Christchurch's Centre of Contemporary Art showcasing Ngāi Tahu art

Christchurch's Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) is showcasing its first major Ngāi Tahu art exhibition in more than a decade.

The exhibition is a celebration of Ngāi Tahu artwork, from rock art, through to the contemporary work of today.

It's the first major exhibition for the contemporary Ngāi Tahu art collective known as "Paemanu". There are 13 artists working together on different projects under the same roof.

Their art is contemporary - sketches, prints and even a moveable platform installation. At the centre of the exhibition is a piece of Ngāi Tahu rock art more than 500 years old.

"We're looking at the whakapapa of Ngāi Tahu visual culture and what that was, what that is, and how we respond to that now as contemporary artists," says artist Simon Kaan.

The CoCA Gallery is hosting the exhibition, and it says it's excited to be showcasing Ngāi Tahu art, in all its forms.

"To have them here as a collective is such an amazing thing for this gallery," says CoCA trustee Jessica Halliday.

It isn't just a work space - all 13 artists are living inside the gallery while they create their works.

"We're here to reside in this place, to warm the space, to wainanga in the space, to talk and to engage with each other and learn from each other, and from that process the artworks develop," Mr Kaan says.

The work will evolve as the exhibition continues, with the artists adding to it as they go.

The artists say they're drawing upon history and tradition.

"The spirit of our ancestors is here with us while we create work here in their image," says artist Ross Hemera.

It is guiding their creative process, so gallery-goers can enjoy their work while learning about the history behind it.