Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)



Matariki is the Pleiades constellation whose helical rising signals the beginning of the New Year for the Māori. Matariki symbolizes a mother and her six daughters. When Matariki shines bright then it will be a fruitful year. Matariki links the Pacific as many Pacific cultures use her to start the new year.

The wavy horizontal line of steel designs at the bottom of the triangle sculpture represents the Waikato River.

The seven pāua shell triangles, on either side of the steel, represent taniwha (river spirits) or chiefs referring to the saying: “Waikato River he piko, he taniwha.” This translates as: “Waikato River at every bend a chief.” This is a reference to the numerous villages on the river.

The seven pāua triangles are the seven chiefs: 1. Potatau, 2. Tanwhiao, 3. Mahuta, 4. Rata, 5. Koroki, 6. Te Atai Rangi Kahu, 7. Princess Te Puea. The first five are former Māori kings and the last two are: Te Atai Kahu, the Māori queen who died two years ago (2006); and Te Puea, the great Waikato leader and princess, who died in 1950.

The black and red triangles make up the Taupiri Mountain, waikato’s sacred mountain, where the Māori kings are buried. It is a sacred tribal burial ground.

In Māori mythology when a chief dies, their left eye becomes a star. Matariki means “little eyes” so this sculpture suggests that the seven stars of the Matariki constellation represent the eyes of seven Waikato chiefs (the five ariki or kings, the queen and the princess).

In the sky above the Taupiri Mountain are the seven pāua stars of the Matariki constellation.

This sculpture is featured in the book Te Kahui o Matariki (Contemporary Māori Art of Matariki).

Fred Graham

Fred Graham


Ngāti Koroki Kahukura

(1928- )

Educated in Hamilton, New Zealand, Fred trained as a teacher, focussing on the arts. He worked as an art specialist in schools in the Rotorua and Northland districts of New Zealand, then taught art to teachers. An important figure in Māori art since the early 1960s, he has participated in most major exhibitions of contemporary Māori art, including “Te Waka Toi: Contemporary Māori Art,” which toured the United States. His paintings and sculptural works are many and varied, some dealing with controversial issues, such as the continuing loss of Māori land, although his central themes are inspired by Māori traditions and legends.