Coleen Waata Urlich ONZM (1935-2015)
Maori - Te Popoto o Ngā Puhi Ki Kaipara
The sudden sad loss of Colleen in 2015 stunned the Maori art world, especially so closely after the demise of Manos Nathan. Both great artists were master ceramists and leaders of the contemporary Maori ceramic movement.
Collen was largely self-taught and developed her interest in pottery while completing an art major at Auckland Teachers College. She continued to experiment during the 1970s, encouraged by Alec Musha, one of the first Māori potters. She believed strongly in tradition, decorating with traditional Māori weaving patterns or by adding muka (flax fibre), feathers or shell to her works. For her, “working with clay means working with the body of Mother Earth, she who influences and sustains us physically and spiritually.”
Colleen has long served the community, national art committees and Nga Kaihanga Uku, the national collective of Māori clayworkers. In 2002, she completed her Master of Fine Arts degree with honours in sculpture at Elam, University of Auckland. Her dissertation on the ancient Lapita ceramic legacy to the Pacific contributed to a published paper.
Her work has been exhibited throughout New Zealand and in “Mana Wahine” (1995) in the United States, “Te Atinga” (1997) in Bath, United Kingdom, “Haka” (1997-98) in its British tour, “Sisters/Yakkananna/Kahui Mareikura” (2002) in Adelaide, Australia, and “Fusion: Tradition & Discovery” (1999), “Kiwa-Pacific Connections” (2003), and "Manawa-Pacific Heartbeat" (2006), in Vancouver, Canada. (excerpt from book, Manawa—Pacific Heartbeat, 2005)