Robyn Kahukiwa

Australia / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1940
Ngati Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare, Māori

Mourning Woman

  • 1989
  • Pastel on paper
  • Gift of the Smart Family Trust, 2014
  • 1125 x 818mm
  • 2014/039

The female body is tapu, or sacred, in te ao Māori, and known as he whare tangata, the house of humankind. Hair, in particular, is associated with mana and power. A woman’s hair might be cut during tangihanga (funeral rites) in order to be placed with the tūpāpaku (deceased) as an act of intense grief. Robyn Kahukiwa is connected through her mother to a matriarchal Māori lineage and seeks to affirm and resurrect the customary status of wāhine Māori in her art. This was undermined during the colonisation of Aotearoa due to patriarchal Victorian beliefs about gender roles.

(Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, 6 August 2022- )

Exhibition History