Nikau Gabrielle Hindin (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa) is an artist based in Tūranganui a Kiwa (Gisborne) who, just as New Zealand went into isolation, learned she had received the 2020 $10,000 Dame Doreen's Gift from the Blumhardt Foundation. Hindin, who is reviving aute (Māori bark cloth), has exhibited in several group shows including Koloa: Women Art and Technology at Para Site Gallery in Hong Kong last year and at Tim Melville Gallery in Auckland earlier this year. She also created the cover work for the 2019 landmark publication Crafting Aotearoa. The gift has provided security in a time of uncertainty, allowing Hindin to focus on producing new work for an exhibition at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt.

How was lockdown for you? I am privileged to say it's been a positive time for me. As an artist, I work in isolation most of the time and rarely go into town, so it's a lot like normal life. But since the country went into isolation, it feels like my studio has been filled up. My friends and family are a noisy bunch but my studio has never been so fun. I've been making sourdough, going for walks along the beach, having zoom catchups, engaging a lot with people on Instagram (@nikaugabrielle).

It was really amazing to receive this award because it was completely unexpected. It's nice to have this recognition from the art community; it's encouraging for me to know that people care about the kaupapa and the topics I'm exploring.

What have you been working on? I've been painting and beating aute pieces for my first solo show at the Dowse, which will open when we get to level 1. Kōkōrangi ki Kōkōwai is about bringing celestial bodies into the physical and documenting the movement of stars to find direction (star navigation) but also as cues for our monthly cycles. Our months are named after different stars and through my star maps, I'm trying to document and understand this better. The Gregorian calendar is an imposed system of time that has limited our ability to read tohu (signs) in our environment. This isolation period has been an opportunity for people to experience time in a different way; the art of observation is really underrated.

Artist Nikau Gabrielle Hindin is reviving the art of aute (Māori bark cloth making and adornment). Photo / Tara Rock (@ladyslider)
Artist Nikau Gabrielle Hindin is reviving the art of aute (Māori bark cloth making and adornment). Photo / Tara Rock (@ladyslider)

What have you been listening to?

Audiobooks! Braiding Sweetgrass by First Nations Potawatomi woman Robin Wall Kimmerer. The way she weaves botany with indigenous science and storytelling is beautiful, I've learned so much. I also love listening to her read the book, it is meditative and I often listen as I paint.

What have you been watching? I've been enjoying the incredible reo Māori content produced by the Facebook page Kura Mō Ngā Mokopuna, which has a weekly schedule of stories, games, songs, art activities for children and their parents to do while schools are closed. It might be focused towards kids but I really enjoy it too. It is wonderful to see the community offerings of knowledge from all over the country. I've also been watching the bilingual Zoom wānanga series called Te Kōkōmuka.

What are you looking forward to about life after lockdown? I really miss my mum, who is in Auckland. We have been talking on Zoom a lot, we have had to find the positives in this new way to communicate. I also miss my friends and working with other artists. There are some amazing weavers and artists down here and I love to wānanga and work alongside other makers.