Maori goddess returns to Te Manawa

HOMECOMING: Te Manawa assistant curator Susanna Shadbolt and registrar Rebekah Clements move Hinetitama in.
HOMECOMING: Te Manawa assistant curator Susanna Shadbolt and registrar Rebekah Clements move Hinetitama in.

A well-travelled world-class contemporary Maori artwork has made its way home to Manawatu.

Art connoisseurs will soon be welcomed to Palmerston North's Te Manawa museum and art gallery with the vibrant vision of Hinetitama.

The 1980s oil painting, by Kapiti artist Robyn Kahukiwa, is set to hang in a prime position behind the front desk at Te Manawa for a fortnight.

A handful of Te Manawa dignitaries and iwi members were present at a blessing for Hinetitama, led by Manu Kawana, yesterday.

The piece has been on a whirlwind world tour for the past few years. It has been included in various travelling exhibitions in Japan, France, Quebec and Mexico.

Te Manawa's registrar Rebecca Clements said the piece combines contemporary art with traditional toanga.

More than 340,000 people have laid eyes on the Maori masterpiece during its travels.

Hinetitama is one of eight works in the Wahine toa series, which celebrates the essential female element in Maori mythology.

In Maori mythology, Hinetitama was the daughter of the god Tane and Hineahuone.

She later fled to the underworld and became Hinenuitepo, the goddess of death.

In Kahukiwa's piece, she attempts to redress the common portrayal of women as less important than their male counterparts.

Te Manawa chief executive Andy Lowe said Hinetitama was an invaluable part of Te Manawa's collection.

"It's such a major piece of work . . . it's very special both culturally and visually."


Artist Robyn Kahukiwa's Hinetitama Maori mythology symbolism. Tane is depicted as a stylised tiki superimposed upon the figure of Hinetitama and forming the bones of her arms. The lizard represents Maui in the disguise he adopted when he tried to triumph over death. The foetus represents the children of Tane and Hinetitama – the human race. The spiral is an important element in traditional Maori carving. Here it represents the 10 overworlds. The horizontal layers of colour represent the 10 underworlds. Source: New Zealand History Online

Manawatu Standard