Christchurch-born artist Nina Oberg Humphries is a self described cultural hybrid. Her practise explores the contrasts between Cook Islands artefacts, performance and tradition, and western popular culture to create a visual language to represent second generation New Zealand born Pacific Islanders.

Her grandmother Rangi Oberg was from the Cook Islands and moved to New Zealand as a 12 year old. “My Cook Islands grandmother was a strong community leader here in Christchurch receiving a Queen Service medal for her community work while also being a Justice of the Peace”. Being an active part of the Cook Islands community is something that is important to me and I get this from her. I do not speak Cook Islands Maori nor have I had a great deal of first hand exposure to Cook Islands culture growing up.” When her grandmother passed away in 2007, Oberg Humphries turned to art as a way to remain connected and learn more about her Cook Islands culture. She didn’t had to look too far for inspiration. Her mother Stephanie Oberg has a Masters in Pacific Art History and is an art curator and writer.

“Being around artists, particularly Pacific artists was a common thing growing up, so I naturally leaned towards arts as a career. Pacific artists such as Michel Tuffery, Mahiriki Tangaroa and Ani O’Neill were all artists I admired growing up and still do. I used aspects, research and topics of their work to navigate areas of Cook Islands history and culture.”

After high school, Oberg Humphries attended the School of Fine Arts at both Massey University in Wellington and Canterbury University in Christchurch. In 2017, she was a commissioned artist for Christchurch’s SCAPE Public Arts Trust. Oberg was named the 2020 Pacific Artist in Residence at the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies. “The Macmillan Brown Artist in Residence is a residence I have always wanted.  Artists would come from all over New Zealand for the residency and my mother would always drag me along to look at their work. All of the artists who have received the Macmillan Brown are so well respected in the arts community with many being world renowned for their craft. I feel extremely honoured to be amongst them.”

During the three month residency, Oberg Humphries researched Pacific artefacts from the Canterbury Museum Collection and their relevance to Pacific people. From this research, she produced a series of works in reaction to conversations with Pacific people living in Christchurch of all ages and backgrounds. “I was most excited to see what other Cook Islanders feel and know about the Cook Islands items I had chosen. Canterbury Museum has many Cook Islands Taonga in their collection, with many amazing examples of God staffs and fans. One fan is said to be linked to the Endeavour and Captain Cook’s voyages through the Cook Islands.”

Oberg Humphries art practise includes photography, installation, sculpture, video, painting and performance and will feature in upcoming projects with Bergman Gallery in Christchurch, Auckland and Rarotonga.

Nina Oberg Humpries B.1990

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Ilam School of Fines Arts, Canterbury University; Oral History certificate National Library 2019.  

 Selected Exhibitions & Projects 

  • 2020/21: Talanoa I Measina, Sharing our Stories, Christchurch City Libraries.
  • 2020: Ta’ai, Physics Room, Christchurch.
  • 2019: Va Oceans Between, Christchurch City Libraries.  
  • 2018: Wa O Mua, Blue Oyster, Dunedin.  
  • 2017: Warp & Weft, First Thursdays, Christchurch; Influx, Pataka Gallery, Wellington; Time in Space, Territories and Flow, ‘Are Pasifika,  SCAPE PUBLIC ART TRUST, Christchurch, Summer performance series,  CoCa Gallery, Christchurch.
  • 2016: Influx, St Paul Street Gallery, Auckland; Contemporary Christchurch, CoCa Gallery, Christchurch.
  • 2015: Between this Man Friday, Christchurch; Aggregate (2015), Christchurch.
  • 2014/15: The Drowned World, www.the-drowned-world.com – toured Silo Park, (2014) Auckland, The Physics Room (2014) Christchurch, Enjoy Gallery (2015) Wellington, The film Archive (2015) Wellington, View Finder Nga Taonga Vision (2015) Auckland.
  • 2014: P.O.A, Cathedral Junction, Christchurch, Remake-Remodel,  Sofa Gallery, Christchurch.
  • 2013: Guardian, Okeover Community Garden, Canterbury University, Christchurch.
  • 2010: Island Summers, Our City Otautahi, Christchurch; Foyer, The Court Theatre, Christchurch.