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Louie Zalk Neale Studio Portrait March 2024

Louie Zalk-Neale’s Biography

Last Updated:
24/04/2024, 7:18 am
Toi Māori, Performance Art, Visual Arts
Arts Foundation Springboard 2024
Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā
“Kei te mihi ki Te Tumu Toi! This award is real nourishment to my mahi toi. I’m grateful and relieved to be able to dedicate time to pausing and reflecting on how my practice is developing, and towards building a future to support my practice, my whānau and my communities. It will be incredibly valuable to have tuakana guidance from a mentor through all this. I also feel validated to be placed alongside the other iconic artists acknowledged by Te Tumu Toi, and I feel empowered with the strengths I have as a ringatoi, he kairaranga, he māmā, he kaiako, and everything else I am. Mauri ora!”

Louie receives the Springboard award for Visual Arts funded by 2011 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate Dr. Fiona Pardington and Starkwhite.

Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā) is a trans takatāpui artist who creates with the metamorphic power of body adornment. Entangled in the ecological webs of whakapapa, they immerse their audience in ceremonial performances, bringing queer visions of the past and future into the present moment. The practice of twisting taura tī kōuka (cabbage tree fibre rope) is a central pou in Louie’s mahi toi, which they often combine with discarded plastic and waste materials to form intricate adornments and sculptural objects used in performance. Louie’s ropes bind the sacred transgender experience with the transformative shapeshifting powers seen in pūrākau Māori, reinforcing the artist's vision of queerness as an indicator of healthy natural and cultural systems. Taura feature throughout Louie’s wider practice, connecting performance art, body adornment, sculpture, video, drawing, and holding wānanga and workshops.

Louie was recently in Taiwan for a month-long artist lab focused on queer ecology in performance at the Taipei Performing Arts Center with twelve other international artists, hosted in part by local indigenous people. Louie has worked across Aotearoa and internationally with Māoriland, Gus Fisher Gallery, PAWA, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Enjoy, Blue Oyster, Artspace Aotearoa, CIRCUIT, Shared Lines, and Critical Costume Conference, along with many independent projects. They are based in Ōtaki, on the whenua of Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga.

Louie will be mentored by 2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate Bridget Reweti of Mataaho Collective.

Bridget Reweti is a Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi artist and curator. Her lens-based practice shines light on Māori histories embedded in landscapes through names, narratives and lived experiences. Bridget has held multiple residencies nationally and internationally including Canada, Indonesia and Singapore. She was the 2020/21 Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago which culminated in an exhibition and artist book Pōkai Whenua, Pōkai Moana. Bridget is a member of Mataaho Collective, a group of four wāhine Māori that create atua-sized installations. She is the co-founder and current editor of ATE: Journal of Māori Art the first peer-reviewed journal of Māori Art. Bridget co-curated the survey exhibitions Māori Moving Image and Marilynn Webb: Folded in the Hills, publishing respective books by the same name. In 2023 she received the Leadership Visual Arts Tauranga Moana at Ngā Tohu Toi Award. Bridget holds a Master of Māori Visual Arts with first class honours from Massey University and a PgDip in Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies from Victoria University of Wellington.