The central theme of Jo Torr’s works is that of mutual cultural exchange between Polynesian and European peoples.
In Nga Kakahu, Torr explores the interrelation of Mäori cloaks and European blankets.
The works combine elements from two traditions of design resulting in spectacular garments.
Torr has referenced European female costumes of the 1880s, along with images from the Burton Brothers taken in 1885, of Māori wearing an array of costumes from traditional cloaks to woollen blankets and modified European dress.
The installation takes the form of 1880s style gowns constructed from cream blankets (a metaphor for dressed muka), adorned in a way that references cloaks from that period.
Her choice of material is deliberate.
Most of the blankets are salvaged from opportunity shops, each with its own history.
Each of the works are named for three types of cloaks held in high regard by Māori: the elegant and austere kaitaka; the korowai, adorned with black cords that move along with the wearer; and the ngore, decorated with pompoms or running loops.
Images courtesy of the artist and the Mark Hutchins Gallery. Photographer: Michael Hall.