Light minded

Kia ngāwari

This story has been translated into te reo Māori by Tamahou McGarvey.
You can read it here.

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language week) is 14-20 September.

By Francesca Emms
Photography by Victoria Birkinshaw

Featured in Capital #71
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When lockdown threatened to bring him down, Hori put his anxiety into his art.

Hohepa Thompson wears a few labels (teacher, dad, activist, surfer, artist and model) but he’s best known as “Hori”. He’s the brains behind HORI, an art, design, and clothing label created in 2012 to draw attention to big Māori and New Zealand issues.

“The goal for the HORI brand is to open up conversations about difficult cultural and social issues which people feel are too taboo to talk about.” Hori describes himself as a “Māori artist slash model, and not the other way around.” He’s always had a thing for fashion and even has his own line of clothing, which he developed through Māori fashion board Miromoda. “It was the whole snowboard steeze that led me to the fashion game but after four years I kind of went back to art mahi… still love a good hat.”

Hori’s lockdown bubble was “my hot wife and three kids in our whare in Otaki – all trying as best as possible not to kill each other.” He says he doesn’t do well being caged up, and lockdown really affected his mental health. “Usually I’m very free in my world, and our routine is really solid and stress free-ish. The lock down threw all of that out the window.” The anxiety and uncertainty “snuck up on me and bit me in the ass. Without even realising it I started to go to some dark places.”

So Hori focused on a new body of work and now his digital exhibition, Homai Haumaru or “Gimme Shelter”, can be viewed at thehori.co.nz. “As dark as this time was for me, I was able to put these anxious feelings in to my art work which helped me get through it.” Homai Haumaru looks at anxiety, depression, and the idea of shelter or sanctuary and its visual expression. “The exhibition is directed at our Māori males who represent the highest numbers of suicides in New Zealand. I hope this work can bring more awareness to this mental health issue and let our tane know that there is more mana in being able to talk about this issue.”

Hori is settled in Otaki – “Kāpiti island is that tohu (sign) for me that you’re nearly home. I whakapapa on my koro side to Ngāti Toa Rangatira so that motu (island) is pretty special.” But he has fond memories of the ten years he spent living in Central Wellington. “Cuba Street will always be in my ngakau (heart). Back in the day I use to live in the apartments next to San Fran and the jump to the balcony was always a favourite trick,” he laughs. “When I was back last year I paid to see my first gig there, Troy Kingi slayed it.” If he wasn’t at the Bristol, he’d be at a flat in Lyall Bay, “brown in hand, listening to some Wu or Maiden – we were all a bunch of surf and skate rats. Most of us didn’t even live there.” These days he’ll be with his family, or in his studio, in Otaki. He’ll “shoot to the Wairarapa if the surf is good” and play sport on the weekends: “Rugby and league in Otaki is a real whānau affair which I love.”

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