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25 August 1995 —
24 September 1995

Ta Te Whenua

Shane Cotton (Ngati Hine and Ngati Rangi, Ngapuhi) and Robert Jahnke (Te whanau a Rakairoa, Ngati Porou) are two local Maori artists with established national and international reputations.

They teach Maori visual art together in the Department of Maori Studies at Massey University. They have produced some works collaboratively before but this is the first time they have had a joint exhibition.

Both artists have previously concentrated on the history of interactions between Maori and Pakeha and how this has been expressed in two-way cultural borrowings. Shane Cotton, for example, has included references to painted images on meeting houses from around the turn of the century. These were pictures of such things as pots, flags, birds, people, trees and ships in which Maori appropriated the Western technique of realistic painting for their own ends.

The underlying reference of this exhibition is the Government's "fiscal envelope" proposal. Given the interest of these two artists in both the collisions and mutual assimilations of Maori and Pakeha cultures this seems a logical development. For many Maori the proposal has both encapsulated and brought to a head more than a century and a half of dealing with Pakeha - and the accompanying misunderstandings and injustices.

Robert Jahnke's rubber stamp sculptures in the exhibtiion refer to this history. They bear the words "not negotiable", suggesting bureaucracy, authority and the inflexible imposition of legislation on Maori.

Shane Cotton's painting 'In the red' shows a vertical sequence of landscape scenes in which the land becomes smaller and smaller towards the top of the painting. Read upwards it could be taking the wider view and referring to the history of land loss of Maori (or continuing alienation); downwards it is more positive, suggesting recent land restoration in particular instances.

Both artists show the land overlain with grids, maps, and writing, symbolic of imposed, Pakeha ways of thinking that has taken little account of how Maori view the land - something that is a part of their identity and is not "ownable" in the Pakeha sense.