Writer, curator and artist Dr Rangihīroa Panoho delivers a reminder in his ĀTĀROA exhibition, which has opened at Mahara Gallery, that the passage of time has not shortened the shadow cast by Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua the New Zealand Land Wars.
ĀTĀROA, ‘the long shadow’ of the New Zealand Land Wars is a mixture of paintings, photographs and poetry. As well as being a reminder of the lasting effects of the Wars, it pays tribute to ngā toa, the Māori warriors, who died as a result of the conflict.
The New Zealand Land Wars began in Wairau in 1843, spread North in 1845, to the Wellington region in 1846 and later to Taranaki, Tāmaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and other regions in the 1860s.
“They have a far more powerful presence and legacy in Aotearoa than is widely understood today,” says Panoho. “These events and the values that drove the conflicts continue to cast a shadow across contemporary Aotearoa.
“Te Rangihaeata’s pā at Pāuatahanui is a only a short distance south of the Mahara Gallery. The shadow of the events captured in this exhibition is then not simply an historical reference, but rather a contemporary presence.
“In 2021 the New Zealand Land Wars teach us that there is a continuing need for aroha as Māori and tauiwi make efforts to acknowledge one another and to avoid the darker, more tangible presence of Ātāroa returning.”
Dr Panoho says the paintings and photos are used to suggest the values and ideals that ngā toa fought for in their efforts to maintain their mana whenua and their authority over their tribal lands.
“The photographs are largely factual records of battle sites in the Northern Wars, but perhaps not the ones conventionally taken. The land itself and the natural environment is actually the strongest witness to these conflicts.
“On that tilted, elevated site at Ruapekapeka (1845–1846) one can still actively imagine the scene in the remains of the earth fortifications and in the pūriri forest and native bush that surrounds the site.
“I have returned many times to Ōhaeawai, Ruapekapeka and more recently Ōtuihu, Bay of Islands, to photograph, wānanga and research. I am not looking for plaques or monuments; I am searching for other more intangible reminders.”
Dr Rangihīroa Panoho is affiliated with Ngāti Manu, Te Parawhau and Te Uriroroi hapū of Te Tai Tokerau. He has connections of descent from both leaders of resistance and of invasion.
He has a background teaching and curating Māori/Pacific shows in the Whanganui/Wellington region and is the author of the influential Māori Art History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory (Bateman, 2017).
The motivation for ĀTĀROA came in 2020 when he completed a mōteatea and an essay for the photographer Bruce Connew’s book A Vocabulary recording text from Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua monuments.
A key outcome was the sense that the writing wasn’t enough to honour the fallen.
“I was moved by their stand and their sacrifices against overwhelming odds and I wanted to recognise that voice in my small creative contribution. The support of my hapū, the Mahara Gallery and Creative New Zealand has been central in helping to realise this vision.”
“ĀTĀROA presents a richly informed and passionate response by Panoho to a critical time and events in our history that remain vital to gain a fuller understanding for our future,” says Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly.
She says Dr Panoho’s work, and that of writer, photographer and poet Paul Thompson, will be the last to be exhibited in the Gallery before it moves off-site in September for a multi-million dollar building redevelopment.
ĀTĀROA, ‘the long shadow’ of the New Zealand Land Wars in mainSPACE and Asemica, artist’s books, in NewSPACE are scheduled to show until 18 September, 2021.
A floor-talk with Dr Panoho will take place Saturday 21 August from 2:30pm.
Free entry. All welcome.