Biennale of Sydney

John Miller and Elisapeta Heta

John Miller. Evening supper tables, Dining hall, Te Kaha-nui-a-tiki marae, Te Kaha, North Island, New Zealand, during Nga Puna Waihanga Conference, June, 1993.

John Miller
Born 1950 in Auckland, Aotearoa / New Zealand
Lives and works in Auckland and other areas throughout Aotearoa / New Zealand

Elisapeta Heta
Born 1987 in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, Aotearoa / New Zealand
Lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland


John Miller (Ngāpuhi) a tohunga kaiwhakaahua (photographer) has been creating work since the late 1960s. Miller’s best-known work, has been the documentation of radical protest in New Zealand. Rather than merely being the subject of his work, protest has been his muse.

He kitenga kanohi, he hokinga whakaaro. To see a face is to stir a memory.

pou (noun) post, pole, sustenance, supporter, mentor, metaphoric post, structural member of whare, territorial symbol i.e of a mountain or landmarks. (verb) to plan, establish, erect, elevate on poles; wā / waa (noun) time, season, period of time, interval, term, region; tū / tuu (noun) position, stand, stance (verb) to stand, take place, to establish, hold, convene, to stop, to halt; wātū / waatuu (noun) present time, present tense.

Pouwātū symbolises what this exhibition intends to embody: a statement of active presence. The active presence of Miller’s photographic practice over five decades, dynamic and a view from within; the active presence of a wharenui, a vessel, an ancestor, an archive of a place, a library, a place to meet, sleep, kōrerorero (dialogue), the face of a collective history and of an aspirational future; the active presence people, Māori and tangata Tiriti (non-Māori, constituent communities in Aotearoa, whose citizenship is made possible by way of Te Tiriti o Waitangi).

John Miller (Ngāpuhi) a tohunga kaiwhakaahua (photographer) has been creating work since the late 1960s. Miller’s best-known work, has been the documentation of radical protest in New Zealand. Rather than merely being the subject of his work, protest has been his muse.

Miller’s photography, however, is broader than just protest photographs, rather an embodied practice, an archive of Maori people, culture and communities from an inside perspective as an active member of the communities he documents. His images present an alternative history to the mainstream story usually chronicled and offer candid images of people and everyday events at Ratana Pā, Māori Women’s Welfare League hui (gatherings), the first New Zealand Māori Artists and Writers Society hui and gatherings of the Polynesian Panthers.

Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta (Ngātiwai, Waikato Tainui) a kaihoahoa whare (architectural designer) works through a multi-disciplinary practice to create experiences that make visible our stories, many which have been hidden or eroded – with a focus on Indigenous and wāhine (women’s) stories. Heta has worked through her practice Jasmax on several cultural and civic projects, as well as through her personal practice as an artist, on multiple exhibitions and publications that sought to educate, empower and to affirm sovereignty and connectedness to identity and whenua (land).

Within Pouwātū, in collaboration and dialogue with Miller, Heta, through a Te Ao Māori lens (Māori world view), seeks to reposition the audience’s journey to, and through this exhibition by balancing the taha wairua (spiritual) with the taha tinana (physical) understanding of space.

This exhibition is a celebration of transformative movements, moments, and events across thresholds of time, with an overarching theme of sovereignty at its core.

Courtesy the artists