to create a visual portrait in response to the audio portraiture. This response would become the hero visual element for the show.

They created a contemporary portrait inspired by Hine Raukatauri, the Māori goddess of flute music.

Portraiture takes many forms within te ao Māori. In nature, Hine Raukatauri is portrayed as the case moth. In traditional Māori crafts, her cocoon shape is reflected in the pūtōrino. When the pūtōrino is played, it is said to open a portal to the spirit world so we can hear the voice of Hine Raukatauri.

The duality of the spiritual and technological is captured in a single long-exposure photograph: a wahine stands at the centre, spinning a series of LEDs to create a 360° performance that wraps the central figure in a cocoon of light.

The photograph is carefully paired with unobtrusive typography across a range of exhibition collateral, including posters, postcards, catalogues, flyers and exhibition signage.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an Ōtairongo online experience was also designed as an artistic offering in the uncertain times of lockdown. This gave people the opportunity to experience the audio portraits of Moana, Te Rita and Ramon. To be transported into the realms of their voices, their whānau and the sounds of their whenua and to sense and feel the mauri of these portraits.

 Judges’ Comments

An absolutely stunning and breathtaking piece of work, original in its thinking and striking in its execution, a truly contemporary take on culture. This project has depth and layers of thinking with an authentic connection to traditional storytelling and combine that with a fresh and beautifully crafted visual execution, Ōtairongo moves a visual language forward in leaps and bounds.