Aotearoa New Zealand is part of a submerged Pacific continent, which broke away from the Gondwana supercontinent millions of years ago to create two major islands – Te Ika a Māui / the North Island and Te Waipounamu / the South Island.
Welcome – nau mai haere mai. Kei Te Ararau o Tangaroa / Pathways Across Oceania is an attempt to understand the Gallery’s collection from the perspective of our place in Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean. Full of stories of migration, connection and belonging, this huge new exhibition reflects the connections and tensions that shape our past, present and future.
Artists from Aotearoa New Zealand are often well-travelled. Feeling the distance of Aotearoa from the world’s centres of art, they have often been drawn overseas to study and work, contributing to the art history of their adopted countries as well as this one.
Hawaiki is the ancient homeland of Polynesian people who navigated the seas in double-hulled waka from Rarotonga, Tahiti and Ra’iātea to the islands of the Pacific Ocean, including Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Māori whakataukī or proverb “He toka tū moana” uses the image of a rock that stands firmly in the ocean to describe someone steadfast and strong in their culture or beliefs, who defies all opposition.
In te ao Māori, the state of a space when cleared of obstruction is called ātea. This concept was brought to Aotearoa New Zealand from the islands of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa / the Pacific Ocean by Polynesian ancestors.
The islands of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa / the Pacific were settled by remarkable ocean voyagers over many thousands of years. Aotearoa New Zealand was peopled through major waves of migration from the 1200s and later the mid-1800s. The seas of Oceania are like vast pathways; ever-present reminders of distant shores.
In te ao Māori, portraiture can encompass rangatiratanga (stewardship), whanaungatanga (kinship or connectedness), manaakitanga (kindness towards others) and whakapapa (ancestral genealogy). A sense of wairua (the spirit of a person) also resonates within these treasured portraits.
The connection between land and sky is important in te ao Māori. In Māori creation, Papatūānuku (the earth mother) was separated from Ranginui (the sky father) by their children, creating Te Ao Mārama, the world of light.