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Robyn Kahukiwa "Supa Heroes" 2007

It is appropriate Robyn Kahukiwa as an important Maori figure has engaged super heroes in this latest exhibition in an attempt to provide inspiration to all people ( ...

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It is appropriate Robyn Kahukiwa as an important Maori figure has engaged super heroes in this latest exhibition in an attempt to provide inspiration to all people (Ngā iwi o te motu), and her mokopuna (grandchildren).

Characterized superheroes materialized during a period of world recession and war in the 1930’s and 40’s. Superhero cartoon and comic-strip characters transported children (and adults) to a fantasy of escapism, where real hope and superheroes reigned – a world where all those in danger were delivered safe from evil. An abundance of superheroes patrolled the skies, streets and alleyways – Superman, Batman, The Shadow, The Phantom, Buck Rogers and Captain Midnight.

In a disturbed 21st century, superheroes from decades ago such as Batman, Superman and Superwoman have been involved in a huge renaissance through blockbuster movies, DVD’s and action toys. Robyn Kahukiwa has supplanted these heroes into Aotearoa as female Maori “Supa Heroes”.

With this new series of paintings Kahukiwa states… “Super Heroes (and real heroes) provide heroic inspiration to Maori, other New Zealanders and Polynesian peoples”.¹ Kahukiwa has created her own “superheroes” to provide a positive contribution to a child’s upbringing. “…When I see my mokopuna (grandchildren) playing with Action Man, Superman, and Wonderwoman, I am determined to give them their own superheroes. My Maui and Hina are contemporary Maori superheroes who have whakapapa (genealogy) to Polynesia. ²

The artist has skillfully converted these characters into Maori “Supa Heroes”. In the painting Hina Keha/Pale Hina, Hina references the traditional Atua, Hine teiwaiwa, who is the deity (guardian) for babies and children. This is a powerful painting where the taiaha bearing, superwoman swoops down from above to save the defenseless and naked child. Kahukiwa states “my superheroes come from Aotearoa/New Zealand and can provide heroic inspiration to all. ³

(1) Robyn Kahukiwa – artists statement October 2007
(2) ibid
(3) ibid

“Supa heroes for my Mokopuna” is dedicated to Syd Jackson my superhero.

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