Celebrating the dynamic 50-year career of tohunga kaiwhakaahua (photographer) John Miller (Ngāpuhi), Pouwātū is a statement of active presence. This exhibition is a collaboration with kaihoahoa whare (architectural designer) Elisapeta Heta (Ngātiwai, Waikato Tainui). 

Best known for his documentation of radical protest, Miller’s photography documents Māori people, culture and communities from the inside. An alternative history to the dominant narrative: they document candid images of people from everyday occurrences to significant moments, at Rātana Pā, Māori Women’s Welfare League hui, and gatherings of the Polynesian Panthers.

Through the lens of te ao Māori, this exhibition seeks to balance the physical and spiritual worlds, reorienting our understanding of space. 

This exhibition is a celebration of transformative events in Aotearoa’s history with an overarching theme of sovereignty at its core. First shown at Sydney Bienniale NIRIN 2020, which emphasised indigenous art practices across the world, Pouwātū has been expanded for its first viewing on home soil and will be housed within a setting that references the architecture of the wharenui.

This exhibition is part of Auckland Arts Festival 2021.


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.

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

John Miller. Pōwhiri for Te Matakite o Aotearoa Manuhiri, Te Rewarewa Marae, Rūātoki, 1976

John Miller and Elisapeta Heta, Pouwātū: Active Presence, 2021. Photographer: Samuel Hartnett