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Bonita Bigham

Rohe Taranaki

(Ngāruahine, Te Atiawa)

Credits mahi toi for saving her life early in the new millennium, when after a particularly rough time suffering from depression she says she literally wove herself to wellness after reconnecting with mahi raranga and learning how to do tāniko, taught by Puhi Nuku and Ria Waikerepuru.

Since then she has completed both a then Masters of both Fine Arts and Māori Visual Arts through Massey, where she is grateful to have been inspired and mentored by Eugene Hansen, Rachel Rakena and Kura Te Waru Reweri.  In 2022 Bonita began her PhD journey, also through Massey, with Huhana Smith and Robert Jahnke keeping her on track.

Most recently she studied under her whanaunga Kim Kahu at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Ngāmotu (New Plymouth), expanding and increasing her capacity to work with harakeke and she found a passion for muka she didn’t ever think would happen in her lifetime.

A few years ago Bonita was part of a small group of artists which established Toi o Taranaki Ki Te Tonga under the guidance and leadership of Gabrielle Belz. Nearly four years later the collective continues to grow and thrive, with the recent opening of their own gallery space in her hometown in Manaia, South Taranaki. Toi o Taranaki Ki Te Tonga maintains an active and engaged membership of more than 70 artists aged from 5-80 years plus, who whakapapa to an iwi in Taranaki or who are from other iwi but live in the rohe.

Her current practice focuses mainly on raranga, whatu and her new favourite thing to play with - paper cutting. She considers herself to be a creativity enabler, encouraging others to follow their artistic inclinations and creating opportunities for them to do so, but she herself has also been a regular exhibitor and curator over the past 15 years at galleries around the motu.

Bonita’s staunchest supporters are her long-suffering husband Kevin, who has resigned himself to having her many projects scattered all over their whare, her son Te Rei who is her artistic sounding board and her mum Hinewaito, who taught her what it means to persevere after taking 15 years to complete her own kahu huruhuru.


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