A hot La Niña Summer has arrived early in New Zealand this year. Although farmers are fearing dry conditions it’s absolutely joyous for those of us who will be soaking in Aotearoa’s beautiful coastline over Christmas. How about taking a book of Maori myths to the beach with you this summer? You could find yourself looking at mountains, rivers, the earth, the sky and our ocean horizon with new cultural resources and a sense of awe.
I’ve been painting feverishly in my Glen Innes studio of late and it’s not because of the warm weather, it’s because of the Maori myths. For years these ancient allegories have illuminated my concept of landscape topography, migration, natural forces, creation and spirituality. Making their way into my artworks these stories have facilitated my reconnection with Aotearoa.
I was brought up in a globetrotting Kiwi family and we had little to do with our Ngati Porou (Maori), Swedish, English and Irish ancestry. Due to my father’s engineering project management work we lived in Samoa, Sri Lanka and China and on our return to New Zealand when I was a teenager I felt ‘rootless’. I wanted to forge new links with this land so I could feel at home here.
Among other investigations into my heritage I turned to researching Maori legends and for six years I have been inspired to paint our landscapes, seascapes, bird life, carvings and waka (canoes), enriched with layers of these stories.
I have just finished three works pictured below, which are based on the legend of Kupe, the great Polynesian navigator who is said to have journeyed from his homeland Hawaiiki, to become the first person to discover Aotearoa. Themes of origins, journeys, dynamic life, deep stillness and spiritual connection with the land are explored. In all three paintings I have depicted my interpretation of Kupe’s ocean-going waka, the Matawhaorua, with its intricately carved tauihu (bow piece) and taurapa (stern post).
Why not make your own explorations into the abundance of Maori myths out there? They could make very rewarding summer reading.
I hope these paintings move you to feel, as I do, a renewed sense of closeness with this beautiful and mysterious South Pacific land.