New Zealand born 1949
Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Central Polynesia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood Support: wood [Casuarina equisetifolia]
Both these sculptures were placed in very strategic positions in the grounds of the palace in marae Taputapuatea, Avarua, Rarotonga, to indicate their creator’s desire to re-establish a tribal Are Korero (teaching house) in that location. Akamata was the first and Taputu followed.
Akamata was placed in the centre of a large circle divided into eight segments; Taputu was then positioned at the junction of the circle and the line separating two of the segments, directly in front of Akamata. Nestling at the base of each sculpture was a heavy stone containing a vaerua spirit.
In creating both figures, Eruera Te Whiti Nia drew upon the central core of two artistic traditions: that from Rarotonga, seen in the portrayal of the eyes in Akamata; and that from the Maori ancestry on his father’s side, seen in the uncurling frond at the top of the Akamata, signifying new growth. Nia called it Akamata [The Beginning], because he wanted it to be the first work of a new movement on Rarotonga. Although it was not given an ancestral name, it symbolises the aristocratic family title that Nia holds, consolidating his position on the sacred marae of Taputapuatea.
The second work in this group is a more aggressive figure, carved in 2002 by Nia for Taputu, the younger brother of a fellow artist, who died in 1995. The pare (crest-shape) upon the head is an indication of Taputu’s Tahitian aristocratic lineage.
Michael Gunn, Senior Curator, Pacific Arts
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014