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Object: Te Puhi o te tai Haruru

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Title Te Puhi o te tai Haruru
Production Fomison, Tony (artist), 1984-85, Auckland
Medium summary oil on hessian on plywood
Materials oil paint, burlap, plywood
Classification paintings
Dimensions Image: 905mm (Height) x 1815mm (Width)
Frame: 963mm (Height) x 1875mm (Width) x 55mm (Depth)
Credit line Purchased 2003
Registration number 2003-0013-1

Drawing on his long-standing ambition to make mural-sized 'apocalyptic' paintings of history in New Zealand, and his 'sense of a burgeoning bi-culturalism', Tony Fomison began working on Te Puhi o te tai Haruru in 1984. This oil paint on hessian on board painting is the largest of a number of paintings he made about the 'handing-on' of ancestral knowledge.

Landscape and memories
In this painting Fomison comes as close as he ever would to depicting a particular place. It is set on the Taranaki shoreline: the Puhi figure refers to the daughter of the chief, the raukura feathers to the Taranaki people of Te Whiti o Rongomai. Fomison imagined the ancestors of this place, and sought to confront his audience with this tangible, powerful past.

Drawings on rock
Te Puhi o te tai Haruru is informed by Fomison's knowledge of the landscapes of the Mäori rock drawing sites in Taranaki. He had earlier studied rock drawings in South Canterbury, and he was familiar with Theo Schoon's work on rock drawings for the Canterbury Museum. Fomison has made the point that his landscapes do not have any literal reference to the rock drawings, as a sign of respect for their cultural significance. In an article about Mäori rock art in Taranaki he wrote that 'In pre-pakeha times at least, art was too sacred for casual use . . . none but a craftsman in the service of his ancestors was free to render the sacred spiral in a more permanent form.' Although Fomison does not literally replicate the markings, he imagines their makers and, as an artist, translates their cultural meanings in a fictional mode.

Te Papa owns twenty-seven works by Tony Fomison.

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