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Bob Kerr's Rua Expedition


Bob Kerr's Rua Expedition

Like the armed offenders squad breaking down your door because of some parking tickets,² is how Wellington artist Bob Kerr describes the historical incident behind his latest exhibition.

The Rua Expedition, which opens at Idiom Studio on 21 February, is a sequence of paintings describing the 1916 police raid to arrest the Maori prophet Rua Kenana. A heavily armed party of more than 70 police trekked through dense bush to the prophet¹s religious community in the heart of the Urewera Forest. As they arrived a scuffle broke out which erupted into a running gun-battle. Soon four of Rua¹s men, including his son, lay dead while others, and several of the police, were wounded by bullets.

Bob Kerr, whose work also appears on the cover of Michael King¹s Penguin History of New Zealand, used contemporary photographs, news stories and oral history to research the exhibition. Some of these paintings quote the words of an Œembedded journalist¹, selected by the police to accompany them and provide sympathetic press coverage.

Tamati Kruger, a Tuhoe artist and tribal leader, says ŒThis is an extraordinary exhibition by the fact that a Pakeha has chosen ... a subject considered erroneously by many to be a Maori historical event.¹

The Rua Expedition was first shown at the Whakatane Art Gallery in November, with a dramatic opening ceremony attended by descendants of both the police who took part in the raid, and of Rua and his followers. It then transferred to the Rotorua Art Gallery. When the exhibition at Idiom finishes on 15 March, it will reopen at the Waikato Art Museum in Hamilton.

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