Te kete rokiroki Hōhua Thompson
My koro Russell, especially as he got older, spent most of his day mowing his paddocks, which in his younger years were used to sustain us as a whānau by growing vegetable and fruit gardens and grazing animals. My sister, cousins and I learned how to do this by experiencing it with him. Tending to the māra kūmara is to take care of and share the stories and mana of not only my koro, but of all our tupuna.
Te Arawa traditions speak of the kūmara being brought to Aotearoa by Whakaotirangi where it became increasingly important to Māori, as other crops from Te Moananui-a-kiwa proved difficult to grow. Kūmara are associated with the atua Rongomātāne, who is not only the atua of cultivated plants, but also of peace. This association gave the kūmara a chiefly reverence by our tupuna. Kūmara are grown in māra kūmara (kūmara gardens) from tupu or ‘slips’ which are sprouts grown from kūmara from the previous harvest.
Te kete rokiroki is a venue for sharing and discussion through the collaborative maintenance of the māra kumara, which provides us with fertile ground and stable footing with which to grow our own narratives to take forward.
Hōhua Thompson is currently studying a Masters of Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in Tāmaki Makaurau. He has recently completed the Toi Māori, Māori Arts Internship based at Enjoy Contemporary Art Space In Te Whanganui-a-Tara. There, Hōhua worked on researching and delivering public engagement and education programmes.
Hōhua uses Māori practices of whakairo (carving), rāranga (weaving) and tukutuku (ornamental lattice work), which are his pūkenga tuku iho.
Hōhua's work is tied directly into his own cultural circumstances. By using aspects of his own experience as a Māori and the knowledge of Māori art forms gained from his tūpuna, then filtering them through his experience as a person of not only Māori whakapapa, but also pākehā, Hōhua aims to address the cultural hybridity experienced by Māori people in contemporary culture, and to decolonize the space in which they work and normalise this experience for others.