Fifty top indigenous artists from North America, the Pacific and Australia have spent the past week working alongside leading Maori artists in a cross-cultural celebration of creativity.

The results of that intensive week of sharing and collaboration under a large marquee at Kohewhata Marae, south of Kaikohe, will be shown at Toi Ngapuhi, an exhibition forming one of the highlights of this weekend's Ngapuhi Festival.

Among the artists taking part in Kokiri Putahi, the seventh International Indigenous Artists Gathering, is Tommy Joseph of southeastern Alaska's Tlingit people. When the Advocate called in, he was working on a warrior helmet in the form of a bear's head carved from totara with whalebone teeth, as last used by his people in a battle against the Russians in 1804.

Mr Joseph said the gathering was a chance to meet master artists from around the Pacific Rim, work together and learn about each other's cultures.As it was his third gathering, it was also a chance to catch up with old friends.


Organising committee member Manos Nathan, of Te Roroa and Greek descent, said the artists invited to take part were chosen for their skill as well as their standing in their communities and ability to network.

"So the things they learn will be spread further once they return home, so many more people benefit," he said.

Mr Nathan said Native American cultures were especially well represented with artists from the desert pueblos of the south to the coastal peoples of Alaska. Disciplines included sculpture, carving, painting, print-making, ceramics, jewellery, adornment, weaving and ta moko.

Toi Ngapuhi opened in the Northland College gym on Wednesday evening and runs until Sunday. It will feature a wide range of work by 140 artists, with the visiting indigenous artists joining established and emerging artists from around Aotearoa.

Te Runanga-a-iwi o Ngapuhi chairman Raniera Tau said the exhibition had built up an international standing so was now able to attract most of the big names in the Maori art world.