‘Tu Tonu’ – Continue to Stand.
The best thing & one i value the most from my studies at Toihoukura over the past three years, has been the knowledge i have gained about art, design, my culture & identity & NZ History . The past is the key to our own discoveries wither abroad or right here on our own back door. It’s been wonderful learning about the heritage of my people & our land – Te Tangata Whenu ( People of the Land), Aotearoa (New Zealand).
My latest piece entitled ‘Tu Tonu’ was inspired by a quote mentioned in a Contextual Studies lecture last term about NZ Art History. The class was discussing National & International artist’s during the time of Colonialism (1800’s), who’s paintings & drawings captured some of the very real & very i feel, exaggerated moments of NZ History at that time. One artist in particular i looked at was Charles.F.Goldie. He became a very prominent artist, not only for his talent & skill as a painter but for his life long series of Maori Kaumatua (elderly) portrait paintings. The ideas behind his imagery was to capture the passing of a lost age. In some cases, like the painting i made reference to, he purposely added the deterioration to the Wharenui to represent the passage of time coming to an end.
By the 1850’s it was believed that the Maori people were a dying race & that it was the good job of the colonialists to make that passing easier & more comfortable.
“Smoothing the pillow of a dying race”. (Issac Featherston, 1856)
When i read that, my first thought was…’Are you kidding’?! My second thought was…well, didn’t they get that wrong! Because, by the early 1900’s the censor records showed that the Maori race had doubled in size, growing rapidly & here we sit present day 2012 with no signs of dying anytime soon. It had such a powerful impact over me that i instantly started sketching up ideas for my next painting. ‘Tu Tonu’ was born.
This image above is a close up of the photographic montage’ i used of Goldie’s painting – ‘Memories: Ena Te Papatahi, a chieftainess the Ngapuhi Tribe’ to reference the nature of the painting. I used a white fan brush design to represent a pillow. I wanted it rough to represent that the pillow is not smooth & wrote within it my response statement to that quote by Issac Featherston, 1856 – “THIS PILLOW IS NOT SMOOTH. THIS RACE IS NOT DYING.” The triangular designs i painted in Gold & used a Tukutuku design called ‘Kaokao’ which represents land & defiance – again making reference to Goldie & my expression towards this part of our history.
This image is a close up of my second statement – “WE STAND UP, WE STAND TALL, WE STAND PROUD, WE STAND MAORI, WE STILL STAND”.
This image is a close up of the photographic montage’ i used to reference the strength & Mana (pride) of my culture. One image (first three strips) is of a group of Native Kauri tree which are the tallest & longest surviving Native tree in Aotearoa, the other image is a self-portrait of me showing ‘Pukana’ which is not only a sign of challenge, it also represents & portrays the Mana of an individual.
Below is the image of my finished painting. The four red Koru represent life & are graduating upwards as if they are ‘standing up & tall’. The five white threads represent hanging Muka (flax fibre) tags. For me, this wonderful & precious resource symbolizes the essence of our Maori culture & its traditions. On the far right is a timeline that references the date of that quote by, Issac Featherston, 1856 & the present year that we as Maori people continue to stand, 2012.