Mataaho Collective wins prestigious prize at 60th Venice Biennale overnight

Creative New Zealand - Toi Aotearoa,
21 April 2024, New Zealand

The Golden Lion has been won by New Zealand’s Mataaho Collective, comprising four wāhine Māori practitioners: 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). 

Considered one of the highest accolades for art, Mataaaho Collective have won the Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the 60th International Exhibition, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere.

From the hundreds of participants that were selected to exhibit in Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, Mataaho’s immersive installation, Takapau, stood-out. 

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.”

Sarah Hudson spoke on behalf of the collective at the awards ceremony held in Venice last night, acknowledging what the award meant, that it would encourage other artists and spoke of the importance of the exhibition’s themes exploring indigenous 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.

Likened to winning gold at the Olympics, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Creative New Zealand’s Amanda Hereaka is in Venice. 

“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. Congratulations!”