New Zealanders, particularly the members of the Maori community, treasure their indigenous tradition. In recent years, contemporary Maori artists make use of digital media in expressing their culture. It is their way of preserving the past while making use of technology to present the Maori culture to the world.
Maori art is characterised by symbols and patterns that represent different aspects of New Zealand/Aotearoa’s indigenous culture. Patterns and styles vary between tribes, which is why Maori culture is not simply defined by one story, but a collection of many narratives.
Traditional art practices, such as weaving and carving, portray Maori stories and myths. The natural environment serves as the inspiration behind symbols and patterns, which explains the intricacy of the details.
Maori Art and Screenprinting
Because Maori art is known for abstract patterns and details, local and indigenous artists integrate the designs into digitised forms so more people can access them.
One of these innovations is the integration of Maori print designs into screenprinting. Traditionally, Maori narratives are told in designs using wood, bone, jade or flax as the canvas. Today, these prints and patterns inspire designs in industrial screen printing to cater to mass consumption. Now, these patterns and symbols are screenprinted into fabric, paper and even interior and exterior walls.
Another campaign that promotes Maori art through digital media is Kiwa Digital’s Ngā Atua Māori, a digital comic book series, made possible by the Maori Language Commission and arts students and teachers. It aims to portray Māori myths and stories using electronic media to reach a global audience.
Contemporary Maori Art Movements
The danger to Maori digitised art movements is that the meanings and symbolisms may lose their value because of overconsumption and duplication. But, it is comforting to know that there are various organisations that constantly educate younger generations about the value of Maori narratives.
There is a thriving community of contemporary Maori visual artists who continue to transform Maori art. At the forefront of the movement is the Toi Maori Aotearoa, an organisation that promotes the expression of Maori art.
They produce exhibitions, festivals and performances that showcase Maori art forms. They also guide contemporary Maori artists to new directions and help them connect with the rest of the world.
New Zealand pop culture now embraces the marriage of traditional and modern art as a distinction from other westernised cultures.
Ultimately, Maori-inspired digital art does not stray away from tradition because the essence of Maori designs is to capture a sense of place. In fact, technology continues to give more opportunities for people to experience this sense of place.