Painted Histories: Early Māori Figurative Painting
This volume explores the flowering of figurative painting in the decoration of Māori meeting houses, especially in the east of the North Island, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Not practised in traditional culture, figurative painting evolved as response to missionary criticism of Māori church decoration. Later, several distinctive figurative painting traditions developed, especially in association with Te Kooti and the Ringatū church. Decoration of the meeting house was transformed in many striking and beautiful ways to give visual expression to new tribal histories based on Ringatū teaching and the experience of land alienation.
However, this creative period did not last and figurative painting was superseded in the early twentieth century by a government-sponsored return to orthodox art forms. Neich analyses the theory and practice of this art and describes the figurative painting of over 80 meeting houses.
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This seminal publication is important, not only for the historical insight it offers but also for the platform that it constructs for ‘korero’ across the cultural divide. – Robert Jahnke, Landfall