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Marti Friedlander

THE MOKO SUITE

February 8 - March 20, 2010

"In 1969 when I was working on a book on Maori tattooing, I at last met Marti at that year's Labour Party conference in Wellington. She had not long before photographed Rauwha Tamaiparea at Parihaka, in the company of Dick Scott, and she showed me some of those prints. I was overwhelmed with admiration. These were precisely the kinds of photos I had hoped to have for my own book. So I asked her if she would photograph other kuia moko for me, for what would become, for each of us, our first major publication.

Certainly I could not have been more fortunate than I was to meet Marti in 1969, at the very time that I was looking for a photographer-collaborator. The period we spent together on the road in 1970, photographing nga kuia i mokotia, was one of the most memorable experiences I have had in a thirty-year writing career. It turned a publishing idea into a publishable book. And it launched my career as an author.

I look now, with admiration and gratitude, at some of the photographs which emerged from that expedition.

Tepo Petera standing like a weathered stone in front of the wharenui and the Urewera forest that nourished and nurtured her; Karu Mohiti, who had walked with Te Kooti Rikirangi Te Turuki, sitting under the shadow of a balustrade only days before she died; Kirikino Kohitu, one of the official mourners at King Tawhiao's tangi, crouched on her bed in the dirt-floor whare she kept spotlessly clean with a manuka broom; and Rauwha, looking at us out of a past that had included living under the mana of Te Whiti O Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi.

Born into Te Ao Maori, wearing their moko like a diploma of accomplishment in that world, these women were exemplars of ways of living and thinking that had almost disappeared by the time Marti photographed them. But her photos capture the imprint of experience on their faces and their character, along with their dignity, their authority, their very ethos. They look back at Marti calmly and trustfully, woman to woman, some of them allowing themselves to be photographed for the first time in their long lives.

If I draw attention to these photographs, you will understand, it is because of my own association with the making and the taking of them. But there are so many others that engage and move me too, as they will do you:

I have no doubt that when our descendants want to know what kind of country New Zealand was in the twentieth century, what we did that distinguished us from other peoples, what we looked like, what our character was then one of the major sources for that kind of information and understanding will be the photographs of Marti Friedlander."


- Michael King

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