Video by @cokoshakim
Story by Justin Latif
To celebrate the first year of Matariki as a national public holiday, Shopify and Ngahere Communities are hosting a week-long celebration of Māori businesses and entrepreneurs.
A persistent drizzle couldn’t dampen the launch of a unique Matariki-themed indigenous retail gallery that kicked off on a chilly Saturday evening in South Auckland and will run for a further week to June 25.
- Retail Gallery of Aotearoa Top 50 Māori Products, held in Manukau from 18-25 June 2022
Attendees walking into the bottom floor of the Boehringer Ingelheim building opposite the Westfield Manukau mall immediately felt like they were being transported into a high-end art exhibition. The soft white carpet gave one the sense of carefully treading on sacred ground, while the stark white walls and artful placement of the beautifully crafted products, whether it was a baby’s onesie, a stylish piece of jewelry, or a set of playing cards, made each piece stand out to shoppers.
And despite the inclement weather, after guests had perused the exquisitely laid-out collection of stationery, clothing, art, and homeware products, they could then kick back with some sumptuous locally-made food and hot drinks and take in some live music.
A time to celebrate creativity and ingenuity
- Some of the Top 50 Māori Products on display in-store
The team at the online shopping platform, Konei, curated a shortlist of just over 100 Maori products from all over Aotearoa. A panel of selected judges and the public got to vote to whittle it down to 50. The items on display are the top 50 Māori-made products and the gallery is part of a week-long event organised by South Auckland social enterprise Ngahere Communities, the e-commerce website Shopify and government entity Te Puni Kokiri.
But Ngahere Communities chief executive Mel Tautalanoa says this week is about more than just giving Māori-owned businesses a place to showcase their incredible wares.
“The driving force for us is celebrating the creativity of our people from across the motu – and we’re only scratching the surface,” says Tautalanoa, who is of Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Whakaue descent.
“If people only come to see it as an exhibition – and just enjoy seeing all these amazing products – that’s awesome.
“But what drives this is celebrating our people and elevating our culture. The state of Māori business right now is a really great reflection of how innovative and resourceful our people are – and it’s important to acknowledge that.”
Along with the retail gallery – there will also be a series of in-person workshops, including gardening, harakeke (flax) weaving, and learning about maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar).
- The Hori, Manawa Udy, Jonique Oli and Aroha Tamihana at the Māori Business Wānanga
Aroha Tamihana runs Maimoa Creative and her products are among those on sale this week. She describes her business as being about normalising the use of te reo Māori by integrating the language into everyday items like tea towels, stationery, and framed prints. Tamihana says this event is also about connecting with other businesses similar to hers.
“I love how much heart and soul Ngahere Communities put into everything they do – and this is just another example of that. It’s about supporting business owners, or connecting business owners or just helping to upskill us.”
- An artists impression of the Retail Gallery, design by Mau Studio
Along with showcasing Māori-made products in an exclusive way, the event is also providing opportunities for other South Auckland businesses to be involved. Arielle Roache works for Mau Studio - a Māori and Pacific-owned architectural firm based in Ōtara. Despite only recently graduating from university, Roache was given the responsibility for creating the interior architectural design for the retail exhibition. She says the fact that Ngahere Communities is using this event to support other businesses really underlines their commitment to supporting South Auckland’s wider economic growth.
“When they first started this in 2020, it just like a pop-up store – so this year they really wanted to switch it up – and make sure every product could really speak for itself. In previous years they have done it on their own – but now they’re able to give other businesses opportunities – which is really great.”
From South Auckland to the world
- Inez White-Faitala at the Māori Business Wānanga
Shopify is a key partner in making this event happen and according to its Global Indigenous Ambassador Inez White-Faitala, the plan is to expand this style of retail experience to provide online shoppers a distinctive ‘in-real life’ experience.
“E-commerce is the new normal – and if you didn’t embrace it at the start of Covid – you’re being left behind,” she says
“But as consumers, we’re constantly being sold something online so sometimes you just want to see something and feel it – and so that’s what is great about this event.”
And if all goes to plan there will be a further five events in New Zealand, before running similar events in Australia and the Pacific.
“The thing we do really well is the technology and connecting to the right partners - and Konei is one of our main partnerships in Aotearoa. And we can scale up what they do, and help them become a wider platform for indigenous businesses here and globally.”
Tautalanoa says there’s also potential for this event to spark further collaborations so it becomes an even bigger celebration of indigenous entrepreneurialism.
“I would love to see this grow but also to see all the other organisations here in Manukau pull together to put on an event that combined all the things we are doing.”