'Phenomenal': Māori filmmaker Chelsea Winstanley thrilled with shout-out from Apple CEO Tim Cook

'Phenomenal': Māori filmmaker Chelsea Winstanley thrilled with shout-out from Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Tim Cook; Chelsea Winstanley. Photo credit: Getty

Chelsea Winstanley says it's "phenomenal" that the CEO of the US tech giant Apple Tim Cook tweeted support of her latest project over the weekend.

The Oscar-nominated Māori filmmaker released a short film celebrating the opening of an exhibition entitled Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art at the Auckland Art Gallery.

The video was narrated by Taika Waititi, filmed entirely on an iPhone 12 Pro Max and labelled "incredible" by Cook on Twitter.

"To have the CEO of Apple, one of the worlds biggest companies, recognise the exceptional artistic expression here in Aotearoa is phenomenal," says Winstanley.

"Mahi Toi (art) is essentially storytelling and this goes to show that Māori storytelling resonates with the world.

"As a filmmaker, time and time again I see Māori prove that our voice, our worldview and what we have to offer is uniquely ours and at the same time, our shared indigenous experience is relevant to the rest of the world."

Winstanley, who landed an Academy Award nomination as a producer on Jojo Rabbit, is also working on a feature documentary about the Toi Tū Toi Ora exhibition.

It features over 300 artworks by 120 Māori artists with mediums including painting, sculpture, printmaking, clay-making, jewellery and body adornment, photography, digital media, film and installation art.

Winstanley had been living in Los Angeles since 2016, but says the exhibition "brought her home".

"I've never felt more inspired in my creative life, kua kī taku ngakau this has literally filled my heart. Following some of the artists creating work and observing the incredible efforts behind the scenes to put something of this scale together, was a privilege."

She hopes it's part of a trend of greater appreciation of Māori art.

"It's been almost 20 years since the last contemporary survey show of Māori art - surely we don't need to wait another two decades to prove that we are a crucial part of the canon of Aotearoa New Zealand art," says Winstanley.

"I am hoping this will enable more academia and study of Māori art and that our children will learn about our art heroes alongside those we hail as the greats of the Western art canon.

"The truth is we haven't just arrived, we've been here all along, creating and contributing, the impact of this show has got to be permanent."

Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art opened at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki on December 5 and is free to the public.