Jacqueline Fraser has established a name for herself as a contemporary Māori artist whose investigation of the place of modern Māori art is unique and exacting. Her work is ephemeral, site specific and uses traditional Māori motifs in a way that is completely original and modern. Jacqueline Fraser has established a unique and challenging approach to the traditions of Māori symbols, with this project she uses a feature of the local landscape to say something about this area and about contemporary Māori art.
What has happened to Pigeon Mountain since 1970?
The photograph above illustrates the butchering of one of the Auckland Isthmus’ mountains. Some see this as part of a trend in Auckland, our mountains being mined for materials (in this case scoria) or bulldozed for housing.
The Māori name for the area, Pakuranga Rahihi, relates to a battle in which the sun’s rays were used as spears. This was between Kōiwi and Putere of the Nukumaitore people (a fairy people). Initially settled by Ngāriki people from 1200-1500 AD, the mountain became the site of the largest Pā for the Tangata Whenua: Ngāi Tai people of Tainui lineage. Until recently the mountain still had dividing walls dating from possibly as early as 1700. These were razed in 1991.
Jacqueline Fraser has been concerned with physical landmarks through the last six years work. Like traditional art, Fraser uses art to capture a story so that it will not be lost. Like contemporary sculpture, she uses unusual or ‘found’ materials that wouldn’t normally be associated with artistic activity. The work offers traces of architectural and artistic styles that can be interpreted in current art speak. The exhibition rides the boundary between archeological dig and spiritual quest. She translates the spiritual ‘artwork’ of the Māori mountain to contemporary western art, which has a long history of religious depiction.
The mountain and important figures in its life will be represented in the large gallery, using Fraser’s unusual woven cable approach. She carefully weaves shapes in a way that subtly captures the stylistic impulse of traditional Māori carvings. Like traditional panels, the figures are displayed on the walls. What is very unusual is that she uses electrical cable instead of traditional weaving materials. The result looks like contemporary sculpture and traditional forms at the same time.
For this project, representatives from Ngāi Tai have assisted with interpretation and Saatchi & Saatchi have provided support, making it Fraser’s largest project in Auckland.
→ Jacqueline Fraser: Pakuranga Rahihi – The Martyrdom of Pigeon Mountain, 1996, exhibition card
→ Sorry no photographs, New Zealand Herald, 1996