2007 Episode 12: Fiona Paddington / Poi | TV ONE SHOWS A-Z | TV ONE | tvnz.co.nz [an error occurred while processing this directive]
2007 Episode 12: Fiona Paddington / Poi
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Fiona Pardington

Since graduating from the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1984, Fiona Pardington has established herself at the forefront of a generation of New Zealand artists using photography as their principal medium.

She has specialised in 'pure' or analogue photographic darkroom techniques, most notably hand printing and toning.

"I just was completely enraptured by the passion and the visual sensuality of the black and white image and it's amazing ability to speak. It just was kind of love at first sight really," says Pardington.

Fiona's fields of investigation have been psychoanalysis, medicine, memory and the body, the history of the photographic image and the nature of the relationship between the photographer and subject. More recently museums have provided Fiona with the subject matter for her classic silver gelatin photographs.

Hei tiki, New Zealand birds, especially the lost huia, nests, and even humble shells collected by Ngai Tahu foodgatherers long ago have all become studies for her dark, monochromatic, stylised images, giving them a new life outside of the museum, and a new relavence as taonga for New Zealand.

In this episode of Artsville Fiona presents an informal retrospective of her wide body of work, and introduces us to some of the ideas which motivate and drive it.

  • Fiona Pardington was born in 1961 in Devonport, Auckland, and is of Scottish and Maori (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe) descent.
  • In 1984 she graduated from the University of Auckland School of Fine Arts with a Bachelors Degree specialising in Photography. She then graduated with an MFA (1st class honours) in Photography in 2003. Fiona began her doctorate in 2005.
  • She was the Moet & Chandon Fellow in 1990, was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow for both 1996 and 1997, was awarded the Visa Gold Art Award in 1997, and was the Artist in Residence at Auckland Unitec in 2001.
  • She has held many solo exhibitions, most recently in the new Musée de Quai Branly in Paris, in Valencia, Spain, and at Auckland's Two Rooms Gallery.


One of the most recognisable icons associated with Aotearoa around the world, the Poi is not just a ball on the end of a string.

Ngamoni Huata, of Tuhourangi-NgatiWahiao descent, shares the connection for Maori with this instrument and some of its basic elements, in a short documentary simply named Poi.

"We use the Poi as a medium for storytelling," says Huata. "It can give different levels of emotion depending on how you use it."

Huata derives from the people of the infamous Whakarewarewa Village in Rotorua. For more than a century the Poi has been an intrical part of the Tourist Scene developed by her predecessors.

In the film Huata shares the story behind the Poi 'Pakete Whero' which tells of a potential love between one of her ancestors from Whakarewarewa and a secret man.

She also retells one of the most famous stories of forbidden love between two ancestors of Te Arawa - Hinemoa and Tutanekai.

A modern master of Poi, Huata is also the author of The Rhythm and Life of Poi which is one of the very few written resources focused on the art and elements of Poi itself.

While there are numerous styles and stories that can be told by using the Poi as a symbolic instrument in performance, the documentary Poi looks at it's use in songs about love.

A small insight into one of the most unique icons of Aotearoa, Poi is just a taste of the beauty, style, grace and skill required and emulated in this Maori artform.

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