Marle Woman: Zoe Black

Industry leaders, new talent, quiet achievers and progressive thinkers, Marle Women is a regular journal series featuring one-to-ones with women of all ages and stages of their lives; women who challenge, excite, teach and inspire us.

For this edition, we speak to Tāmaki Makaurau based curator, Zoe Black, whose work is dedicated to leading Māori programming, alongside extensive work with migrant communities.

An absolute gift to the arts industry in Aotearoa and beyond, Zoe talks to us about her most memorable discoveries, her journey into curatorial practice and considered daily rituals she swears by.



Kia ora Zoe, nō hea koe?

Please share a little bit more about yourself, your upbringing and any defining moments that lead you to where you are today.

I’ve always lived in Tāmaki Makaurau but my whānau comes from Te Tai Tokerau and England. On my dad’s side we whakapapa to Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Hine and my mum’s family came to Aotearoa from Worcester when she was six years old. I grew up in east Auckland and although we were blessed with the beach and my grandparents around the corner, I wanted to escape deep suburbia to be closer to the city as soon as I could. When I started art school I moved to Grey Lynn and have been there pretty much ever since.

Currently, I live in Westmere with my husband Bennie and our retired greyhound Dilla. We make our way to beaches up north often in our caravan, our current favourite spot is Rangiputa.

In 2021, you were announced as the Deputy Director at Objectspace after roles in both education and the arts. Talk us through your career journey and what you love most about your current job.

I’ve always loved art and this has led me to a few different careers although all have been firmly related to creative expression. Both of my parents were teachers and during my childhood I consistently vowed I wouldn’t become a teacher, but after art school I fell into it and really loved it. A few years in I had the opportunity to do some further study. I completed my Masters then started working in gallery education. This led into curation and I realised that it was something that really suited me - it allowed me to support artists to achieve their dreams!

I’m now incredibly lucky to be working at Objectspace, a gallery dedicated to craft, architecture and design in central Tāmaki Makaurau. Objectspace has given me the freedom to pursue projects that I see are important, help incredible makers and be part of a team that creates exhibitions people love to visit.



A lot of your curatorial practice has been centred around community development, Indigenous art and advocating for under-represented craft and object art forms. What have been some of your most memorable discoveries or exhibitions and why?

Before Objectspace I ran a small gallery in east Auckland and I focused on working closely with artists who grew up in the area. One of those artists was Areez Katki who creates detailed and beautiful embroideries that speak to his Zoroastrian and Parsi ancestries. He’s just about to open a new body of work for the Venice Biennale and I can’t wait to visit it.

Over the past few years I’ve spent time working with a visionary maker, Maungarongo Te Kawa. He uses textiles to explore whakapapa and mātauranga Māori through the most thoughtful compositions. We toured some of his mahi to Norway last year and it was overwhelming to see how his works were received there. His current exhibition honours Hineteiwaiwa, the atua related to fibre, weaving and childbirth and gives a new perspective to how we can all tap into our creative energy. His works are now on display at Te Manawa in Palmerston North and will travel throughout Aotearoa too.



You were the Norwegian Crafts' Curator in Residence from 2020–2023. Can you talk us through your aspirations for this period and what you were most proud of?

I’m very honoured to still be working with Norwegian Crafts, although outside of my official role as curator in residence. We have developed a relationship with the ultimate goal of deepening knowledge in how we can nurture Indigenous making practices and connect Māori and Sami (the Indigenous peoples of Sapmi, an area that spans across Norway, Sweden, Finland and part of Russia) practitioners together. Part of this collaboration culminated in our tour of Maungarongo’s work last year and we are just about to embark on another big project that is focusing on Indigenous architecture.

This project is beginning in Sweden in May where we are showing baby sleeping vessels (wahakura in Aotearoa and gietkka in Sapmi) as an application of architectural understanding. We will travel to Jokkmokk and Lulea in the north of Sweden to share knowledge and making skills with some remarkable makers I have met there. This will then develop into an exhibition with renowned Sami architect, Joar Nango, at Objectspace in December. He will visit and learn from a number of Māori architects and then create an installation that brings together knowledge from his travels, combined with Sami understanding. One form Joar is interested to interrogate is the pataka, a foodstore on stilts in te ao Māori, but also a structure that is common in Sapmi. 



Do you have any rituals or practices that you swear by?

Getting some early morning light, considering the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) and being understanding of how it affects us and limiting late night screen time. A few days ago I dropped my phone and the screen smashed - I’ve appreciated how much it has impacted the time I don’t want to spend scrolling!

How would you describe your personal style and how has this evolved over the years?

Prioritising Aotearoa designed and made, natural fabrics, and vintage - not buying anything that won’t last me 10 years. 

Marle is designed to add effortless ease to a woman’s wardrobe, how does wearing Marle make you feel?

I love the fabrics that Marle uses, functional but luxurious. I always prefer things that can make you feel refined without a huge amount of effort - Marle achieves this perfectly.






What is your most treasured object and why?

A pounamu named Ngāwari by Neke Moa. She was gifted to me last year by my Objectspace whānau and I feel honoured to be looking after her.

Favourite home cooked meal?

My husband’s poached eggs

Favourite thing to wear?

Silk anything

How you start your day?

Walking Dilla in the morning and a slow coffee at breakfast.

Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter?

Summer all the way

Last Book You Read?

Tiakina te Pā Harakeke - I started this as research for our upcoming wahakura project but there’s so much research and mātauranga to absorb that I keep returning to it.

Current Podcast Recommendations

The Dig. Give it a listen.

Favourite Spotify Playlist?

I don’t use Spotify, I play albums on repeat until I’m sick of them - currently it is Beyonce’s Cowboy Carter.



Photographed by Greta van der Star

Become a Marle subscriber and receive $20 off your first order