Many of my large scaled arylic and oil based paintings were created between 2001 and 2004 when I was living in Australia. Although painting and graphic art are very different mediums, I think I have basically carried that same style of work I was doing back then through to my digital illustrations. You can see the similarities of then and now, especially in my use of black outlines.
Much of my inspiration for my Maori themed paintings have come from my Maori background and heritage, especially the stories that are specific to the Wairarapa area because this is where my tribal roots lie. At the time, I felt there was a real need to expose and preserve these stories for younger generations. I was worried these great stories would be forgotten. Giving each story a face, a visual imagery so they were easily remembered, meant I was helping to keep them alive. And I'm glad I did make that decision and put in all the hours and effort, because certain works have now become taonga (treasures) which my Whanau (family) and wider Whanau are very proud to be connected with.
Te Aitu was born around 1820 and was a Rangatira (Princess) belonging to the Ngati Moe people of Papawai, in the Wairarapa. She is also a Tupuna (ancestor) of mine.
The story of Te Aitu and John Milsome Jury is a pretty cool one. Having read it several times, I could just imagine the stages of her amazing adventure. A captive for two years on Kapati Island at the tender age of 16. Then along comes a Whaling ship ... enters John Jury. They fall inlove and plan a daring escape back to her homeland. Stealing a small whaling boat they frantically paddle through the cook straight and up the Ruamahanga River, while the infamous warrior, Te Rauparaha, is hot on their heals. It all makes for a pretty exciting story for sure. Whether the actual events are true or not, no one can really say. But Te Aitu, John Jury and Te Rauparaha were all very real people and this story did inspire me to create a number of artworks. My thoughts of a young Te Aitu were of a strong brave woman. At the time of painting this body of work, I was very proud of the fact that I was a descendant and couldn't help but wonder if maybe a little bit of her courage and determination had filtered down through my whakapapa ... and found its way to me!
Okautete (Homewood) is situated on the east coast of the Wairarapa. This is the place my grandfather traces his heritage back to ... this whenua ... this now remote and fairly isolated area. There is a church called Mangamoria, which I've always thought of as being quite spooky actually, that stands between a backdrop of rolling green hills and a beautiful coastal landscape. I love the hills out there ... and I love the ocean views which can be quite breathtaking. It is a very special place that holds a lot of history and significance for me.