Nga Hau Ngakau

Robin Slow – Brian Flintoff – Bob Bickerton

Dates: March 2020 - Dec 2024

Nga Hau Ngakau
Ki te tangi a te manu e karanga nei
“Tui, tui, tuituia!”
Tuia i runga, tuia i raro, tuia i roto
Tuia i waho, tuia i te here tangata

Luminous paintings, intricately carved taonga puoro and beautiful music are woven together to form the extraordinary exhibition Nga Hau Ngakau (Breath of Mine). A collaborative installation between Robin Slow, Brian Flintoff and Bob Bickerton, this exhibition uses painting, sculpture and sound to explore the ideas of harmony, memory and storytelling. The sounds are arranged and recorded by Bob Bickerton with vocals and other taonga puoro by Ariana Tikao, Holly Weir-Tikao and Solomon Rahui. This collaborative art work is the result of decades of friendship and community service to the communities of Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Maui (the top of the South Island) and beyond. Their enduring relationship and shared philosophies are central to the concept of the exhibition and encourages viewers to consider their individual and collective identities, and, relationship to the environment.

Nga Hau Ngakau is an exhibition that evokes the form of the whare whakairo. This whare is dedicated to birds and named in honour of their song. This wharenui is principally a teaching space, informed by the artists’ respective, and extensive, careers in education. The exhibition includes images, sculptures and audio-visual representations of bird ancestors—each displaying their individual characters and exploring their respective mythologies. The paintings of Robin Slow are arranged to construct the architecture of the whare whakairo. Brian Flintoff’s taonga puoro represent the carving found in a whare whakairo. The waiata (song) and korero (narrative) that enlivens a whare whakairo occupied by people is provided by the soundscape of Bob Bickerton, incorporating bird song and recorded performances of taonga puoro. In this whare, the stories of nga manu can be told, lessons gained, and, further dialogue on the following subjects may be stimulated:
Whakapapa (geneaology)
Kaitiakitanga (guardianship)
Whanaungatanga (family and community relationships)
Maramatanga (awareness and understanding)
In Maori mythology manu (birds) are messengers that connect the physical and the spiritual realms. They fill the gallery not only through Robin Slow’s gleaming paintings but also in Bob Bickerton’s sound scape and Brian Flintoff’s carvings and taonga puoro (musical instruments). The exhibition acknowledges birds as atua tangata whenua—the original ancestors of these islands—who bear witness to our lives in this country. By honouring the ancient whakapapa (genealogy) of nga manu, this exhibition offers a different perspective to consider contemporary human experience in Aotearoa.
Creating bridges across space and time, the works in Nga Hau Ngakau break down the barriers between past and present through the overlapping of traditional and contemporary tools and techniques to reflect the continuum on which we exist with our world and our history. Stone and bone meet acrylic paint and gold foil to create a space inside and outside of time. Using kowhaiwhai as a base, the spiralling forms echo the cyclical relationship we have with the past.

Robin, Brian and Bob say of the installation
“Our kaupapa has been to work together, using painting… carving… music… to bind narratives that celebrate the forms and histories of the whenua (land). These narratives can be expressed by a spiral, kowhaiwhai, a bird’s song, a carved form, a woven kete – any symbol that may help reflect the saying, ‘Plait the rope that binds the past to the future’ ”.


Education, tours and performances
This exhibition is very appealing to education providers, in particular for LEOTC- all levels (curriculum linked education pack available); tertiary including Te Reo and English language; groups e.g. kapa haka, and for tours- tourists, clubs etc.
The artists are all from educational backgrounds, are effective communicators, and can play the taonga puoro featured in the exhibition.
Various performance options are offered in association with the exhibition ranging from a presentation in the exhibition space to a cinematic concert performance

The Artists
Ko Parapara te maunga
Ko Mohua te taki wa
Ko Te Tai Tapu te moana
Ko Te Waikoropupu te awa
Ko Onetahua te marae
Ko Te Ao Marama te whare
Ko Te Whanau o Mohua

Ko Robin Slow toku ingoa.
Robin Slow is an artist and educator. Robin was born in Blenheim (Wairau) and has lived and worked throughout Te Wai Pounamu as an art teacher. He undertook a Diploma of Teaching with an art major at Christchurch Teachers’ College going on to work in Christchurch, Twizel and Golden Bay. As the art teacher at Golden  Bay High School in Takaka for thirty-one years, Robin has taught generations of students of this region. Since 1991, Robin and his wife Rose, have worked as part of Te Wh?nau o M?hua to establish Onetahua Marae at Pohara, Mohua/Golden Bay. Robin was tasked with the design and layout of this innovative koru-shaped whare whakairo. In recent years, he has committed to full-time art practice with regular solo exhibition at galleries around Aotearoa. A recent highlight was designing and producing etched wooden k?whaiwhai pou (posts) that run through the foyer of the redeveloped Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatu along with motifs for the marae atea.

Brian Flintoff
Brian Flintoff is a carver and educator. He is a member of Te Haumanu, a group dedicated to the revival of taonga puoro, Maori musical instruments. Support and guidance from the Maori community has been the greatest influence and inspiration for his carving. He considers the most satisfying acknowledgement of this work is to have these accepted by many marae throughout Aotearoa, most prominently, at Onetahua marae in Golden Bay. His contribution to the revival of taonga puoro was recognised with the award of a Queens Service Medal in 2010, with his nomination supported largely by Maori.
In his work he aspires to the standards established by the ancestral artists, who strove for excellence in order to please the spirit world. An absorbing interest in the art of the West Coast Canadian First Nations people led him to research animal forms in Maori Art. This remains a focus through which he can express his love of, and concern for, nature.

Bob Bickerton
Bob Bickerton has a long history in the New Zealand music industry as a performer, educator, sound engineer and manager.
As a performer in schools, he presented education programmes, which included taonga puoro, to over 300,000 students around the country over a 30 year period.
His interest in the traditional instruments and enthusiasm to explore and record their sounds resulted in him working closely with Richard Nunns on a number of projects including Green Fire Islands and North South (also with Glenn Colquhoun), and several film scores for Kathleen Gallagher which also featured Aroha Yates-Smith. Bob was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list for services to music.

Nga Hau Ngakau is the third collaborative exhibition produced by these artists.

Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir, and Solomon Rahui
These whanau members add their expertise to Bob Bickerton in voice and with taonga puoro and combine songs they have created with others by Hirini Melbourne and John Poututerangi Stirling.

Ariana Tikao is a composer and performer of waiata in te reo Maori and English, as well as an exponent of taonga puoro. Ariana began writing waiata in the Kai Tahu dialect while studying at Otago University in the early ‘90s and started performing in 1993 with the folk group, ‘Pounamu’. She started her solo music career in the early 2000s and has become well known for her engaging live performances and critically acclaimed recordings. She has released three solo (Whaea, Tuia, and From Dust to Light), two collaborative albums, and several music videos, one of which (for her waiata ‘Tuia’) won an international award at the imagiNATIVE film + media festival in Toronto in 2009.
In 2015 Ariana was a soloist with the APO at the Auckland Arts Festival performing koauau and singing a karakia for Kenneth Young’s ‘In Paradisum’. She co-composed with Philip Brownlee, the first concerto for taonga puoro, ‘Ko te tatai whetu,’ which she also performed with the CSO for its world premiere in June 2015 and again with Stroma in 2017. The concerto was based around a traditional moteatea, which relays a southern version of the story of Hinetitama and Tane. In 2016 Ariana was a featured singer in John Psathas’s epic international collaboration ‘No Man’s Land’.

Holly Tikao-Weir
Ko Rapaki ratou ko Onuku ko Wairewa ko Koukourarata nga marae
No Horomako ia (Banks Peninsula)
Ko Kai Tahu ratou ko Kati Mamoe ko Waitaha, ko Kahungunu nga iwi
Ko Ngati Wheke, ratou ko Irakehu, ko Kai Tarewa nga hapu

Holly has completed a degree in Maori performing arts and has performed with the Kahurangi dance company. She was a professional performer and tour guide at Nga Hau e Wha marae and was a performer for the Tamaki village in Ferrymead in Christchurch. She has Performed with various kapahaka groups that have competed at Te Matatini and as well as kapahaka, she has performed as a vocalist with Ariana Tikao and Richard Nunns. She had recently recorded a whanau CD with Bob Bickerton.

Solomon Rahui
Ko Arowhenua raua ko Te Huinga o te Kura nga marae
Ko Tuhoe ratou ko Kai Tahu, kati mamoe ko Waitaha nga iwi
Ko Kati Huirapa raua ko Ngai Tama Tuhurae nga hapu

Solomon is a highly experienced performer and teacher of Maori performing arts and as well as featuring at Nga Hau e wha marae, has performed kapahaka at Te Matatini. He has performed with Ariana Tikao and Richard Nunns and has recorded a whanau CD with Bob Bickerton.

Public Programmes – Education

  • Exhibition is highly appealing and relevant for education providers: for LEOTC years1-13; tertiary- including Te Reo; English as a second language
  • Educational materials: LEOTC programmes that ran at The Suter plus extensive artists’ working sketches, stories, notes are available
  • An additional offering is to arrange a performance of the highly acclaimed presentation by  Ariana Tikao, Bob Bickerton, Holly Tikao-Weir and Solomon Rahui. the musicians who created the video in put the booklet together, playing and singing with the video as a backdrop.

Audio visual

This video gives an overview of the exhibition as it was presented at the Suter gallery

This is the video which is played as an integral part of the exhibition.



The exhibition Nga Hau Ngakau has been one of the most successful publicly enjoyed shows held at The Suter Art Gallery in the last decade.  From the opening night where the crowd overflowed the gallery, the show entranced people who returned again and again to receive more from its gifts.
These were not simply displayed art works sitting singularly to be viewed one after another but rather one complete enveloping installation that immersed the visitor in its world of dark glowing paintings, complex carved taonga puoro and beautiful music.
It certainly did not feel as if it had been curated by a single mind but rather its elements had grown together into an inviting room or better still “womb” of energy that evoked timeless forces of nature.
Craig Potton, Photographer, Publisher, Chairperson Suter Art Gallery 

It is nearly fifty years now since I first engaged with the creative genius of Brian Flintoff and I have observed with affection the gentle trajectory over which his art has evolved through those years. A major feature of that evolution has been his capacity to associate  his work with the creative endeavour  of others – in pounamu and other stone, in music both -traditional and contemporary . This gift for collaboration reflects a respect for other creativities and sets aside solitary artistic egotism in favour of a joyous explosion of variant insights fuelled by a surging generosity of spirit.
This exhibition, ‘Nga Hau Ngakau’, reflects the capacity of a group of friends to manifest a creative totality greater than the mere sum of the whole. The music of Ariana and her whanau, Bob’s music and its associated images, are all framed against the uncompromising presence and raw  power of Robin’s paintings. Brian’s smaller treasures adorn the breast – truly, as the title suggests, – a new way of breathing!
Ta Tipene O’Regan.  Vice chancellor (Maori) University of Canterbury, former chairman Ngai Tahu Maori Trust Board

“Bob Bickerton’s music for the Nga Hau Ngakau exhibition reflects the depth of experience he has with taonga puoro. Bickerton has worked closely with Richard Nunns, whose pioneering work alongside Brian Flintoff and the late Hirini Melbourne was in large part responsible for the extraordinary contemporary renaissance in the use of taonga puoro in many genres of music.

In this exhibition three artists in painting, sculpture and music take the viewer on a journey through a magical world of image and sound, reflecting their kaupapa of collaboration and a deep respect for the avian subject matter. The bird calls, through evocative sound and music are beautifully integrated with the paintings and the intricately sculpted instruments by Flintoff, one of Aotearoa’s most respected makers of taonga puoro.”
Elizabeth Kerr. Music writer and broadcaster 

Artistic and heartfelt experiments with matauranga Maori continue to grow with the work of dedicated artists Brian Flintoff, Bob Bickerton and Robin Slow with support from Ariana Tikao and whanau. An indigenous approach to life has much to offer us – a soulful way of being in the world, deep connections with natural world environments, an holistic engagement with life. I commend the ongoing commitment of these artists to this pathway – particularly Brian Flintoff who has been at the forefront of the renaissance of taonga p?oro for many years. Long may this adventure continue.
… go see ‘Nga Hau Ngakau’, breathe it in, experience it, love it.
Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal. Researcher and consultant on indigenous knowledge

Tena Koutou,
From 2 December 2017 until 20 January 2018 the Aigantighe Art Gallery had the privilege of hosting the exhibition, Nga Hau Ngakau. The exhibition wove together paintings, carvings, and music in an immersive installation. The artists portrayed sounds and markings to celebrate the forms and histories of the whenua and manu  – creating artworks that symbolise aspects of events and people in our histories, while also reflecting on where we are in this moment.
The exhibition was extremely well received by the community and our visitors -during the time of its display, the Gallery received over 2500 visitors during the seven-week period. Many visitors praised the exhibition, some describing it as ‘beautiful’ or ‘breath taking’, and one visitor described the exhibition as a ‘timely reminder of the importance of the natural world we live in and our responsibility to care for it’.
Overall, the exhibition appealed to a wide audience, but also provided a gateway for visitors to consider the importance of whenua, manu, and taonga puoro in Maori and New Zealand Culture.
The exhibition also provided a wonderful opportunity to work with the local tangata whenua. In the lead-up to, and during the course of, the exhibition, the Gallery engaged with Te Runanga o Arowhenua (the principal Maori kainga of South Canterbury) who praised the exhibition and were very supportive of the artists, exhibition and the Gallery.

Throughout the whole exhibition process, the artists, Robin Slow, Brian Flintoff, and Bob Bickerton, were professional, timely and a joy to work with. I fully endorse Nga Hau Ngakau to any cultural institution who is considering hosting the exhibition. 
Hamish Pettengell
Curator, Acting Art Gallery Manager 

Nga Hau Ngakau is a multi-disciplinary collaborative touring exhibition which features paintings by Mohua based artist Robin Slow, taonga puoro made by master carver Brian Flintoff and a soundscape produced by Bob Bickerton. The kaupapa which explores aspects of Te Ao Maori is a hikoi where the artists explore the concept of personified manu (birds) to tell human stories old and new through visual, tactile and sonic elements. The work opened Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom in Foxton in December 2018 with a moving ceremony that included the creative team and live musicians.
Rose Campbell. Creative NZ

Please direct expressions of interest to:
Mark Roach
Exhibition Services Tours
027 4998952

Artists contacts:
Brian Flintoff:
Bob Bickerton:
Robin Slow: