Lisa Reihana

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1964
Ngāti Hine, Ngā Puhi, Māori

Sex Trade, Gift for Banks, Dancing Lovers, Sextant Lesson (18550) (19205)

  • 2017
  • Pigment print on Hahnemühle paper, mounted on aluminium dibond behind acrylic
  • Purchased, 2018
  • 748 x 2665mm
  • 2018/003

Working in the fields of cinema and performance, Lisa Reihana seeks to create a space for indigenous voices within her work, particularly for Māori and Pasifika women. This still image is taken from her 64-minute panoramic video work in Pursuit of Venus [infected], made in response to a scenic wallpaper from the early 1800s titled Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique. Reihana filmed her own tableau of Oceanic peoples’ encounters with Captain Cook and his men. The scene is complex and challenges colonial perspectives and historic interpretations, particularly around how women were used as objects for trade. “I hope that as a viewer you’re always trying to work out what exactly is going on in this work, just like these historical figures would have”, says Reihana. “When you suddenly meet new people and new things are happening, you have to decipher and make sense of the world yourself. There will always be lots of misunderstanding – layers of misunderstanding – and that is what is going to happen for viewers too.”

(Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania, 2021)

earlier labels about this work
  • In 2008 Lisa Reihana was visiting Sydney where, by chance, she saw an exhibition of a French neo-classical wallpaper that had been printed almost exactly two hundred years earlier, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (savages of the Pacific Ocean). It depicted the explorations of Captain James Cook in twenty panels. The exhibition label, recalled Reihana, “said how it was about the people of the Pacific. I could not see it. I thought that the piece itself was a marvel, but I just couldn’t see the Pacific in it at all.”Inspired by Les Sauvages, in 2015 Reihana made In Pursuit of Venus [infected], a 26-metre panoramic video in which vignettes of Pasifika, Aboriginal, Pākehā and Māori characters are superimposed over the idyllic Pacific landscapes imagined two centuries ago on the other side of the world. Reihana’s narratives of sexual violence, trade, dance, exploration, misunderstandings, conflict and violent incidents challenge colonial stereotypes, giving agency to indigenous peoples and adding nuance to colonial histories. “I hope that as a viewer you’re always trying to work out what exactly is going on in this work”, says Reihana. “Just like these historical figures would have. When you suddenly meet new people and new things are happening, you have to decipher and make sense of the world yourself. There will always be lots of misunderstanding – layers of misunderstanding.” This work is a panoramic photographic print derived from In Pursuit of Venus [infected]. It combines different interactions between English sailors and Pasifika peoples. While Cook’s botanist Joseph Banks – who gave his name to Banks Peninsula – takes a chief’s wife to his tent, two sailors approach some seated Tahitian women. One of the sailors coughs and spits blood on the ground. They smile and hold up two spike nails as a suggested trade...

    (We do this, 12 May 2018 - 26 May 2019)