Waahine Toa: Women in Maori Myth

3 May – 3 June 1984

Waahine Toa is an exhibition of 8 large paintings with accompanying drawings and like engravings by the Wellington artist, Robyn Kahukiwa.

Robyn Kahukiwa can be classified as a naive painter. As Neil Rowe describes in his introduction to the exhibition:

"Her approach is instinctive rather than academic. Naive art of one kind or another has found exponents at all historical periods although it exists outside the mainstream of art history and owes little to schools or the current "style". Great Naive artists have included "Le Douanier" Rousseau, the American, Grandma Moses and Marc Chagall. Characteristic of much Naive art is its link with Folk Art and tradition. Waahine Toa has affinities with a narrative folk style of meeting house decoration prevalent on the East Coast depicting myths and genealogies and similarly includes elements and motifs from traditional Maori art. Although Robyn's antecedents are on the East Coast her background is bi-cultural and it is the expression of this which gives her art its particular strength and relevance to Maori and Pakeha alike.

The creation myths of the Maori are profoundly beautiful. They speak to us directly about birth and death and about love - between man and woman, mother and child. In this remarkable body of work depicting the eight principal female protagonists in the myths - from Te Po, the darkness before the work and all being, to Hinenuitepo, the goddess of death who claimed Maui as she claims the least daring of men – Robyn Kahukiwa has given us a brilliantly realised visual narrative in oil paintings and pencil drawings. The world of myth that she translates is the heritage of all New Zealanders. It is unique to this place. It is the story of these islands and their beginnings. The mystery and the beauty belong to the myths, it is Robyn's achievement that she has so aptly interpreted them and so vividly brought them to life."

Waahine Toa is toured by the Wairarapa Arts Centre with the assistance of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors' Council.

('Waahine Toa - Women in Maori Myth', Bulletin, No.33, May/June 1984, pp.1-2)