The Maori (indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand) notion of mortality is recorded in tribal narrative as a contest between the goddess of death Hine-nui-te-po (the maiden of darkness) and folk hero Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga (Maui bound in the topknot of Taranga). The earliest representations of the narrative appear on carved door lintels and bone chests. After European contact depictions of the event were translated onto treasure boxes in a surreptitious approach that disguised the genitalia of the protagonists in lieu of Missionary puritanical interference. In the twentieth century, European patronage in the building of tribal houses resulted in literal renditions of the narrative influenced by Western sculptural conventions. Towards the end of the twentieth century, both Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) artists contribute to the death narrative in a naturalistic figurative genre straddling illustration to performance. The paper tracks the death narrative through time to demonstrate the change in representational approaches and the rationale for these changes.
|Keywords:||Maori Art, Death, Hine-nui-te-po, Mauitikitiki-a-Taranga, Door Lintels, Bone Chests, Treasure Chests|
Head of the School of Maori Studies, School of Maori Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, Manawatu, New Zealand