Leilani Kake

Mata Ariki

Humankind shares one main connection that brings us together: our place within this vast cosmos and the reality of our mortality. From a Te Ao Māori perspective / Māori worldview, the natural world of the oceans, stars, moon, darkness, light, life and death are expressed through relationships of the personified elemental Atua / gods and goddesses. Mata Ariki also known as Matariki, symbolises the star cluster of Pleiades and the Māori new year. The name, Mata Ariki, also refers to eyes of the gods or little eyes.

In Māoridom, death is also communicated through natural phenomena and ritual, with the departed becoming spirit and eventually stars within the night sky.

Child deaths from abuse occur in all countries but New Zealand has a particularly high rate per capita. News headline images reveal tender bodies with wide innocent eyes snuffed out too soon. What was the last thing these children saw before they passed and are we able to reflect deeply at our own failures as a society and ensure a change for the better?

By applying Whaikōrero Hunga Mate (formal oratory speech), related to the dead and its metaphoric relationship with imagery of the environmental elements, my work Mata Ariki is a lamentation to the loss of our tamariki and rangatahi – children and teenagers.

Image credit: Video still, Mata Ariki (2018)

Leilani Kake (b. 1976) is a practising video installation artist and educator. Having exhibited broadly throughout New Zealand at venues including Auckland Art Gallery, City Gallery Wellington and Fresh Gallery Ōtara, Leilani has also featured in exhibitions in Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, Taiwan and the United States. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Auckland and is based in Otahuhu, South Auckland.

Kake has tribal affiliations to Ngāpuhi and Tainui in Aotearoa New Zealand, and Rakahanga and Manihiki, Cook Islands.