Digital slice of ancient art

Hand painted kowhaiwhai panels on display, showcasing how digital technology can be used to produce traditional Māori art. Photo: Supplied.

In what’s believed to be a world first, the latest digital design techniques are being applied to an ancient Māori art.

Sidney Thompson, a kaiako (tutor) at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in the east coast North Island town of Ōpōtiki, has been teaching tauira (students) how to create traditional Māori designs using digital technology.

The programme, Toi Maruata – Digital Arts (Level 3), sees tauira learning industry standard graphic software and techniques to produce high quality vector images.

Once the digital designs have been created, tauira are also taught about the various file formats (such as .pdf .eps .ai .jpg .png) and when to use them, depending on their intended output.

This programme shows tauira how to make vector files and produce high quality Māori art pieces using modern processes, including creating stencils which are used to transfer designs on to wooden kowhaiwhai panels.

“We think it may be the first time this particular stencil technique has ever been used for the transfer of traditional Māori designs on to panels,” says Sidney.

“It’s all about using the latest methods to support the ongoing creation and spread of traditional designs.”

The idea of using stencils has been around for a while but the Toi Maruata programme takes this concept to another level by creating a vector image and using this file to create a stencil.

Sidney says that the idea came about from working with his brother, master carver Whare Thompson.

They wanted to find a more efficient way of reproducing kowhaiwhai designs on to heke (rafters) for the build of a new marae in the Waikato region. That led to the method and process now being used.

Tauira are provided with a framed copy of their concept designs.

The students’ most recent creative works will be on display in Ōpōtiki from next week at the TWoA Art Exhibition, which begins Tuesday November 3 and runs till Sunday Novmber 8.

The exhibition will be held at the Ōpōtiki Arts Hall on King Street. This exhibition has been organised by fellow kaiako Michelle Lee and her students of the Māori and Indigenous Arts programmes.

The Toi Maruata - Digital Arts programme at Ōpōtiki is now open for enrolments and expressions of Interest at the campus at 28 Elliot Street, Ōpōtiki.

People can also contact Sidney Thompson directly on 07-315 3027 or email sidney.thompson@twoa.ac.nz for more information.




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