Mānawatia Takatāpui / Defending Plurality is an ambitious exhibition developed by artist and activist Shannon Novak for Tauranga Art Gallery. In it, Novak presents an expansive floor-based installation, which spans the ground level atrium and spills into nearby interior and exterior spaces. The visually jarring large-scale artwork is formed from Novak’s bold and colourful abstractions and takes cues from the ever-evolving vocabulary of the LGBTQI+ community.
The exhibition spans into the Gallery’s Level 2 spaces where Novak takes an artist-curator role, allowing him latitude to both explore his broader interests as an artist and to make space for others in the rainbow community. This section of the exhibition centres a range of LGBTQI+ practitioners from Aotearoa, with a particular focus on rainbow BIPOC that may or may not identify with the LGBTQI+ acronym, including but not limited to Takatāpui and MVPFAFF+. The curated selection of works provides a focused cross-section of leading multi-generational and multi-disciplinary artists, including Paul Darragh, Russ Flatt, Alicia Frankovich, Tanu Gago, Brent Harris, Telly Tuita, Aliyah Winter and Cao Xun.
In the lift and the nearby Cube gallery, Novak brings other voices into the show, including a project developed with members of the local rainbow community and new works dedicated to two additional LGBTQI+ figures, Taranaki-based Colleen White and Tāmaki Makaurau- based activist Eliana Rubashkyn. Throughout the show, the exhibition moves offsite into public spaces around Tauranga and beyond. This series of additional artist interventions and collaborations are aligned with Novak’s advocacy work in the Safe Space project, which seeks to help people identify, navigate, and create safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community worldwide, with a view to encourage individuals, businesses, and organisations to connect with, celebrate and support this community. The exhibition is Tauranga Art Gallery’s Signature Show for 2021 through its ambitious scale and active engagement with both artists and the wider community.