Former actor Mitch Manuel’s works on display in Scotland have received critical acclaim

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An example of the work of Mitchell Manuel, to be displayed at the Smith Museum and Gallery in Scotland.

Former Levin man and actor Mitch Manuel is turning heads as an artist with an exhibition in Scotland that celebrates combined Scottish and Maori ancestry.

Woven Identities – Tartan Meets Koru opens at the Smith Museum and Gallery in Stirling, Scotland on September 21 and runs for over a month.

Manuel had won awards as a youth in the 1980s for roles in films like The story of Kingi, Kingpin and Mark II.

In 1987, he received Best Male Performance in a Dramatic Role at the Listener Television Awards for his portrayal of Kingi in Mark II.

Mitch Manuel as Kingi from a scene in Mark II.
Mitch Manuel as Kingi from a scene in Mark II.

Today he’s a family man – cool truck driver by day, digital artist by night.

Manuel’s inspiration for his latest work came from wanting to attend a family reunion in Rarotonga, which was canceled due to Covid-19.

He had wanted to bring something new – his tartan/koru digital art to celebrate their Scottish side which he inherited from his mother Maara Brown.

The result was a collection of premium digital art celebrating not only his Clan Brown, but dozens of other clans as well. The twist was that they all had mixed Maori and Scottish ancestry.

Art critics fell in love with the work which fused ancient Maori kowhaiwhai and koru with clan tartans associated with each name, combining colors, multiple meanings and legendary pasts.

An example of the work of Mitchell Manuel, to be displayed at the Smith Museum and Gallery in Scotland.
An example of the work of Mitchell Manuel, to be displayed at the Smith Museum and Gallery in Scotland.

Repeated attempts to show his work at Aotearoa in New Zealand proved unsuccessful. But he got a different response from Scotland’s famous museum and gallery, and since then he’s worked closely with the exhibition’s director, Dr Heather Carroll.

The Smith, a well-known museum and gallery in Scotland, will be showcasing Manuel’s work from September 21 to November 6, a solo collection of digital canvas mounted prints titled: Woven Identities – Tartan meets Koru.

“I am ecstatic and honored by this opportunity. The Gaels and the mixed heritage with the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa should be celebrated and appreciated,” he said.

He will not travel to Scotland for this exhibition, but he is adamant that it will not be the last.

“Who would have thought that a Maori boy from Levin would have an exhibition in Stirling Scotland?” he said.

Manuel said the New Zealand census did not separate Scots and Irish by ethnicity, but that more than a million Scots and Irish, some with and without mixed ancestry, live in Aotearoa.

The museum’s website advertises Manuel’s work: “Woven Identities explores, celebrates and expresses the whakapapa (genealogical) and cultural connections between Maori and Scots”.

“Mitch draws on the iconic visual symbolism of tartan and koru, a traditional Maori organic form that resembles an unfurling fern leaf. Combining these two deeply rooted visual forms of cultural identity through digital media, Mitch’s work tells the story of the links between Maori and Scots.

“Inspired first by his own mixed heritage (Maori-Scottish, Polynesian-Gaelic), Mitchell began to explore the shared experiences of colonialism in Scotland and Aotearoa New Zealand through his digital art.

“The common themes of land loss, cultural alienation and suppression, and the resilience, perseverance and triumph that flow from it are embedded throughout their story, but also woven into the imagery. culture of tartan and koru.

“The artworks celebrate and echo the complexity, beauty and uniqueness of identities forged from a variety of original encounters and leave their generational mark on many today.”

Manuel, who is now based in Lower Hutt, has been described as an “innovative and versatile creative with a background in film and television, digital art, textile design and fashion”.

Artist Mitch Manuel has an exhibition in Scotland.
Artist Mitch Manuel has an exhibition in Scotland.

The exhibition was supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This fund is distributed in partnership between Visit Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund through National Lottery players.

Woven identities is part of the year-long City of Stirling events celebrating the 200th anniversary of tartan – 200 years since King George IV, after traveling to Edinburgh in tartan, urged Scots to wear tartan again.

The link to the exhibition was at https://www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk/exhibition/woven-identities-tartan-meets-koru-by-mitch-manuel/

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