Warren Maxwell – Kia tūhono ki te Taiao; Re-connecting to the Natural World (02/07/2021 – 31/07/2021)

poster WEB copy
'Splayed Strings' Totara Dulcimer - W.Maxwell MFA, 2020. copy
Credit Dan Wilkinson
Credit Jason O'Hara
Melodies from Mountains Remutaka & Tararua (Digital Images & Composition, 2019)
poster WEB copy'Splayed Strings' Totara Dulcimer - W.Maxwell MFA, 2020. copyCredit Dan WilkinsonCredit Jason O'HaraDSC00044DSC00045DSC00046DSC00047DSC00048DSC00049DSC00050DSC00051DSC00052DSC00055Melodies from Mountains Remutaka & Tararua (Digital Images & Composition, 2019)

Please join us to mark the opening of Kia tūhono ki te Taiao; Re-connecting to the Natural World, by Warren Maxwell (Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti Rakaipaaka, Ngāti Tūkairangi).


Of this project, its context, and his creative background, Warren observes:

Over the past 30 years, my music whakapapa has been nurtured, layered and heavily influenced by the ubiquitous, juggernaut of western pop and jazz idioms. I studied Jazz performance and composition through N.Z. School of Music on saxophone and went on to have a relatively, successful career via Roots/Soul/Jazz/Blues Fusion groups Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Little Bushman. But in recent years, I have found myself gravitating and re-balancing music contributions through my taha māori; through redressing this unbalanced mono-weave of a Pakeha/Māori matrice – me. This very personal direction of cultural investigation and growth has brought to light some philosophical questions around political and cultural bias of the heavily pop weighted N.Z. music industry and music pedagogies in N.Z. Schools/Institutes, as well as a cultural responsibility to remind ourselves of the expressive, explorative, narrative based freedoms that should inspire music and artistic creation.

(Totara Dulcimer & Video – Wairarapa Moana, 2019)

I connected with ‘Koro’ while walking along the shores of Wairarapa Moana, close to where I live. He was half submerged in the sand, but I could see his concave, ancient hull shape buried for what I imagine had been a very long time. I wondered what events he might have seen in his ‘hay-day’. So I asked him if he wanted to come home with me and recount some of his memories. We’ve been together for a couple years now; played at the Auckland Town Hall, Massey University in Wellington and even did a gig in Turanganui ā Kiwa (Gisborne) together. I love seeing how people react to him and play with him. He’s a gentle old soul and has a different song every day. I love how unique he is and how he came from Te Wao-nui-a Tāne. I am sure he will return there one day as well.

Ngā Kōhimuhimu ō Paetumokai ō Tauira
Whispers from Featherston
(Composition, 2020)

This composition is a based on local stories from around the area of Featherston where I now reside with my family. Local Wairarapa historian, environmentalist and kaumatua, Rawiri Smith (Ngāti Muretu) agreed to share these stories to be embedded into this composition to demonstrate Iwi taketake (indigenous) methodology of retaining knowledge by embedding narrative into song format. Verse one speaks of the Tatau Pounamu (peace agreement) between Wairarapa Iwi and Wellington Iwi in early 19th century. Verse two speak of a cave in the western hills of South Wairarapa where Rangatira would prove their chiefly prowess by jumping as high as possible and slapping their hand print on the cave wall. Verse three speaks of Hine Tauira, sister to Te Rerewa, who helped bring peace to Wairarapa region mid 17th century.

Melodies from Mountains
Remutaka & Tararua
(Digital Images & Composition, 2019)

These works originated from a korero with a kaumatua when touring during the 90’s with N.Z Reggae funk band ‘Southside of Bombay’. I was listening to him talking about the ‘old people’ from Wanganui region and he mentioned that some melodies were inspired by the contour of the nearby mountains. I have since learned that Te Taiao (Natural World), events and Māori Cosmology were hugely influential on early Māori composition and performance.

These pieces are the scores of ‘Remutaka’ and ‘Tararua’ mountain ranges where I live. The silhouetted mountain ranges, reminiscent of paralaxic shadow puppetry, define the melody and score (Ancient Geo-Graphic scores).


Warren Maxwell has been a professional musician and composer for the better part of two decades. He is an Associate Professor at Massey University in Composition and Performance and in 2016 was inducted into the Institute’s prestigious ‘Hall of Fame’. Maxwell has composed for film and television (notably in recent times for the 2021 film adaptation of Patricia Grace’s novel, Cousins), and performed at numerous Festivals Internationally.

Warren composes and produces from his own recording studio in the beautiful South Wairarapa. In 2018 Warren was commissioned to compose the opening of the N.Z. Arts Festival in Wellington, celebrating Traditional Polynesian Ocean Navigation which included a 300 piece choir. The event was attended by 20,000 strong audience and recently won ‘Best Arts or Cultural Event 2018’ for the New Zealand Events Awards.

In October 2016 he was invited to Antarctica as part of Antarctica N.Z’s ‘Artist Community Outreach Programme’. Since then, Warren has campaigned fervently around environmental issues focusing his composition and research around environmental connections (Tūhonotia ki te Taiao) and the impending Anthropocene.


Opens: Friday 2 July, 5.30pm (with refreshments from Liberty Brewing Company)
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 4pm
Closes: Saturday 31 July