The Wairau Māori Art Gallery in the Hundertwasser is a dedicated space for contemporary Maori art.
There's no other public gallery space in the country set up like it. Over time, it will undoubtedly make a splash in the Māori art world and the wider New Zealand art scene.
So it's a big deal. And it's here in Whangārei.
Appropriately, the first exhibition includes work by artists with connections to Ngā Puhi.
There are paintings by Ralph Hotere and Selwyn Muru, documentary photos by John Miller, and delicate installations by Maureen Lander and Te Hemo Ata Henare using harakeke (flax).
Many of the works reference the importance of water to Māori.
One of Leilani Kake's digital collages combines a mouth, a moko-tattooed chin and Otuihau Whangārei falls, thus connecting culture and the natural world in a striking image.
Emily Karaka's large, vibrant and wonderfully tactile painting, Pepeha, has the visual qualities of a landscape and a protest. Words, flags, hills, water, waka, and feather cloaks compete for attention. The painting confronts and creates tension rather than easing it.
Completely different in appearance are the highly refined and polished 2D images by Israel Tangaroa Birch. The circular marks on steel underneath a clear lacquer creates a shifting visual effect when you move in front of the works. It's not unlike the play of light on the constantly changing surface of a body of water.
One image is the familiar Tino Rangatiratanga flag. The other is a concentric circle design that references the Earth, Moon and Sun in alignment, which is when we get spring tides.
This alignment in the natural world brings about a "sea-change", the water reaching its highest point on the shore every two weeks.
As I interpret it, the metaphor here is that if we pay attention to aligning things in the social and natural world, we can achieve a "sea-change" also.
Birch's work has other layers of meaning, I'm sure, but this idea of alignment bringing about a transformation is a metaphor I'm now grateful for.
The stand out artwork, however, for me, was one that you can overlook. It's a video piece by Nova Paul that's as subtle and beautiful as a Monet waterlily painting.
Projected directly on the gallery wall are images filmed at Paul's home marae at Poroti.
There's no haka, no hongi, no korero inside a wharenui, or lingering shots of whakairo or tukutuku. Rather, Paul has chosen to highlight the everyday life of the marae.
Preparing food in the kitchen. Setting up tables for a shared meal. Kids playing and sunbathing by a stream with a dog. Young men working on their motorbikes outside a shed. People sitting around chatting, drinking cups of tea. Kids playing swingball with a cow in the background.
This could be all too mundane. Instead, what keeps you engaged is the film technique Paul has used, refracting the scenes into translucent pinks, blues, yellows and greens, which overlap and gently distort her original footage.
It's trippy, though not in a heavy "that's groovy" kind of way. It's more refined than that.
The moving images are layered, so human figures move over the top of each other, going about their everyday work in the whare kai, being one example.
The effect is to take these very real people "out of time". They're ghost-like, existing now, in the past, and in the future.
One day the people in the film will be gone, becoming actual ancestors, as time in this one place continues to flow.
Other beautiful sequences include a curtain blowing in the wind in front of a window. The branches of a sparsely leafed old tree moving gently in the breeze. While carrot weed, I can say, has never looked so beautiful.
The 20-minute film is accompanied by a subdued soundtrack of Ben Tawhiti playing Whakarongo Mai on slide and steel guitar.
Paul describes her work as a "love song to her whanau". Being great art, it's also a love song to the human spirit.
When the words 'THIS IS NOT DYING' suddenly appear as part of the film, the only time text is used, it's dramatic. Instantly forcing us to reflect further on what we've been watching, which is a culture and way of life very much enduring.
In our attention-grabbing world, Paul's quiet film demands a different kind of attention.
Taking the opportunity to slow down and view these ordinary but extraordinary images of life at Poroti Marae is, in my estimation, a kind of spiritual experience.