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A Poutokomanawa Bypass

Local artist Rosanna Raymond shares the poem written for the activation of a Maori ancestral figure, featured in our exhibition The Body Adorned.

A Poutokomanawa Bypass

Mate Manawa

A heart attack, discovery, recovery.
Pulse somewhat faint, but has a beat.

Been out of circulation for a while.
Hoarded, now in storage for referential data from a past mankind.

Somewhere is a house with no ancestral support
just a lonely heart.

No arms and legs, no eyes, no head
No threshold to enter…
No stomach, no ribs, no backbone
No steps to heaven or albatross tears
No birds of a feather to flock together

Genealogically
Muted
Paralysed
Archived
Institutionalised

Atrophied

What is left, is

A wooden heart,
pumping parched blood
straight out onto the floor

All soaked up with acid free tissue
some curatorial discourse
the intangible chattels left to the side

We are face to face
my nose pressed against yours

Hongi mai…we breathe in the ages

I smell violence

Where are
Your mountains
Your waters
Your people

I smell decimation

What was your name……your tribal affiliations?
Who was the man that carved you?
Where is your top knot?

Did they leave it behind along with
your adornments or did they get lost along the way
and, in whose gods’ name took your penis

I smell animation

You still have your deep grooves
A face etched with the land

Stout body
Arched back

Three pronged grasp
Territorial stance
Tattooed arse

I bring you gifts of

Aute…white will attract the gods
Raukura…treasured by the chiefs
Paua…so you can hide in the sea
Mako…valuable trade item for the other side

 

 

 

Engendered tenderness

ReactiVAte
Resuscitate,
Defibrillate,

Revive
 Alive
Thrive

Your beat goes on …

Listen, we sing to you, we call to you
our hearts beat with you
on behalf of you

Moe moe aa, rangatira ma
Haere raa, ka hoki mai ano

Rest well........We will be there to greet you again……keep that blood pumping.

Read Rosanna's account of the activation process, or read about her work with the museum in other blog posts.

Poutokomanawa

Rosanna Raymond, prominent artist of Samoan decent, explains here an ‘activation’ of the Poutokomanawa figure, recently de-installed from the Body Adorned exhibition at the Horniman.

Poutokomanawa

Pou - post        Toko - to support, prop up        Manawa - the heart of a person

I first met the Poutokomanawa at a meeting with George Nuku and the Wellcome Trust. We had been brought in as cultural advisors for their exhibition on Skin, and he had been in the Wellcome Collection but now resided at the UCL Anthropology teaching collections.

  • Rosanna Raymond with the Poutokomanawa, Local artist Rosanna Raymond arrived to perform a closing ceremony for this Maori craving after The Body Adorned closed.
    Local artist Rosanna Raymond arrived to perform a closing ceremony for this Maori craving after The Body Adorned closed.

He was to be displayed for his fine Tā Moko (tattoo). They had planned to exhibit him lying down, this we explained was highly inappropriate, akin to having him laying in state; he was used to standing, an ancestral figure, once supporting the central post for the Whare Tipuna (Ancestral house). Māori meeting houses are the embodiment of the ancestor, they are spaces for tribal gatherings, important meetings, funerals, celebrations, the poutokomanawa bears the weight for the tāhuhu (backbone). He is the heart, as each physical component of the house relates to a part of the human body.

Having worked with taonga (cultural treasures) for many years in museums, I was still stunned by this striking figure. He also brought out feelings I thought I had grappled with by working with museums, but he brought them all to the surface again. Therewas a real sense of violence and loss with him, you could see the saw marks, he seemed so isolated, naked, all we knew is who had bought him and where he resided now.

  • Poutokomanawa at UCL, This Maori carving was loaned to the Horniman by UCL Collections for The Body Adorned.
    This Maori carving was loaned to the Horniman by UCL Collections for The Body Adorned.


He would have once stood, the centre of his universe, fully adorned, most likely feathers and human hair in a top knot, which had been lopped off, along with his penis, maybe a piupiu (a type of kilt) or a korowai cloak to keep him warm, showing his status, and when I saw he had holes in ears I knew would have had something dangling from them. This is the moment I knew I wanted to help readdress him, re adorn him, show him someone cared, not so much an intervention but an acti.VA.tion…creating a space where we could came together activating the Va.

Va: Samoan term for space. It adheres time to space, this space not a linear space, or indeed an empty one, the Va is activated by people, binding people and things together

For me the real ‘art’ of my work is in the activation of the Va relationship with me and the collections, reinvigorating and revibing the taonga or measina through my body, they can live through me, the past and present sharing the same time and space, allowing the works to go, or be ingested outside the confines of the museum space or enclosure.

We've also shared the poem Rosanna wrote for the ceremony, A Poutokomanawa Bypass, on the blog.

Poutokomanawa on the Move

The Collections People Stories project has recently been working with local artist Rosanna Raymond. Rosanna is a well known performance artist of Samoan decent who has collaborated with a wide range of museums both here in the UK and internationally.

During January’s de-installation of The Body Adorned to make way for the current exhibition, Amazon Adventure, Rosanna visited the museum to carry out a ceremony for the Poutokomanawa figure, on loan to the museum from University College London.

  • Poutokomanawa, The Maori carving standing in The Body Adorned exhibition.
    The Maori carving standing in The Body Adorned exhibition.

The Poutokomanawa is a prominent ancestor figure, once placed at the heart of the Maori meeting house. Objects like these are much more than historical relics; they both represent and embody the ancestors and continue to have an active presence for many Maori communities today.

Rosanna has been a leading voice in Maori and Pacific cultural politics here in the UK, working closely with Ngati Ranana (London Maori Club).

  • Rosanna Raymond with the Poutokomanawa, Local artist Rosanna Raymond arrived to perform a closing ceremony for this Maori craving after The Body Adorned closed.
    Local artist Rosanna Raymond arrived to perform a closing ceremony for this Maori craving after The Body Adorned closed.

Since late 2011, the Horniman had been in conversation with Rosanna about her desire to undertake a closing ceremony for Poutokomanawa to safely send him back into storage at UCL. On the day, she recited a specially commissioned poem as he was being lifted from display into his packing box. When Poutokomanawa journeyed back to UCL a week later, he was greeted by Rosanna and her friend and colleague Jo Walsh and a group of UCL anthropology students and staff.

  • The Poutokomanawa returns to UCL, Rosanna Raymond greets this Maori carving as he returns to UCL
    Rosanna Raymond greets this Maori carving as he returns to UCL

Much of Rosanna's art work over the years has focused on re-activating taonga (Maori ancestral objects) in museums, giving them a new life and a new context, either through performance or re-adornment.

Rosanna's application and exploration of the Samoan concept of 'Va', the space between things and people, is particularly significant for museum practice. Museums, of course, are more than the objects they house; their ultimate rasion d'etre is to set in motion new activations between people and things, some planned, and even more unexpected.

We'll also be posting Rosanna's account of this activation process and the poem, A Poutokomanawa Bypass, shortly.

The Body Adorned - in numbers

Our new exhibition - The Body Adorned: Dressing London - opened on Saturday.

Here's a numerical look at the exhibition:

  • 1216 days since the exhibition was first proposed (3 years, 4 months - 40 months)
  • 365 objects in the exhibition
  • 373 years, duration of the Song Dynasty (from 906 - 1279 AD). The oldest (known) object in the exhibition dates from this period.
  • 289 days the exhibition will be open for, until 6 January 2012
  • 103 urban portraits taken by the project participants
  • 77 young people involved in the project
  • 68 charms on the Malian charm garment in the exhibition

    • Body Adorned 6, The amulets attached to this hunterâs garment represent the skill and experience of the hunter as well as providing protection for him during the hunt. The leather packets, many of which contain quotations from the Koran, show Islamic influence.
      The amulets attached to this hunterâs garment represent the skill and experience of the hunter as well as providing protection for him during the hunt. The leather packets, many of which contain quotations from the Koran, show Islamic influence.

     
  • 58 people in the exhibition's film installation by The Light Surgeons
  • 54 materials in the exhibition - for example, bamboo, feather, wood, gold, velvet
  • 53 countries where objects are in the exhibition come from
  • 48 cigarette cards
  • 27 prints
  • 22cm - length of the exhibition's smallest object - a brooch


     
  • 21 instruments relating to tattooing
  • 15 combs
  • 5 objects are already on display in Musuem - all the others come from our stored collections.
  • 4 American states are represented in the exhibition: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Pennsylvania
  • 4 areas of London in which the film installation was made: Brick Lane, Chelsea, The City, Peckham
  • 1 kilt
  • 1 wig
  • 1 walking stick

The Body Adorned exhibition launch

The launch for our new exhibition - The Body Adorned: Dressing London - took place last night with special guest Vivienne Westwood. Here are tweets and photos from the night.

 

Shopping with the youth panel

Our Body Adorned is one of many parts - it explores many different cultures, many different ways of adorning our bodies, and looks at history and the present in London.

One part of the exhibition which looks at contemporary ways of dressing in London is a number of wardrobe studies. Two of these wardrobes show what young people wear now and why.

A few weeks ago, our youth panel went shopping to Westfield in Stratford, along with exhibition co-curator Wayne Modest, to buy a series of outfits for the wardrobes.

Take a look at the video below to see a preview of what they bought.

Is there a London look?

  • Is there a London Look?, Selection of urban portraits from The Body Adorned exhibition
    Selection of urban portraits from The Body Adorned exhibition

These pictures are part of our new exhibition The Body Adorned which opens next month. The exhibtion explores how the ways we dress and style our bodies have become part of London life across times and cultures.

So, with London Fashion Week upon us, we've been wondering whether there is a London Look.

To think about this, our youth panel went out and about, to ask people "what is the London Look?"

Listen to the responses below - some people spoke about a individual, hipster look. Some people said that Londoners are not all the same, whereas others spoke about London style being casual, unique, multicultural.
 

What is the London look? (mp3)


We then spoke to some people involved in the fashion industry - menswear designer and blogger Nick Bain and stylist and blogger Sabrina Bangladesh.

They spoke about individuality, experimentation and how the social mix of London makes up the London Look.

 

What is the London look? (mp3)


Finally, The Body Adorned exhibition co-curator Wayne Modest discusses these ideas a little more - to think about whether there really is a London look.
 

What is the London look? (mp3)

 

So, what do you think? Is there a London look? What is the London look? 

Let us know by leaving a comment or tweet by clicking this link or tell us on facebook. We'll compile your answers together, to help define London's style.

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