He Kākano is a solo exhibition by artist Stevei Houkāmau. In this new series of ceramic works, Houkāmau references the indigenous tattoo practices of Tā moko and Tatau, customary vessels, matriarchal relationships and growth cycles to consider connections between past, present and future.
The exhibition title, He Kākano, refers to the whakatauki E kore au e ngaro, he kākano I ruia mai I Rangiātea (I shall never be lost, a seed scattered from Rangiatea). Often cited to evoke the strength of ancestral ties, the proverb is used to consider the figurative seed placed at the nexus of past and future, both a product of history and the start of potential growth.
In her work, Houkāmau examines the connections and relationships that move across time and space, and through form and design. Her practice is distinctive for its carved surface designs that draw upon Tā Moko and Tātau. Used to amplify the curvature of the vessels, these also act as visual languages encoded with knowledge and genealogy. In drawing upon both mark-making practices, Houkāmau recalls shared Māori and Moana kinship across the Pacific.
Houkāmau explores vessel forms as both literal and metaphorical containers. Some forms recall connections to Pāpātuanuku, the land, while others provide possibilities for experimentation and formal play. Read together, connections emerge—each vessel a seed belonging to the collective body of work.
Stevei Houkamau (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Scotland) was born and raised in Porirua. In 2011, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts at the Māori visual art and design college, Toihoukura. Planning to enter the Tā Moko programme, she instead developed her love for uku from Wi Taepa, Baye Riddle and the late Manos Nathan of Nga Kaihanga Uku, the collective of Māori clayworkers .
Uku artist Stevei Houkamau shares aspects of her background, working process and art practice.