Ahi Mahana
Sutton Projects



An exhibition with Renee Cosgrave at Sutton Projects in Naarm/Melbourne, March 2019.

Ahi Mahana is a term that describes those who live away from the kāinga, meaning "home" or more specifically "where the fire burns", but they now and again return to put some wahie (firewood) on the ahi (fire). Renee Cosgrave (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) and Sean Miles (Ngāti Raukawa) use this term as a basis to link their experiences of being Māori diaspora and reflect on their positioning within this concept. This exhibition comes from a year-long kōrero between the two artists, discussing their feelings and thoughts related to whānau (family), whenua (land), Māoritanga (culture) and whakapapa (genealogy).

Renee's work is concerned with abstract painting - exploring colour, gesture, repetition and her identity. Her works for 'Ahi Mahana' explore her whakapapa and are dedicated to her dad. Two abstract paintings were created, one represents her Pākehā grandfather William Leonard Bissett and the other represents her Māori grandmother Manuhira Jean Rawhiti.

Sean uses queer methods of storytelling such as drag to connect with familiar attitudes in archetypes and ancient legends that exist within a time and space beyond Western, colonial, heteronormative binaries. Through this process, they celebrate and revel in moments of empowerment, liberation, subversion and resistance. Sean's work for 'Ahi Mahana' is inspired by the trickster, shape-shifter and culture hero Māui, in particular, their great feat of trickery in which they deceived Mahuika to bring ahi to the people.