Title / object name
Whakapiri atu te whenua
|Maker ||Role ||Date |
|Cotton, Shane ||artist ||1993 |
oil on canvasMaterials
oil paint, canvas
|Image ||1772 (Height) x 1608 (Length) x mm|
|Frame ||1831 (Height) x 1657 (Width) x 46 (Depth) mm|
Purchased 1993 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Whakapiri Atu te Whenua
In this painting Shane Cotton draws on imagery from late nineteenth-century Mäori figurative painting found in the meeting houses on the East coast - a style inaugurated by the prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and especially prominent at Rongopai marae at Patutahi near Gisborne. Mäori figurative painting was one of the first cross-pollinations between Mäori and European visual cultures. In Whakapiri Atu te Whenua, Cotton reinterprets and reshapes that early visual interaction.
The pot plant is a reoccurring symbol in Cotton's paintings. For Cotton the pot has associations with the containment of land, land nurture, and ownership. The title of the work means 'retain the land' and is attributed to Te Kooti. It refers to the land wars of the 1860s and 1870s and to Te Kooti's campaigns to halt the appropriation of Mäori land. In Whakapiri Atu te Whenua, the dying plants in the base of the central pot are an allegory of the adverse effects of the containment of land and people. Cotton has created symbolic shorthand: the pole, pä palisades, flags and flagpoles, and the decapitated plant speak of land ownership, colonisation, and Mäori resistance.
Blasphemy of missionaries
Cotton's home marae is at Ngäwhä. Like many of the meeting houses in the Far North, the one at Ngäwhä is without Mäori customary carving. This was a result of early Christian missionaries and the devastating impact in stopping the practise of carving, which they viewed as a blasphemous worship of false idols.
Te Papa collection
Drawing on Mäori, Päkehä, and international influences, Shane Cotton has made a major impact on the mainstream New Zealand art.