Rachael Rakena

Rachael Rakena is a video artist who works, frequently in collaboration with others, to create richly-layered performative installations, videos and digital stills. She draws inspiration from close family ties, the intricacies of personal relationships within a Kāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi and Pākehā ancestry and their interrelated histories and narratives, and from digital media technology.

Of Maori and European/Pakeha descent (Ngai Tahu, Nga Puhi) Rachael has a Master of Fine Arts (Distinction) and is a lecturer at Te Putahi a Toi, School of Maori Studies, Massey University in Palmerston North. She has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and overseas including Australia, Italy, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, France, Turkey, Britain and the United States. In 2007, Aniwaniwa, a collaborative project with Brett Graham, was selected for the collateral events section of the 2007 Venice Biennale. In 2006, she and Graham represented New Zealand at the Sydney Biennale with the collaborative installation UFOB. Other major international exhibitions of recent years have included Pasifika Styles at Cambridge University in the UK, Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific at Neuer Berliner Kunstverien in Germany, the 2008 Busan Biennale in Korea and FEEDFORWARD: The Angel of History / El angel de la Historia. LABoral Centre for Art and Industrial Creation, Gijon, Spain.

In work that is both ethereal and political she employs a new language and new tools derived from digital media and video to invoke a contemporary Maori identity that is timeless and fluid. She is a highly innovative artist who explores the application of contemporary technology to articulate timeless notions of Maori culture and identity that flow from the past, through the present and into the future.

Rachael has coined the term ‘Toi Rerehiko; as a means of describing and locating her practice. The word rerehiko plays on rorohiko the Maori word for computer, which translated literally means electric brain. Toi Rerehiko is a moving image art form immersed in Maori tradition, tikanga (custom) and values which uses digital and electronic media. Its principles, Rachael says, encompass concepts of continuum, immersion, movement and space.

Water is a prominent feature of Rakena’s work and it is claimed as a tribal, Ngai Tahu, space – destabilising, she says, assumptions that Maori identity is exclusively land-based. It also operates metaphorically, providing a kind of amniotic fluid for the protection of culture. Water is the medium in which floating text, performers, players and dancers operate, move and swim deliberately and consciously towards an unknown destiny or shore – much as migrants have always moved.

Alison Bartley

Rachael is represented by Bartley and Company Art, Wellington.