Israel Birch - Golden Oriori

Combining teaching at Massey University on the Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts programme and working as a full-time artist, Israel Birch (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahungunu) is focused on his dream of building his career and taking Māori art to the world.

This year, Israel Birch, who was a Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Scholarship recipient in 2005, has already had a solo exhibition, Golden Oriori, at the Page Blackie Gallery in Wellington and has a solo exhibition planned at Martin Browne Fine Art in Sydney in November.

Golden Oriori is Israel Birch’s second solo exhibition with the Page Blackie Gallery. He describes the exhibition as “a whānau of work that I have been working towards for two years now and it was the first time the series had come together to form an exhibition”.

“The inspiration first began just before our first daughter Cyan was born. We felt a need to compose an oriori for her, so some of the words from this oriori seemed to float into my practice and this series is currently the main focus of my work. This show is based on the practice of oriori and the creation process,” he says.

Israel recognises that being a recipient of the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Scholarship was an important step in building his career.

“It was a great honour to receive the scholarship because it was an acknowledgment that I was doing something good for Māori art. It was a real honour to be acknowledged amongst some of the best Māori artists, like the late John Bevan Ford, who was a mentor for me when I was doing my degree. Great things have happened after this, like being profiled on Māori Television’s Te Kete Aronui,” he says.