Sunday, 20 November 2016

What is my Culture? Three Paintings by Justine D'Anvers.

After painter Justine's children had been asked to consider their Mihi and Culture at school she started to ask herself the question:  "As a post-colonial born and bred Northland woman: What is my Culture.?" 

She went on to explore this theme in three paintings which are currently being exhibited in an exhibition of NZ Outsider Art  at Lakehouse Arts Centre called "Women's Voices."

A high proportion of Maori live in Northland, her home, and this has influenced her perception of who she is and where she fits in her community.

In each of her paintings the tiki appears. In Maori mythology the tiki symbolises the first man on earth. A carved greenstone (pounamu) hei-tiki necklace was  also worn as a fertility symbol by women . These days it is worn as a taonga  and it has also been adopted as an iconic image by all New Zealanders.

In her first painting a Ngapuhi chieftainess, Ina ( Ena) Te Papatahi appears as a shadowy figure .Her spirit infuses the painting . This is a copy of a Goldie portrait but in that painting the old kuia was sitting on the steps of a whare whakairo (a carved meeting house)

Here she is framed instead by a mat woven from harakake (flax) .This is women's art ( while the art of carving was the domain of men) so this is her story

On her face a moko has been carved but she has chosen to wear European clothing linking both cultures. 

Her expression is both tired and pensive, She has experienced many changes.In her lifetime in spite of the Treaty wars were waged and a great deal of Maori land was unfairly taken .

But in the foreground, looking brighter and more animated is a greenstone tiki which promises new life . 

In her second  painting a tiki, with button eyes, is at the centre of a quilt. His body merges into the patchwork squares which fill the picture plane.

This painting was inspired by memories of childhood. Justine's mother loves fabric and was a quilt maker.

But it could also be read as a way of showing that although we have many different histories we are  connected through our common humanity.