Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Heke Iho


  • Medium: mixed media
  • Size: 48 × 19 × 9 inches
  • Reference Code: KX30639

This series of works presents a commentary on the ‘kowhai ngutukaka’, ‘mangopare’ and ‘aramoana’ patterns that once were the preserve of Maori cultural spaces. Today they may be found tattooed on the skin of both Maori and non-Maori, printed on clothing and coffee cups. The appropriation of Maori kowhaiwhai (painted scroll work) for domestic ware is not a new phenomenon, but dates back to the turn of the nineteenth century. The reconfiguration of the heke (rafter) and the juxtaposition of the kowhaiwhai imprinted mug with ‘vacant’ white heke, references the mining of indigenous spaces in the name of cultural commodification.

The title of this series is ‘Heke Iho’, which literally means to descend (or descended from). This title is part of a phrase that reads “He taonga i heke iho mai i nga matua tipuna” (It is a treasure that descends from our ancestors). In this context the above phrase is used to locate the importance of the kowhaiwhai: kowhai ngutukaka, mangopare and aramoana.