Em i no Paradais Long Hia

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com          
rangihīroa, Anguganak, 2018

Credit: featured image, Tim Laman, cape presentation form of Vogelkop Bird of Paradise, PeerJ , 16 April 2018


26 September 2020



struts out on patrol

karanga atu e ia te




calling into being

sink hole black

half disk LUKLUK

pāua paint jig


St Heliers girl

branch dancing

paradise voyeur

Em i gat laik


Porotī boy

b-b-b-bobbing and sh-sh-sh-shakin’

and fl-fl-fl-flitting and movin’

and quaking

mist fingers


down TORRICELLI’S rain drenched back


so that visibility is attacked


and the sky is covered

near the bluff

where village children stare

wondering if

they’ll be

a returning

mountain gazing

on slashed grass strip below

while a yellow sesna

jumpily climbs high


into the cloud hole

beyond braided ORPAN


all locals’

there will be no rapture



‘this is no paradise’

I WAS BORN IN PARADISE Niuean painter/poet John Pule once began a poem, at an exhibition opening I helped organise. Pule was talking about his home village Liku on the remote Pacific island of Nuie. Recently perusing an archive of photographs I pondered my own beginnings in an equally remote area of the South Pacific. The image showed my parents and I on the Northern coast of Papua New Guinea at Moem beach at Wewak, the main port of entry into the Western Sepik. The picture featuring locals with outriggers is also shot in Wewak. My entry point to this thinking about beginnings and arcadia (as sometimes is the case) was a plant. I was busy photographing a bird of paradise ‘flower’ (South African in origin) which finally decided to bloom a few weeks ago. It’s arrival happily coincided with my sorting through research files including these references to Papua New Guinea. The puawai got me thinking about the wider issue of provenance and associative names. The sorting process led me back to my place of birth and the stunning birds of paradise (the natural point of inspiration I presume) that still survive in the more remote parts of Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia. I don’t know for sure whether I saw and heard the kumul when I was a child but when you consider the location in some of the images below its certainly possible, even highly likely.

My personal favourite is the Vogelkop Bird of Paradise native to the Indonesian run side of Papua. In my opinion it posseses the most spectacular show of colour in the male mating rituals. Its’ visual impact has to do with a half disk of the deepest black and almost florescent aquamarine streaks and dots at the centre and the base of the ‘cape’ used to flit, swish and lure the females. There is definitely another essay here about colour in nature, the copyright attempts by sculptor Anish Kapoor to own Vantablack (the world’s blackest black) and the ongoing backlash in England. This kumul is a worthy rival to Kapoor’s Vantablack. It is said to have the blackest colouring on earth with the microscopic structure of its feathers absorbing nearly 100% of the light hitting it. There are incredible images of birds of paradise in Attenborough’s films and the research work of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology featuring the fuller range of kumul in their expeditions in the northern western rain forests of West Papua. I also wanted to acknowledge Tim Laman’s breathtaking imagery of this rare and utterly cativating manu, he kumul.

I WAS BORN IN A WEST SEPIK VILLAGE CALLED ANGUGANAK later moving to Amanab closer to the recently occupied border of West Papua. My mother later told me we were close enough to witness hospitals and schools going up in smoke as the Indonesians were busy removing the earlier Dutch layer. I include some images from the vantage point of the house Dad built (at Anguganak I am assuming because the bluff – that rises sharply 300 metres into the air – sits prominently in a window in the background of one of the archived photographs).

I dedicate my poem and the images, reclaimed and researched from family letters and fire damaged black and white photographs and 35mm colour transparencies my father took in the 1960s, to my mother and the paradise she pined for but to which she never returned. This strange body of material is the beginning of a range of investigative research work including the odd diary accounts Australian field officers working in this region (Australia took over from the Germans until 1975 when PNG finally gained it’s independence). These documents, a more official background to our presence in Australian occupied PNG, involved variously taking census figures, ‘spying’ (the region shares a northern boundary that buffers Australia from Asia and which became a sensitive zone when the Indonesians annexed the region) and what can only be described as colonial – odd village – inspections and outsider observations.

My father accompanied some of these survey patrols to villages, ‘…that extended from Inabu to Amanab and out to the coast to Vanimo covering hundreds of miles of jungles, swamps and bush clad mountain ranges.’ The records of these gruelling trips are now available in the University of California, San Diego archive of PNG patrol reports and I have been matching them with personal letters. They reveal a great deal about the way in which outsiders are coming into contact with a beautiful and extremely complex range of tribal peoples who continue (thankfully) to occupy an incredibly remote yet increasingly threatened portion of the indigenous world. I am not making a statement here about precious ‘authenticity’. All cultures change and adapt. However, one hopes that indigenous Papua Nūkini peoples locate a future that suits and which expresses their uniqueness and not the ambitions of the many surrounding nations that want to commercially and culturally exploit their bountiful natural resources.

I say let the kumul sing and dance and jig and do his thing.

rangihīroa, 4 pink impatiens floating, 25 March 2018


The publication_A Vocabulary

A fair and supportive response to my Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua mōteatea and pito kōrero in Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary…’

Review by Paul Diamond interviewed by Catherine Ryan on Radio New Zealand. The particular part of the sound byte concerning ‘A Vocabulary’ starts at 2 minutes…

The show ‘A Vocabulary’ is still on at Te Uru in Titirangi for another couple of weeks. And I just signed another 60 books this morning so I know there are now more books available from Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery. There is also a panel discussion planned with Bruce Connew, myself and the typography artist Catherine Griffiths who designed both the book and the exhibition, prior to the completion of the show at Te Uru (details to come). Best Rangihīroa

P.S Nice to know I am still a curator, perhaps Māori Curator 🙂

Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary, Vapour Momenta Press


Book signing today with photographer Bruce Connew and writer Rangihīroa Panoho. Connew’s accompanying exhibition of photographs and the artist’s book available at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ. Copies of ‘A Vocabulary’ sold out on the night, these are part of the next batch from the binders.

Who said people aren’t reading or buying books! This one is beautifully made. A gorgeous thing. Typography and exhibition design by Catherine Griffiths. Cloth, case-bound, 604 pages, section sewn, round spine, ribbon


© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com          

written for the opening of Bruce Connew, ‘A Vocabulary’, Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi 12 December 2020

E ngā mate. Ka mahara tātou ki ngā mumu Māori e takoto ana kei raro i ngā parekura o ngā pakanga whenua o mua. Haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te poho o te Atua, haere ki Hawaikinui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao.

rangihīroa, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai

The parekura
sits silent
no noise at all
just the chatter
of a tui
wrecking putiputi
down by the hall
just the wind
across the fertile plains
he swore he heard their
voices around
Ngāi Kuku’s last remains
down by the river
where the fighting pā
once stood
or was it just the twittering of
in the woods
the scale of the loss
disgusted him
it explained why he refused
the spirit path to Rēinga
instead he would choose
to guard over
bones and taonga
and mourn unmentioned loss
hidden from a nearby cenotaph
that refused to count the cost
raised to his last battle
near fields in which he toiled
he read the text again and again
as if it would reveal
some other truth or meaning
that might possibly transcend
a vocabulary of forgetting
bronze letters that won’t bend
colourful adjectives
murdering rebels, barbarous savages

he struggled with the message
they were a people worth forgetting

Indeed not a word
of his hapū’s bravery
no mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war they never asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
a deep gnawing pain
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes he could yell
and call
Haere mai
E hoa, haul your trig over here, man
Yeah map us brother, draft us on that plan
but the grid only measures trenches
so we’ll always be missed
except by manuhiri
that want to take a mimi
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when the sun retreats

Pohutukawa ko tahi

Pohutukawa e rua
Pōhutukawa e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga. They along with iwi like Ngāti Kuri consider themselves gatekeepers to Te Rerenga o Wairua ‘the leaping off point of the Spirits’ at the northern extremity of Aotearoa. Many Polynesian Islands in South Pacific have their leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga at the departure point of wairua journeying to Hawaiki has created family histories where ghost stories are common. At times the Spirits stop along the way and there are visitations. The narratives told at night of encounters with the spirits are the most frightening and are remembered and passed on with relish and great drama.

10 Shades…, in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’ who decides not to take the path to Rēinga and remains with his whānau and the warriors he fought with on a Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua battefield. In the poem one of the greatest struggles the central character has is accepting a memorial inscription raised near the battlefield. History, so the saying goes, is written by the victors.

He Huinga Kupu Constructing ‘Vocabulary’ for A Nation

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues

Catherine Griffiths Cover A Vocabulary
Catherine Griffiths, typography, cover ‘A Vocabulary’

He Huinga Kupu ‘A Vocabulary…’

rangihīroa, Mōteatea ‘lament’, A Vocabulary
Bruce Connew, 'Heke's Pā', A Vocabulary, Te Uru
Bruce Connew, ‘Heke’s Pā’, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, Auckland, NZ

Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’. Opening Saturday at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, Tāmaki Makaurau, AUCKLAND, NZ, 12 December 2020 @ 4pm. The book, preview images and text are available through Vapour Momenta Press, 2021

Bruce Connew, Wakefield…’Author of the System of Colonisation‘, from monument, London, in A Vocabulary, 2020

For the last 2 1/2 years I have been working on text for ‘Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary’, However, both the artworks, my exhibition text and the accompanying book are now available and quietly on show prior to the more official opening this coming weekend. Yesterday, I got a chance to have sneak preview with the support staff at Te Uru, the artist, his partner Catherine Griffiths (the book and exhibition designer) and the Director Andrew Clifford. The show looks as good as I had envisaged it from the printed samples and jpegs that the photographer has been feeding me for many months now. It is a handsome catalogue and a fine looking exhibition. For those who live nineteenth century New Zealand history there are the familiar names in unfamiliar contexts. The monumental text from which these images have been extracted ends up strangely re-formulated. I have often wondered what the revolutionary exchange between Braque and Picasso felt like in Paris in 1907/1908 when a new language of Cubism was being invented. There is something unexpectedly exciting in the framing of monument text that is taking place in Connew’s work. Is it historical short-hand, historical pun, uneasy veneration…? A new vocabulary is indeed in formation…

Connew, A Vocabulary
Bruce Connew, Hori Kerei, ‘Sir George Grey’, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020
Bruce Connew, Te Kooti/Titokowaru, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020
Detail, Connew, A Vocabulary
Detail, Connew, ‘A Firm Friend of the Europeans...’, A VocabularyTe Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020/2021
Kenny Willis (Kaiwhakahaere Whakaaturanga me nga Whakaurunga, Te Uru) preparing samples of my text, including excerpts from Mōteatea ‘lament’and the essay ‘Ka Kakati te Namu, Ka ora tonu te kōrero ‘the sandfly nips…the conversation continues’ in the accompanying book, ‘A Vocabulary’

MAORI ART, the koru and 2019

rangihīroa, rauponga, pitau huruwhenua, morning 30 December 2018

© Rangihīroa Panoho 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author's express permission. Details for writing to author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com   The opinions expressed those of the author and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.
        Ka mate he tete kura ka tupu he tete kura
'When one red fern frond falls, another takes its place.'

                      he whakataukī

It’s New Year’s eve 2019 tonight. Aucklanders have fled the City for the beaches. They have escaped to the Northland and to the Coromandel coastlines. This place is a ghost town. Driving around feels a little like going back to the empty suburban roads of the 1980s during other periods of vacation. Many indigenous cultures have different concepts regarding the arrival of the New Year. For our tūpuna it was the months of winter (late May/early June) and the appearance of the star cluster Matariki  ‘Pleiades constellation’ that signalled the change. While June 10 was celebrated this year there was traditionally a longer, natural cyclic rhythm that brought cosmos and people together in celebration throughout tribal Aotearoa. Matariki was a time for the harvesting of natural resources, a time of reflection and a time of planning for the future.

While the heavens are a natural place to turn to this time of year (i.e. Bethlehem – the morning star and the Christian narrative) I am a Māori art historian and Māori art is full of natural cyclic symbols that may prove useful to this discussion. My book MAORI ART looks at the metaphor of rivers in our ancestral thinking as a way of considering the flow of history in our artforms. It may have been a short essay I wrote recently on kōwhaiwhai based artist Sandy Adsett that made me more aware of a rauponga fern sending out pitau shoots over the last couple of weeks. Photographing the fern immediately brings to mind one of the key design modules in Māori art – the koru and it is this motif, its history and its natural origins, that is the focus for the remainder of this short essay. The koru, I suggest, is actually a good metaphor for acknowledging the New Year.

There are many natural sources for the koru. While the spiral is commonly used by many cultures throughout the world the koru and its particular usage by New Zealand Māori is unique for a range of reasons. Firstly, it represents an aesthetic shift in Polynesian design history. The koru, and its many different manifestations in te toi whakairo ‘Māori woodcarving’ and kōwhaiwhai ‘Māori rafter painting’, constitutes a deliberate movement away from the angular forms and patterns that were part of the proto Polynesian aesthetic (particularly present in pottery, tapa and tātau) to a uniquely curvilinear form. The koru developed and flourished here in Aotearoa as our ancestors became increasingly isolated from their Hawaiki (i.e. their various Pacific homelands).

Sandy Adsett, Ngāti Pahaurewa and New Zealand Historic Places Trust restoration, HINERINGA meetinghouse, Raupunga mārae. Photography: Haruhiko Sameshima (commissioned by author) 19 January 1994, destroyed by fire 2007.

Secondly, the koru is a response to the equally unique natural environment found here in Aotearoa. The shape of the previously described unfurling fern frond is one commonly referred to as a source of inspiration for the koru. The pitau is embryonic and full of potential and that is what probably attracted our ancestors to the architecture of its growth. It suggests in its coil that life involves all sorts of possibilities. Life is potential. Tomorrow is another day that will unfold in a way that may be completely different from today. The unfolding fern frond also suggests a point of return in its circularity. It speaks of natural cycles, continuum and a returning…

Just the right motif, I say, to introduce the new year that so many around the world celebrate.

Nā reira, e ngā whāea, e ngā mātua, e ngā tamariki, e ngā kaipānui o ēnei rangataki. Hari tau hou, Happy New Year!


10 November 2018

© Rangihīroa Panoho 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com   The opinions expressed are those of the author and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

rangihīroa, lilies from a recent tangi, 2018

                 Flowers grow out of dark moments

                          Sister Mary Corita Kent

I have never been to war and I have never visited the war dead at the Somme, at Messines, at Passchendaele nor at Ypres where the old western front once bitterly divided Europe and the wider world in two. I have never witnessed the poppies that McCrae once described flowering in Flanders not far from the second battle of Ypres in 1915. I have never gone to Gallipoli to pay homage to the diggers.


WWI poetry
Flanders Poppies atop Passchendaele Army Barrage Map

rangihīroa, WWI Archway of Remembrance, Ōhakune Memorial 1914-1918, October, 2018

However, what I have gained, growing up in this country, is a sense of the effect of this particular war. The memorials, the archways of remembrance (see Ōhakune image) the rolls of honour in community halls throughout New Zealand with the family names proudly recorded: these are all vivid and touching testimonies to the way this particular war has affected everyone in Aotearoa. What these monuments (always centrally positioned in our towns) and memorabilia tell us is that the Great War literally touched every Kiwi community throughout the land. Yale academic Jay Winter notes the scale of this sacrifice, ‘…the losses in terms of those killed on active service from New Zealand is between 1 in 6 and 1 in 5, so it was that country which suffered the most among the family of British nations’.

The more I thought about this particular war the more I realised war colours the entire history of Māori as well. Our inter-tribal wars (at least 800 – 1000 years of them), our battles with the British, our battles with the settlers and later paradoxically our fighting alongside the British from World War I onwards – this has been a long, haunting history in this land. There are military connections between Māori and the wider world as well. The language of trench warfare, that dominated the conflict on the Western front, owes something to historical Māori resistance to colonial intrusion in Aotearoa. The British Army commissioned drawings of the trench systems and underground pits utilised in fortifications at sites like Ruapekapeka, Pewhairangi 1845/1846 and Gate Pā, Tauranga in 1864. That knowledge returned to England and was frighteningly reapplied on an enormous scale with horrendous consequences, a number of decades later, on the western front.

Perhaps my most direct connection with the Great War is really through Māori art. I am fascinated by the way in which tāngata whenua artists use a unique Māori sensibility to talk about WW1. I have put together a series of images (some of which I have created) to pay tribute to the upcoming Armistice commemoration this Sunday. The two artists that feature in my collection are Paratene Matchitt and Michael Parekowhai. Both, while referencing the Great War, draw affinities with a Māori legacy of warfare. The indigenous connection helps make sense of the troubling content centering it locally despite the fact that the actual battles took place half a world away in Europe.

Continue reading “MaCIX MAORI ART & ARMISTICE A Century On”


gallery invitation
© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues



rangihīroa,  he āmionga kikorangi, ‘the blue orbit’, 2018


E ngā kaipānui tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā ra koutou katoa. Ngā whakawhetai ki a koutou mo te awhi me te tautoko hoki. Hari te ngakau nei e hoko ana koutou ki tā tātou pukapuka. Naaku te rourou, nau te rourou, ka kī te kete.

The following text comprises notes used to prepare for a presentation of ‘Writing Māori Art’ at the City Gallery, Wellington, 25 August 2016. They explore the background to the creation of MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, Batemans, 2015/2018. Some key themes and motivations for the work are discussed. ‘Writing Maori Art’ has been edited for this particular platform however, it largely follows the question/response format used in the original kōrero. I am offering this as a koha to recognise the hundreds on the publisher’s facebook site that have supported this project and the many who have been visiting this companion site to peruse the MaC I-VII blogs. I hope the kaupapa is useful to those searching for authorial intent.


Panoho, Leonard, Caldwell, Brunt and Tamati-Quennell


It was difficult to know what to prepare here. I wondered who might be attending so I found myself asking questions throughout this kōrero.  I have largely kept that initial structure involving enquiry and response. This imagining ones audience and then writing to / for that readership or group is what I think writing a book is about. There were other influences as well. The panel members (Megan Tamati-Quennell, MONZ and Peter Brunt, VUW), that follow this talk, were also interested in hearing about the book’s central river metaphor so I have included some discussion on awa. If you are looking for a brief explanation of the river try this video link.

Lorraine Steele, (Lighthouse NZ PR Book Publicity) assigned by my publisher Batemans to help market ‘Maori Art’, told me prior to its initial launch in June 2015 at Te Uru that books, particularly art books in New Zealand, don’t sell themselves. No great revelation for those involved in publishing here tonight. You would immediately understand the role authorial self-promotion plays in marketing New Zealand books, films indeed all creative activity in Aotearoa. In Auckland, the situation seems grim. With a city of nearly 1.5 million people there is no major window for New Zealand books on Queen Street, or apart from Unity Books, in the central city. Our publicist suggested I take a few months out to travel meet, greet, sign and sell. She was particularly keen on areas of the country with community ties to the book. What sounded like grim advice then makes good business sense now.

So here is my delayed response, eventually following marketing advice. In returning here to Wellington I am re-visiting a site important early on in the creation, the conceptualising, the illustration and in the production of ‘Maori Art’. I lived locally. I taught up the road on Tasman Street at the local Design School. My original publishing contracts were sent here. My first manuscript was created in this town. It was here I began describing to alarmed, possibly bemused readers, I was writing a book on Māori Art that would be centered around the metaphor of a river. My first readers Mary Barr, Jayne Sayle, Garry Nicholas and Luit Bieringa were and still all are locals. I curated a major Māori and a Pacific show, for the Dowse Art Museum and for the City Gallery respectively, prior to living here and I am grateful to Robert Leonard and the City Gallery for letting me continue this legacy in not simply celebrating curating but also writing ‘Maori Art’ with you.




So why write a book on Māori Art? Indeed, why write any book? At risk of personal scrutiny I quote British novelist George Orwell’s essay ‘Why I Write‘  because his account of authorship and motivation provides a useful structure here to work with and against. Writing post world war II (summer 1946) Orwell lays down 4 drives: sheer egotism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.  Some areas resonate more than others. I test a couple of these ideas.

Continue reading “Writing MAORI ART MaCVIII”

Rangihīroa’s response to Adam Gifford’s New Zealand Herald article on ‘MĀORI ART’


‘Maori Art – An ever-changing river – New Zealand Herald

Saturday 4 July 2015

Newly arrived settlers travelling from Tāmaki to Port Albert in the early 1860s were at times in danger of getting lost in the voluminous mangroves and mud of vast Kaipara. I might feel inclined to offer Gifford the obligatory canoe pole to help haul him out but I find his words neither generous nor fair. A map was offered at the beginning of the book to help those readers struggling with direction. The chapter outline in MĀORI ART very clearly indicates how the book will unfold. A senior editor acknowledged that structure as working. Gifford has chosen to chart his own course so, I will go with his points largely in the (dis)order he, or perhaps the ‘community of taste’ behind him, makes. The muddled response, perhaps the various voices pulling at his ear, may account for the mixed bag of thoughts offered up. For those left even more confused I say, bypass the review, buy the book. If you still are confused and looking for more explanation read on. The following is an attempt to make sense of what was dished up last weekend. The plethora of unfounded and dismissive statements beg response.

(‘Having garnered academic credentials, he feels obliged to deliver the definitive text, the big book.’)

Firstly with regard to the idea that my degrees give me some presumptuous right to create a definitive Toi Tāhuhu ‘Māori art history’. What would Gifford and others in the community of taste prefer? A Māori less qualified with less or no degrees or no PhD? Someone sitting in a position in a gallery, a university or museum who better serves an institutional agenda? As Māori the best thing we can offer the world is to tell the story as we see it. I have never presumed to write a definitive text that kills other people’s stories. Big authoritative books, is apparently what other colleagues are interested in at the moment. That I feel this way can already be read in my own 2013 critique on the first book called MĀORI ART by Augustus Hamilton in 1898. As to this book, yes it has grown large but it also demonstrates a genuine heartfelt commitment to Māori art and it’s diverse communities. It will be others (not simply locals) who over a much longer timeframe, will assess the importance of MĀORI ART in the wider scheme of things. I, along with many others, gave everything we had to get this out. That energy deserves to be properly and respectfully recognised.

As for shying away from making the big calls in relation to Maori art and avoiding a discussion of Māori modernism – who are Gifford and his mates kidding? There are some institutions that get way too much self congratulatory praise, and even mention, in a book review here about ‘Māori Art’ not trotting out out their own average record with curating and funding costly projects on the topic. Lets put modernism and its various offshoots (i.e post-modernism…) in their place. MĀORI ART introduces a new expansive vision of 5-6,000 years of history. Māori are simply the end of that long trail beginning in Southern China and many earlier Hawaiki throughout insular Asia even prior to the West and East Polynesian homelands. Contemporary Māori (modern/post-modern…) is a post world war II phenomenon that is an even smaller dot on the horizon. This “is” making the big call and I never shie away from either this huge panorama, or the intensely microcosmic tribal view, or from acknowledging some of our great European, American and global treasures. Where is the book on Maori Art by a Maori, within the discipline of art history, that dares to cover that territory? If someone else wants to bring that book out it’a little too late – it’s already out. Buy the book. Read about it.

And what’s with the idea of knocking someone who has spent their entire working life committed to Māori art history? Isn’t it a good thing that someone has chosen to dedicate themselves to write and share their life work in their specialist area? My understanding of the Māori world is that we love to celebrate the achievements of our own. I am not seeking to place myself above judgement, and regardless of whether or not people are agreeable with what I say, what has been achieved should be properly acknowledged otherwise commentary tends to be read as unflatteringly bitter. Noone can require that others acknowledge achievement but if a reviewer is reluctant to do so, as is abundantly clear in this review, he can hardly take issue with factual statements about primacy that demonstrate achievement. More typically I have found others, particularly Māori in the media, enormously generous in both the response and the pride they take in the achievements of their own. How many Māori do we get coming through with PhDs in Art History prior to 2003 or being offered an international contract to publish in Toi Tāhuhu prior to 1994? I may feel a little uncomfortable with TVNZ and Radio referencing me as an ‘expert’ in relation to my PhD and my past career but that is someone else’s thing, not mine. Indeed in my own trailer for the book, and within the book itself, I make it clear that so called ‘experts’ can sometimes prove problematic in the history of Māori art (again the reviewer or whomever made the comment regarding Sir Āpirana Ngata totally missed the point of the chapter).

Perhaps one of the saddest things, as the object of a review, is gaining an impression the reviewer is having a discussion about something else (personality, other people, other people’s opinions, other histories, other ideas…) and NOT the book itself. I can only attribute such dislocation to one of two issues. Either Gifford has trouble reading the book because: he doesn’t want to accept another take on Toi Tāhuhu or perhaps more likely he simply hasn’t taken the time to more carefully consider, reflect on and try to understand the work. Perhaps the reviewer may have done well to listen to my tuākana at the launch at Te Uru when he warned, ‘… this is not the kind of book that you can just [frivolously] dip into …’. It is a meditative philosophical work requiring reciprocal respect, focus and determination on the part of the reader. Not engaging with content leads to the kind of disconnected shallow commentary, and the resulting confused readership, under discussion here.

Take for example the decontextualising of key content crudely reduced to throwaway lines. ‘He describes his alternative as a palimpsest, after the scraping off and writing over old manuscripts.’ Presumably this explanation is supposed to help a reader understand how I was creating Toi Tāhuhu, a new Māori Art history. The line offers no hope that this reviewer possesses any real understanding of what palimpsest means in my book, its emphasis on translucency versus opacity, the use of Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s aesthetic, the avoidance of replacement and the importance of everpresent accumulative layers and the key concept of te hana ‘radiance’. Of course he can’t possibly go into this kind of detail but he does bring up material later in the review which could have very quickly deepened the idea. The discussion of Fred Graham and Shona Rapira-Davies’ sculptural installation was a lost opportunity to clarify palimpsest. Did he simply chose to ignore the idea because he simply didn’t care enough to read any further about why I chose to describe those two important public works?

My critical commentary on the opinions of others, specifically in relation to Māori art criticism, is also removed from its context and rather obviously used to try to create controversy. The idea that I am, ‘…picking a fight’ with various writers such as Ranginui Walker, Robert Leonard and Greg Burke is simply not factual. The wording is inciteful and silly, While he is annoyed by Walker’s conservatism, he is seriously angered.’ Says who? Now the reviewer reads my mind. I don’t know if Māori art history is something one can get that seriously angry over. Celebrated American modernist critic Clement Greeenberg, who visited New Zealand in 1968, certainly didn’t think that art history was something worth getting worked up over. More to the point, people get angry over lots of other things: power, loss of control, ego, reputation, threatened investment in objects and artists and so on.

Since he is trying to pursue the controversial line lets look at that idea. In relation to both Walker and Walker’s text on Harrison’s work he will have problems connecting the dots. I consider Harrison a whānuanga, I told whānau about my writing and in case there is any doubt I am a big admirer of Harrison’s toi whakairo (particularly that inside Tanenui-a-Rangi and Rākaiora at Harataunga). I also have a lot of time for Walker’s voice and am thrilled he covered the colourful life of this very important carver, mentor and teacher in his biography. On the odd occasion that Ranginui has expressed an opinion in my specialist area I have not shied away from voicing concern if I felt it was important. Such expression is here both warranted and necessary. ‘Te Waiherehere’ the chapter (the short chapter under discussion here) where all three people (Ranginui, Burke and Leonard) are mentioned is entirely devoted to what others say about Māori art. Presumably New Zealanders and the world are interested not only in monologues, from institutions and from key stakeholders, but also critical engagements with these narratives as well. The purpose of weighing up these veiwpoints is to look at the different ways in which people perceive and value particular expressions of Māori art over different periods of time. Comparing and contrasting ideas and philosophical positions is a pretty normal practice in the discipline. If you look at each of these people examined and others mentioned they have put themselves and their strong opinions out into the public arena. Why shouldn’t they expect critical response? Is it preferable that those the community of taste patronises, employs or supports not be questioned, challenged or queried? It is a real shock to me that a lot of this kōrero seems to have gone unnoticed and in some cases, where it begs to be tested, unchallenged.

(‘That’s where the book gets unwieldy. If it had come out in the 1990s it might have contributed to the effort to write the Maori modernists into the canon of New Zealand modernism, a job that has now been taken up by the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.’)

This is where the review gets unwieldy and hopelessly irrelevant. Nobody, and certainly not a Māori, could have brought a book out like this one, in relation to the discipline of art history, in the early 1990s let alone 2015. I only finished my Masters thesis in 1988. I was 24 years of age. What did I know about Māori Art, life, and how things are approved or advanced in the New Zealand artworld? The offer by a major publishing house for a Māori to write a book on contemporary Maori art for the local and international market came in 1993 from Sydney, not New Zealand. It was Craftsman House under Gordon and Breach International Publishing Group who first offered me a contract that was totally unique at the time. Books like this don’t just appear in a couple of years.

As for the issue of writing Māori into some imagined New Zealand canon of modernism. What an absolute waste of time and public money in the service of a hopelessly outdated objective that seriously deserves to sucumb to local government scrutiny and wider social and political change. Again anyone reading my book would know I don’t have much faith in a pantheon of artists endorsed by the community of taste. You received poor advice in picking the wrong person to try out this idea of ommission. The words of American Thomas McEvilley, from ‘Art and Otherness’ (enjoyed in both MĀORI ART and in my PhD) are both pertinent and timely in relation to the vested interest oozing from this attack:

All value judgements [i.e. regarding beauty and taste in art], being historically conditioned, are partly motivated ideologically and these are susceptible to social change, but it is to the advantage of the controlling group to posit its own criteria as eternal and universal.’ Exposing this discrepancy the writer then goes on to inclusively suggest, ‘… we have to criticise our own tastes and to see that certain elements in them are local and temporary and have hidden motivations that are not necessarily honorable …

If the reviewer had more carefully read the work he would have demonstrated an appreciation that MĀORI ART, for its own unique reasons, involves a very different sense of taste and quite different criteria in its selection of material, imagery and ideas. It is not only a different kind of project. It is a lifetimes work. Here a later comment is more useful to this particular discussion:

(‘Panoho’s views may have been better served by a more regular publishing schedule – collections of essays, perhaps poetic explorations of history and landscape illuminated by Mark Adams’ photographs, monographs on Matchitt or Hotere, and exhibition catalogues for the shows Panoho needs to curate to bring what he loves to the attention of an audience.’)

The country that I have been working in for nearly the last three decades would never have publically funded one individual let alone the team of individuals required to undertake all of the projects patronisingly suggested here. MĀORI ART was generously supported, to an extent, by Creative New Zealand, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Asia New Zealand Foundation. However, not even a larger institution may have been able to practice this glibly offered advice. I doubt any institution would have had the focus, determination and experience (shared amongst myself, Adams and Sameshima) to sustain this type of unique collaborative project over such a time period. The words ‘better served’ then ring hollow. Better served by whom or what? This project was largely altruistic. Primarily it was my family, the photographers and their homes that bore the costs of this beautiful high end book. It is a 23 year long project that would quite easily have sunk many a writer and would have hopelessly frustrated any institution. As for the helpful suggestion of curating and monographs. Why? Doesn’t New Zealand have enough monographs on artists and surveys…? Why keep working within formulas and with structures that are not helpful to the flow of the art or to embracing its broad diversity.

In relation to the idea that I should have gone off and curated some of the material in Māori Art. Oh yes, try a different profession. I thought I had already given enough to Māori and Pacific art in this area in the Australasian gallery museum circuit (see current blog Maori Curator I,II…which describe this legacy in detail) Nothing much can be achieved in this country (not all countries) if key stakeholders don’t support it and galleries won’t collaborate. This is why I would appeal to the reader to buy the book MĀORI ART and make up your own minds as to whether there is value in supporting its flow. Paraphrasing the great Ephesian philosopher Heraclitus I say, ‘…dip your feet in the river and neither you nor the river will be the same again.’