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Nga Atua - 2012

The Stuff of Legends – “Ngā Atua” by Robyn Kahukiwa It is perhaps fitting that an exhibition relating to Maori Folklore and legends has been mounted by Rob ...

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The Stuff of Legends – “Ngā Atua” by Robyn Kahukiwa

It is perhaps fitting that an exhibition relating to Maori Folklore and legends has been mounted by Robyn Kahukiwa, who is herself a legend amongst artists in New Zealand. Her latest works are all about legends and Maori Folklore, a subject among others, she often has addressed throughout her high profile career. The main theme of her exhibition this year comprises of most of the illustrations for a children’s book – “Ngā Atua” – a book in which Robyn delightfully illustrates the legends, gods, goddesses and stories of traditional Maori Folklore.

Uenuku is for example in charge of Rainbows. Tāwhiri-mātea is in charge of the four winds and the weather – a very important person with supernatural powers. There are two beautiful depictions of Hine-te-iwa-iwa, the protector of all women and babies. In one glowing image, the goddess holds her friend Te Marama (The Moon) in one hand and her powerful heitiki in the other. Maui, Tane and other more ‘well-known’ Atua are all depicted in these superbly illustrated and original works, which were formulated to illustrate the book. Robyn says: “This significant narrative reflects my holistic depiction and interpretation of the land and the way we see the physical world.” All have been framed and are for sale.

Two large scale paintings are also part of the exhibition. One entitled “Whakapapa of Water”, depicts Parawhenuamea, the personification of water, a female head. Other god-like figures are also depicted, such as Ranginui – the sky father, Tane and Papatūānuku – the earth mother. Tane is painted as a stylized red totem-like figure, inverted and holding the sky. “Haehae” is a large figurative work depicting a stylised female figure nurturing a baby.

Robyn Kahukiwa is regarded as a senior and important New Zealand woman artist and her work is represented in every major gallery in New Zealand. Her painting was also featured in a recently published international contemporary art book. She has dedicated the book and exhibition “Ngā Atua” to her five Mokopuna (grandchildren).

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