Although located in Perth, Australia for the past 8 years, Mt Maunganui, New Zealand is home to Arohanoa Mathews (Arohanoa Artistry). Arohanoa is an artist who offers a range of services (from Fine Arts/commissioned paintings, to graphic design/sign-writing, make-up and art workshops). With a teaching background (of 20 years), Arohanoa’s art focuses on her cultural identity, Maori (NZ) through the use of painting Maori artefacts and Moko (tattoo designs/patterns) to painting Piupiu (flax skirt) and Mokokauae (Maori woman’s chin tattoo). Recently we caught up with Arohanoa, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and art:
What is your background?
My lineage connection is Maori/Pakeha (New Zealand): Ngaiterangi, Tuhoe and Te Awara Iwi on my mother’s side (Faulkner, Ihaka, Tapsell) from Matapihi, Mt Maunganui.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to follow in my mum’s footsteps and be a Nurse because I knew at a young age that I loved and cared for all people however finding out as a teenager that I would faint at the sight of blood, meant that this may not be a good idea! So I became an Art Teacher instead which I have been passionate about for the past 20 years.
What inspires you?
Personal experiences inspire me. As a 44-year-old woman, wife and mother, I am still learning about myself and finding who I am. Most recently I have found my voice (to speak up) on many situations in my life, both personally and professionally and have represented this in my paintings through the use of the mokokauae (Maori woman’s chin tattoo) – a spiritual symbol of empowerment.
Do you have a role model that you’ve drawn inspiration from when creating your art?
I draw inspiration from many of the strong Maori women in my life (my nan, mother, sister, cousins and friends). I see the strength in them and the life that they have built even through trials and tribulations.
What themes do you pursue?
Cultural Identity through Mokokauae (Maori woman’s chin tattoo) because for me it speaks about ‘empowerment’. The notion of ‘empowering’ women to have and use their voice in their workplace, home life, relationships and in life generally, has close connotations for me. Married with children and having worked full time in mostly leadership roles, the motivation to empower women either personally and/or professionally is at the forefront of my work. It is through my artistry, that the aim to inspire other women to use their own voice to empower themselves, is key.
What are you known for?
Most recently, my ‘Mana Wahine’ Series of Maori inspired portrait paintings and ‘Glitter’ Prints with mokokauae (Maori woman’s chin tattoo). My Logo is also inspired by the powerful design of the mokokauae and as are my Tee and Crew Jumpers designs. My art work aims to speak to all women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds to use their voice in all aspects of their lives.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?
I can’t live without masking tape (painters tape). My style of painting requires layers and I usually use an implied grid to execute hard edges and sections in the underpainting.
Tell us something interesting about you.
I have three ta moko (Maori tattoos/markings) on my body completed by my husband’s cousin Ranea Takiari; spine (poutuara) symbolising my family tree; side torso to symbolise our two sons and left wrist to symbolise my connection with my sisters (who also have a similar designed tattoo on their wrists).
What do you enjoy outside of creating art?
Netball and Golf – having a balanced life and being active clears my mind but also allows my creativity to flow.
Any advice to young or new artists?
Paint for yourself first (and not for others or money). Create art about what you know best. If you know the subject/theme inside and out, it will be purposeful and relevant, and that’s how your viewer will be able to connect.