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Waikato artists are championing the fight for unity through works of art that speak powerful messages of hurt, sorrow, hope and strength. The creative works aim to spark crucial conversations against racism and fuel the narrative for kotahitanga.

Kotahi te kohao o te ngira e kuhuna ai te miro ma, te miro pango, te miro whero

In 1858, when Kiingi Pootatau Te Wherowhero uttered those famous lines of the whakatauki during his installation as the first Maaori sovereign (Ariki), he spoke in the presence of Tainui and the great Tuuwharetoa Rangatira (Chief), Iwikau Te Heuheu. Those words still ring out to us all today. They are words possessing the same urgency and potency today; encouraging a spirit of peaceful solidarity. The operative word in this whakatauki (proverb) is kotahi. Kotahi — literally as one, or, together. Kotahitanga is the action of gathering together in a spirit of unity.

Creative Waikato Toi Waikato has taken up the challenge of Kiingi Pootatau. With the launch of a new initiative: Kotahitanga Through Creativity. Its kaupapa speaks plainly about the vision of Creative Waikato, to build a sense of whanaungatanga or family and unity through the artistic offerings of artists, poets, carvers, ceramicists, designers, music and performance in the Waikato. At this very point in post-Covid-19 history when the world stood still in unity, in the face of Black Lives Matters in the United States and the world standing in solidarity, there could not be a better time to start Kotahitanga Through Creativity.

Let us, of all cultures and creeds in Tainui rohe, honour Tangata Whenua through the observance of the words of Te Arikinui Pootatau Te Wherowhero, and all work toward going through the eye of this point in history, together.

Leafa Wilson

Art curator, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato