Wairarapa News : January 16th 2013
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By ANNE TAYLOR As 21 December 2012 approached, the media embarked on frenzy of stories about the imminent end of the world, often derisive with details of suicides and other extreme acts that were due to take place (generally in the West) in response to a global catas- trophe. The facts about the Maya Long Count calendar and its signifi- cance in Central and South Amer- ican culture were almost lost. Artist, naturopath and anthro- pologist Tania Williams was among a minority in New Zealand with a broader grasp of the day's significance -- the start of a new, possibly more spiritually enligh- tened era. The day was celebrated with large parties in Mexico, Guata- mala, Belize and Honduras, areas once part of the Mayan empire which had its peak from 250 to 900AD. The day also marked the opening of her exhibition Maya 2012 Portals of Infinity at Aratoi. The Long Count spanned a 5125-year period and the Mayan calendar is described as one of the most complex calendars in exist- ence. The Maya believe in cyclical time rather than the Western con- cept of linear time,'' said Tania, whose interest in Mayan culture dates back to her childhood. I was always on the side of the Indians whenever I watched cow- boy films.'' Educated in Norway and Aust- ralia, she has degrees in natur- opathy and anthropology, and worked as an artist on the King Kong film set, taking trips back to Latin America when time allows. She runs art classes in Wai- rarapa, and is offering a workshop on Maya Mandalas later in the year. She is also studying at Wel- lington's film school, developing skills which will further a present project -- a documentary on indi- genous medicine and healing in which she interviews a Maori healer from Masterton, a shaman living in New Zealand, along with Peruvian, Andian and Mexican healers. A deep respect for indigenous cultures informs this exhibition and her wide-ranging career to date. I feel a responsibility to make people aware of the knowledge of indigenous cultures throughout the world and of what they can offer us . . . For example, it's inter- esting to note that the Maya built and sustained an urban civilis- ation in a rain forest environment for more than 2000 years while our advanced' modern civilisation has managed to almost completely destroy that rain forest in less than 50 years.'' She said she has always been instinctively drawn to arches and entrances, which are often monu- mental and extremely ornate in ancient Mayan architecture. I now understand it's because they represent the journey from one space, sphere and time to another.'' Mountains, caves, and pools of water have also been regarded as portals to other worlds by ancient cultures, and these are also recur- ring themes in her exhibition of digital montages, paintings and prints. In Mayan culture, sha- mans acted as intermediaries between the earth and mystical levels. Shamans move freely from the ordinary world to deal directly with gods and ancestors to bring cosmological and social balance to the world,'' said Tania. While most of the exhibition focuses on Mayan imagery, her digital Ancestral Portal references her great-grandfather the sur- veyor Captain William Mein Smith, a respected friend of Chief Tamahau Mahupuku of Papawai. Mein Smith is remembered in one of the carved figures that decorate the pa. I would like to see my art as a celebration and a reminder of the magic that exists in all of life, both ancient and modern,'' she said. Those interested in Tania's workshops can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org. Maya 2012 Portals of Infinity, until February 3; The Crystal Chain Gang -- Fancy Fools Flight, until March 17; Additions -- recent acquisitions to the collection, until March 15; Bridget Reweti - What are you looking at? until February 1.
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