Rangiriri Triptych 1996

This highly abstract, three-panelled form invokes tukutuku. However, unlike the panels of wharenui, usually made by two women, working in harmonious rhythm to thread fibres through the wooden slats, this 'tukutuku' does not imply partnership. It tells a story of racial conflict, deeply imprinted on to a landscape. The weaving of cloth, canvas, paint, resin and oil diverges from the standard tukutuku materials. It echoes Land Wars in which two sides both suffered a bloody outcome.

The work also offers a strange tangibility and familiarity, never distancing itself far from the idea of walls and panels found within Maori or Pakeha houses. The artificial 'walls' implied by Rangiriri Triptych are noticeably temporary in nature, like those of a tent, never fully stable yet providing make-shift shelter. Here, shelter also comes from the landscape, despite its war-torn past. Within that landscape we try to build homes using new technologies in the hope of warding off new invasions, stabilising our existence against violation and disease. Like the more conventional tukutuku panel the Rangiriri Triptych provides a focal point for meditation. It encourages us to remember a torn and burnt past and to search for a better future. JD

Michael Hight b.1961

Rangiriri Triptych 1996
Found canvas, cloth, blackboard paint, resin and oil

The Fletcher Trust Collection

This work was first exhibited at Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, in a show entitled Four Strong Winds, whose physical, intellectual and emotional starting point was the Waikato River. The artist had travelled along the banks of the Waikato, Waipa and Mokau rivers looking at the flow of water, landscape forms, buildings and their materials and engaging with the various historical associations of particular sites. The black, red and white panels and the tied crosses invoke both Maori and Pakeha art forms.

On 20 November 1863, Rangiriri was the site of one of the fiercest military engagements during the invasion of the Waikato by British imperial forces led by General Cameron. Lasting two days and involving great loss of life on both sides, the fighting came to an end when Maori surrendered for lack of ammunition. Among parties of reinforcements who had to turn back on receiving news of the surrender was one led by Te Heuheu Horonuku. General Cameron resigned in 1865, repudiating his part in the Waikato war in the belief that it was solely driven by settler greed for land.

This painting is intended to invoke the cultural tensions of that time. The artist's carefully chosen materials are highly relevant to fire, water, bloodstains, discarded things. PS

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