Mandy Cherry Joass graduated from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 2015 with of a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in sculpture. While studying she won a number of prizes and scholarships. In her current practice she is using raranga (weaving) as a metaphor to explore themes relating to postcolonial identity.
Joass is expanding on traditional Maori imagery, techniques and materials to acknowledge the dichotomous accounts of these early interactions, which when woven together form the fabric of a bicultural society. She is a descendant of the first European settlers to arrive in New Zealand and also of Ngapuhi Whakapapa, and she expresses her biculturalism through her work.
Joass explains that the contrasts and tensions created by using disparate materials, harakeke and aluminium, or granite, steel and korokoi, for example, represents the complex interweaving of western cultures from the age of the industrial revolution and of Maori people from the Stone Age.
Recently she has begun exploring the cross form, both woven and constructed, in a variety of materials. The multi-directionality of the six pointed cross speaks of the non-linear nature of Maori Toi, whanau, spirituality, and emphasises points of intersection and departure. The form plays visual tricks as the angle of view changes. Just as accounts of our cultural history change depending on the viewpoint.
Her work for Tai Tapu Sculpture Garden 2017 takes the form of a bus shelter housing a sound work: an unpractised poi and a cloud of 100 poi suspended over head.
Poi for performance and play, originated from harakiki ki (small flax basket) made to carry Moa eggs. The ki was also used as a training device to enhance agility and coordination for battle. Joass’s aim is to encourage a fun interaction with Maori culture and to momentarily draw the viewer away from the modern digital devices which dominate our lives.