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World Beaters - Mataaho Collective Win Prestigious International Art Prize

21 Apr 2024

The Golden Lion belongs to one of Aotearoa's most beloved creative quartets - reaction from the Venice Biennale and back home.

Mataaho Collective are used to accolades - but they don't come much bigger than this.

The Aotearoa creative community awoke to the news on Sunday morning (21 April) to the news the powerhouse quarter of wāhine toa has been awarded one of the international art's most coveted awards.

The Collective - comprised of Erena Arapere-Baker (Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangātira), Sarah Hudson (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Pūkeko), Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) and Terri Te Tau (Rangitāne ki Wairarapa) - have been awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. It is awarded to the Best Participant in the International Exhibition, which this year is Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere.

Mataaho's awe-inspiring installation, Takapu - their largest yet in a career filled with large-scale works - was selected from hundreds of participants from around the globe. Mataaho makes up half of the eight-strong Ngā Toi Māori artists who were selected for the international exhibit, alongside Brett and Fred Graham, Sandy Adsett and Selwyn Wilson.

VENICE BIENNALE - BRETT FRED MATAAHO COLLECTIVE FINALS (7 of 119).jpegSarah Hudson spoke on behalf of the collective at the awards ceremony held in Venice, acknowledging what the award meant, that it would encourage other artists and spoke of the importance of the exhibition’s themes exploring ingenious and queer culture. 

“It means so much to be given a platform here, we know it will inspire many queer and indigenous artists”, she said, likening to winning gold at the Olympics, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It adds further achievement to the quartet of Arts Laureates, who have a litany of accomplishments both collectively and individually, including the Walters Prize.

Five judges oversaw the selection of award recipients: Julia Bryan-Wilson, Alia Swastika, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Elena Crippa, and María Inés Rodríguez.

In the judge’s speech, they noted:

“Mataaho Collective has created a luminous woven structure of straps that poetically crisscross the gallery space. Referring to matrilinear traditions of textiles with its womb-like cradle, the installation is both a cosmology and a shelter. Its impressive scale is a feat of engineering that was only made possibly by the collective strength and creativity of the group. 

"The dazzling pattern of shadows cast on the walls and floor harks back to ancestral techniques and gestures to future uses of such techniques.”

Creative New Zealand’s Amanda Hereaka - representing the organisation at the Biennale - states  “It has been such an incredible privilege to be on the ground in Venice to witness this historical moment. We were already celebrating the invitation of our five ngā toi Māori artists as part of the International Exhibition, but for Mataaho Collective to win this prestigious award as well, has just been phenomenal. 

"This award recognises, on the biggest global platform, the importance and relevance of ngā toi Māori and New Zealand art; we should all celebrate this wonderful achievement."

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Paul Goldsmith also acknowledged the achievement.

"Congratulations to the Mataaho Collective for winning one of the world's most prestigious art prizes at the Venice Biennale. 

“It is good to see New Zealand artists excelling internationally, and showcasing the best of our art and culture to the world.

“This win is a glowing endorsement of the brilliant work of the Mataaho collective and shows, again, our artists are world leaders.”