What is curator Nigel Borell doing now?
When he’s not curating Lisa Reihana’s He Wai Ngunguru, or receiving special awards for his “significant impact on our arts and cultural landscape”, what is legendary 2021 Arts Foundation Laureate Nigel Borell up to these days?
After resigning from the Auckland Art Gallery in late 2020, during his massive, landmark Toi Tu Toi Ora contemporary Māori art survey, he “spent the first six months in the warm embrace of everyone’s experience of the show […] that was the most amazing antidote of all the hard work of getting to that finish line.” He’s excited to see how the next generation will further shape the show’s “big lofty ideas” about curation anchored in te ao Māori.
He’s now curator taonga Māori at the Auckland Museum, and looking forward to an overhaul of the iconic Māori Court by 2029, the Museum’s centenary. He hopes to show “Maori as a living culture [by] making sure the contemporary artists are living and breathing next to these taonga.”
And some of his own artwork is on display – exquisite, memorable kawakawa leaves (perhaps evoking bitter medicine) in acid-green brocade and paper cutouts – in “Muru”, a Papakura Art Gallery show (until July 29) accompanying a new library mural, led by Sir Haare Williams. Both show and mural are about Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, the New Zealand Land Wars, “quite a heavy kaupapa,” as Borell says. He agreed to the project to honour Matua Haare. “I value my relationships with my elders now that my parents have gone […] - the wisdom and just the way they centre you - I’ve become quite spoilt with that.”
Last but not least, Borell is now prioritising his own wellbeing. His new career mantra is “just to be like water, my friend,” he laughs, quoting Bruce Lee. “And not try and worry or over think it.” He and his twin sister Belinda celebrate their 50th birthday this year in Rarotonga.