I was asked to create a work to sell in the Auckland Museum shop as part of the Taku Tāmaki - Auckland Stories exhibition which opens this weekend. After getting briefly sidetracked by mantle dogs (more on them later) I decided to paint the magnificent breadwood sculpture Kawe , which greets visitors to the Pacific Lifeways Gallery.
Kawe is believed to be a malevolent goddess who got up to tricks when the god Iaigausema was absent, creating natural disasters and the like. An article from the New Zealand Herald, 1878 in typical exoticising colonial tones ( "it is ... a proof of the barbarous and primitive worship that obtains in some of the islands"*) suggests she sat upon an alter overseeing human sacrifices. Another article I found suggested it was children who were sacrificed before her, whilst I'm weary of the Victorian (and/or current) western tradition of exoticising non-western cultures as 'savage', I liked the dark undertone which the carving's real or supposed history lent to the image, with a child standing in awe of her.
* Quote found on this excellent blog post about Kawe
I documented my progress fairly well which is pretty unusual for me, here it is: