Taika Waititi said at the Oscars that indigenous people are “the original story tellers” and Johnny Moetara loves nothing more than giving people the skills to tell those stories through art.
Johnny teaches the Level 4 Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Arts programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Gisborne and says art is a fantastic medium for storytellers.
“You can say what you’ve got to say through the medium of visual arts,” he says.
“The way we tell stories is unique to us and we all have unique stories to tell.”
The 38-week course is at an introductory level and students explore a range of artistic mediums.
“It’s a mixed-media offering of drawing, painting, print making, relief work, there’s a wide range of art mediums you can try.”
He says the course is ideal for those still learning about different art mediums before specialising in one.
“We get tauira who have already learnt their own style to others who have never touched art before but are interested, or not touched art since school. A lot of non-Maori come to learn more about the area,” he says.
He says many students use art as a way of exploring their own identity.
“A lot of people don’t know who they are and are interested in learning about themselves but are sometimes too whakamā to ask, or they’re separated from their whānau, all that stuff is part of their story and we provide a safe space to explore ourselves and our stories.”
“If I have 20 tauira (students), I’ll get 20 different perspectives on any particular kaupapa. It’s awesome, we’re all so different.”
The course is noho-based, held over 10 weekends throughout the year with evening tutorials held during the week, which enable people to attend after work.
And there’s no need to have an artistic background to enrol.
“You just need a story to tell.”