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The Journey – Otaheite to Aoteoroa

Te Ao Gallery presents: The Journey – Otaheite to Aoteoroa

Maori Art grows up and leaves home. A ground-breaking exhibition and gallery opening in Christchurch this week will openly challenge geographic preconceptions of indigenous art.

For Christchurch-based artist Rua Paul, his ambitious project “The Journey” is a sign of a new maturity in Maoridom. That our art is bold enough to travel and come home richer for the experience. At first blush the 35 sculptures and paintings are familiar to the eye, but intricate details tell a different story.

The bust of a Maori chief with carved moko inlaid with sterling silver. Carved not from Totara or Rimu but 100 year old hardwood recycled from an Indonesian sugar factory. Waka paddles inlaid with mother of pearl and silver. On canvas, Maori tattoo patterns openly compete with those from other pacific islands. Paul has taken Maori design offshore to the Island of Bali, using local artisans carving skills, fused them with his own traditional designs, and returned with a fresh global perspective.

By cross-pollinating the indigenous - Maori patterning - with the exotic - taonga from neighbouring cultures - the works seriously challenge the dividing line between the two.

It is almost as if the museum treasures which left New Zealand in their naïve form in the 1980’s in traveling exhibitions such as Te Maori have returned worldly wise - collecting talismans along the way. As a young emerging artist, Paul first ventured into the Pacific on the nuclear protest vessel the Fri in 1973.

He has returned many times to surf and study canoe-making techniques in Fiji and Tahiti and throughout Polynesia.

Tahiti is the starting point for the journey. The pieces in the exhibition are representative of the people and treasures which occupied a place in the first waka to leave the islands and travel south to Aoteoroa.

Rather than approach the art establishment to stage his unique statement, Paul has created a brave new gallery space in Christchurch in the burgeoning art quarter around High Street.

He warmly invites you to share his opening on the 24 November at 8pm sharp.


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