#TeTairāwhitiAF Artist Feature – Mel

Melanie Tangaere Baldwin

Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine       

Mel is an accomplished and award-winning, multi-disciplinary artist, based right here in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa.

Her mahi toi is largely focused on Mana Wahine and Te Ao Māori, with themes that challenge the stereotyping of indigenous people and bring to light the effects of settler colonialism for greater discussion and conversation.

Mel says, “I try to make my art accessible and relevant but always educational in some way. I want people to be able to learn more about what it means to be us.”

The paintings of artist and scholar John Hovell had a huge influence on her art practice. Mel grew up between Te Aute, Murupura, and also Botswana, amongst her close-knit whānau. She spent time in Auckland and Melbourne before relocating to Gisborne – establishing herself as an educator, lecturing in Te Toi o Ngā Rangi – Bachelor of Māori Visual Art programme at Toihoukura, and working alongside Dr. Brett Graham and Steve Gibbs while completing her Te Hono ki Toi – Master of Creative Practice.

A mother of two, Mel has a passion for contemporary Māori art, for understanding Māori art in context and for encouraging young Māori artists to look and feel safe beyond outside perceptions of what and who they are and what they make.

Alongside fellow practitioner Nikora Te Kahu, Mel currently operates ‘HOEA! Gallery and Project Space’, the only artist-run initiative in Aotearoa created and operated exclusively by wahine Māori. Championing indigenous mahi, she has also established a mentor program for Māori creatives, encouraging them to experiment and move their own waka forward, and experience contemporary Toi Māori in all its different forms.

Mel is the curator for Te Ara I Whiti 2021, bringing together and guiding 12 artists to create a spectacular experience of light installation and sculpture that will illuminate the amazing talent and taonga connected to our region. She presents sculptures Nightclubbing and Bloodlight and Poutama.