1983 – ?

Theme: Māori

This essay written by Keri Kaa was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993.

Haeata was a Māori women artists' collective. In December 1983, Wendy Harrex of New Women's Press called together a group of Māori women writers based in Wellington and invited them to compile a Herstory Diary based on the lives of Māori women. Maaka Jones, kuia, writer, composer and translator, named the group 'Haeata' after the first shaft of light before the night rolls away and the new day dawns. In Haeata's symbol, designed by Robyn Kahukiwa, the circle was the female shape and encompassed the concept of mua-muri. The koru was the first ray of light.

The 1985 Haeata Herstory Diary was the seventh in a series about women by women. Financial support for the project came from the Māori and South Pacific Arts Council (MASPAC, later Te Waka Toi), Te Rūnanga Whakawhanaunga i Ngā Hāhi o Aotearoa (Māori Council of Churches), Kidsarus 2 Inc., and koha from friends and whānau. Many people contributed to the project. They gave freely of their services: interviewing, typing transcripts, editing, and providing hospitality, transport and moral support. [1]

After the publication of the Diary, the Haeata Collective continued to meet on an informal basis. Membership fluctuated as people came and went, but the core group remained Wellington-based.

Haeata initiated numerous projects, launching books written by Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme and Robyn Kahukiwa, and installing and opening solo exhibitions of paintings by Robyn Kahukiwa. A major undertaking was the organisation of a group exhibition in conjunction with Waiatakoa, an Auckland-based women writers' and artists' collective, and a small group of Māori women artists in Gisborne. The exhibition, 'Karanga Karanga', opened in Auckland, Gisborne and Wellington in April, May and June of 1986. Support for the project came from the Wellington City Art Gallery, the Fisher Gallery in Pakuranga, and the Gisborne Museum and Art Centre.

Encouragement for Haeata projects in Wellington had always come from the staff of the Wellington City Art Gallery. Under the leadership of Ann Philbin, John Leuthart and, by 1993, Paula Savage, the gallery staff provided facilities, financial assistance and professional advice.

Group exhibits broke new ground for gallery staff and Haeata. These included 'Karanga Karanga',  1986 (including an immense cloak made by renowned weaver Kohai Grace, Janet Pōtiki, Patricia Grace, and Robyn Kahukiwa); 'Whakamamae', 1988 (work by Robyn Kahukiwa and Shona Rāpira Davies); and the bicultural  ‘Mana Tiriti’, 1990 (in partnership with Project Waitangi and Pākehā artists).

For ‘Mana Tiriti’, eight members of Haeata contributed to a whare dedicated to Hineteiwaiwa, principal goddess of te whare pora (the house of weaving), representing the arts pursued by women. According to the joint artists’ statement, the whare was ‘uncompromisingly female’, and ‘a woman’s response to New Zealand’s 150-year history of deceit’ in dishonouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. [2] The differences between Māori attitudes and beliefs about taonga, and European art traditions and protocols, had to be worked through, and effective compromises reached. These combined exhibitions attracted new audiences to the City Gallery.

Haeata members

Wellington City Art Gallery photo/Haeata

Members of Haeata and others pictured during the Karanga Karanga exhibition at Wellington City Art Gallery, 1986. Back from left: Melanie Cullinan, Patricia Grace, Robyn Kahukiwa, Rea Ropiha, unknown. Middle: Raiha Walker, Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, Kataraina Hetet-Winiata, Stephanie Turner, Wendy Howe, Mihiata Retimana, Hinemoa Hilliard, Grace Warren. Front: Irihapeti Ramsden, Ngapine Allen, Ani Crawford, Veranoa  Hetet-Hauwaho, Roma Potiki, Te Whaea (Roma's daughter).

Haeata always saw itself as a collective nurturing the talents of new and young Māori women artists. From those early meetings of writers, poets and playwrights, under the guidance of Patricia Grace, Bub Bridger, Robyn Kahukiwa and Bruce Stewart, membership expanded. Painters, sculptors, weavers traditional and modern, potters, actors, dancers, singers and composers of traditional and contemporary waiata became involved at various times. The support of men was important to Haeata's projects. Family members and friends often provided practical help and spiritual guidance.

Haeata also hosted visiting indigenous women artists from England, North America, Honolulu and Australia. These contacts provided an opportunity to develop new networks, and some Haeata members visited these women in both formal and informal cultural exchanges.

Haeata regarded itself as part of Ngā Puna Waihanga, the Māori Artists and Writers' Society (founded in 1973). Sometimes Haeata's emphasis on support for women caused debate and dissension in Māori society. But while the struggle to maintain the group's stance was stressful, providing support for Māori women artists always prevailed.

Encouragement from elders was important to Haeata's development and survival. The collective wanted to record its appreciation for the constant care and guidance of Harata Solomon, Maaka Jones and Mihipeka Edwards.

Anō he hua kua tae ki tona puawaitanga
The seed has blossomed

Keri Kaa


Although Haeata never officially closed down, by 1993 it had apparently ceased to be active.


[1] From the South Island: Toni Allwood, Marian Evans, Miriama Henderson, Rānui Ngārimu, Irihāpeti Ramsden, Myrtle Robinson, Mere Tainui, Karen Wattereus. From the North Island: Ngāpine Allen, Pearl Aranji, Tūngia Baker, Arapera Blank, Ani Crawford, Rosemary Fullerton-Smith, Donna Hall, Sharon Hawke, Maaka Jones, Keri Kaa, Robyn Kahukiwa, Jan Kīngi, Georgina Kirby, Mary Louise Ormsby, Judith Ring, Mīria Simpson, Meri Solomon, Therese Stafford, Riwia Whaanga, Sarah Williams.

[2] Haeata Collective, ‘Ko Hineteiwaiwa te Whare’, Mana Tiriti: The Art of Partnership and Protest, City Gallery, Wellington, 1991, p. 76.

Unpublished sources

Haeata collection, 1983–1992, in possession of Keri Kaa, Wellington [1993]

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