TOI TANGATA ARTIST INTERVIEW WITH TARYN BERI:
How long have you been making art for?
Since I was a little kid. When I was about 5 or 6 years old I started a fundraising enterprise for a local charity by selling my drawings and paintings to family members and other adults that I knew, and then donating all the money I made.
How/where did you start?
When I was about 17 I started my first 'business' selling handmade feather, crystal, bead, and shell earrings to boutiques in my hometown of Wellington. I also gained a Diploma of Computer Graphic Design when I was 17, instead of completing my final year at High School (I moved out of home when I was 16). Then I started a Māori streetwear label (Blackberi Aotearoawear) designing clothes and print designs to go on the clothing, when I was about 19. I also studied small business management through the Open Polytechnic during this time. I ran that Māori fashion label for about 5 years. When I was about 22 I made the conscious decision to leave behind a fantastic job as a Graphic Design Associate for a Māori mental health organisation in order to move to Gisborne to study Māori Art seriously. That was when my real journey as a professional career artist started.
What are some of the key milestones/highlights on your journey as an artist so far?
Getting an apprenticeship with my taa moko mentor was the first really significant highlight for me as an artist and I would not be where I am today had it not been for that fortunate lucky break. I did work my ass off during that three year apprenticeship and it set me in good stead to set out on my own when it was finished. When I started traveling frequently for my taa moko work in 2012, that was also really significant for me, and my vision for what was possible really started to open up. Being included in an international tattoo exhibition at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris in 2014 was huge for me. I traveled to France to attend the exhibition opening with my baby who was 5 months old at the time, and my mother who helped me with my baby when I had to do work/art related things over there - that was a really special trip and moment in time for me too. Being invited to participate in various events and exhibitions at Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum of New Zealand has also been really significant for me.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced on your journey as an artist?
Dealing with haters, bullies, jealous people, ignorant idiots, arrogant know-it-alls, naysayers, sabotages and criticism. Being underestimated. Overcoming my own anxieties, fears, resistance, insecurities and doubts is an ongoing process which I keep getting better at over time. Developing a thick skin has been an ongoing process. Finding other people on the same wave length as me, who think big and don't allow themselves to be limited, has been challenging in the past but it's starting to get better now, especially since being involved with the Toi Wahine Collective.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I always wanted to be a professional artist and so I am. I feel privileged and grateful every day to be able to do what I do for a living, and I worked hard for years (and still am) to get to where I am now. My clients and the personal stories and ideals that they share with me is why I do what I do.
What messages do you hope to convey through your artworks?
Messages of inspiration, being brave, having courage, self-belief, persistence, determination, motivation, de-colonisation, sovereignty, being an individual (fuck the norms), and following your dreams. I aim to shine light on female perspectives and atua (goddesses) since this is my area of natural interest. Messages about our human connection with nature and divinity. Messages on kotahitanga (unity) amongst indigenous peoples and humanity in general.
What are some of your big goals and aspirations as an artist?
To paint, create, tattoo and exhibit all over the world for the rest of my days, with my loved ones by side. To collaborate with some of my favorite artists and idols. To play a significant role in giving a leg up to the next generation of young Māori Artists coming through. To assist in the revitalization and renaissance of moko kauae (traditional female chin tattooing) within my own whanau (family) and iwi (tribe). To apprentice several other young women from my iwi in the art and practice of taa moko and to develop a new distinctive tribal style (based on our tradition) together going forward.
What are five random facts about you?
1. I love eating out, every day if I can. Morning brunches are my favorite. I can get extremely shitty if someone or something messes with my brunch!
2. I started working when I was 14 and in my younger years I have worked as a cleaner, waitress, fish factory hand, cinema girl, receptionist, administrator, personal assistant, accounts lady, sales manager and no doubt a few other things that i'm probably forgetting now!
3. I am an obsessive and compulsive reader and always have been since I was a child. I'm particularly addicted to self-development and personal growth books!
4. If I wasn't a visual artist, I would have fancied being a writer or a publisher.
5. I am pretty ruthless in cutting out or eliminating things that are no longer working for me, including toxic people.
What are your other passions in life and why?
My daughter and being the best mother that I can be. My iwi (tribe) and making a contribution to my whanau (family) and iwi in whatever way I can is important to me. Supporting other artists and lifting others up is a passion of mine too and something that I enjoy. Helping others to achieve their goals and dreams inspires and motivates me. Learning about other cultures and traveling.