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International Baccalaureate meets Māori culture

It may be the first time Māori culture meets the International Baccalaureate (IB), but for S’bree Barnes in Year 13 at ACG Senior College it was a natural choice to incorporate her culture into the curriculum.

“I didn’t think IB would know a lot about Māori culture, but I wanted to try,” she said.

S’bree’s portfolio of painting, sculpture and photography has just been on display at ACG Senior College’s IB Visual Art exhibition – the culmination of two years of work across multiple media.

It showcases the history of Māori art and culture through S’bree’s reckonings of mokomokai, korowai, manaia and tā moko; her own self-identity, family history and heritage; and the philosophy of Te Whare Tapa Whā – the four dimensions of Māori wellbeing.

She visually explores how Māori culture “has been battered and bruised through history,” citing as one example the banning of Te Reo in New Zealand from 1940 to 1970.

“Knowing the trials and constraints Māori culture continues to face drives me to incorporate and embrace it in my life as much as possible,” she said. “I feel a responsibility to educate people on the culture behind our beautiful country.”

‘Valuable’ is a work in which S’bree reconstructs traditional mokomokai – the preserved heads of warriors that became valuable trade items in the 19th century. Using clay to replicate the heads, she represents the preservation of culture, deflecting from the controversy of recent years surrounding the campaign to repatriate the mokomokai.

“I want it to mean something different, something positive and expressive, while still having a value aspect,” she explains.

‘Future’ is a tattoo she has designed to represent what she has learnt about herself and her culture while developing the portfolio. She says her part-time job will enable her to make the design reality once she has saved enough money.

IB’s Visual Arts curriculum calls for students to develop their theoretical, art-making and curatorial practice.

S’bree’s portfolio displayed passion, risk-taking, research proficiency and positivity and was one of this year’s most remarkable, said Art teacher Andrew Strachan, who described his student as gifted and passionate, with a humble and positive attitude.

“She showed she was prepared to take risks and proved she was capable of excellent outcomes with the theme she developed,” he said. “She is also a caring person with a humble and positive attitude to everything she does. She will be a contributor in the global world.”

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