Topic: Cultural Encounters by Karen Francis Lawson

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Cultural Encounters by Karen Lawson was awarded runner up in the New Zealand Mural Competition held in Katikati (2013). The mural is based on an historical perspective of the colonialisation of New Zealand as well as Tauranga history with strong references to the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga (1864).

The artist’s interpretation is based on an historical perspective. New Zealand is a country born from cultural encounters both positive and negative. It is a young and unique nation with an organic, strong and proud sense of identity.

Cultural Encounters by Karen Francis Lawson

Karen is focused on building upon knowledge of her own Māori ancestry. Through researching the colonialisation of New Zealand and local history, she created a mural that reflects aspects of New Zealand’s bicultural heritage, identity and cultural encounters.

The inspiration for Karen's layout was inspired by flags, koru representing both the Māori flag, the weaving of cultures and growth of our country. Also represented is the flag carried by Hine Te Kiri Karamu at the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864.

Living in the Greerton/Gate Pa area for most of her life, Karen has a passionate interest in local history and knowledge which is strongly reflected in the images of the mural.

Each image has an opposite encounter. For example the musket, which was confiscated from the Battle of Gate Pa, is counter-balanced by the feather, a symbol representing the pen and freedom. This directly references the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the contradictory statement that the pen is mightier than the sword. The tiaha also counter-balances the musket as weapons used in the battles.


Image References:

H G Robley:  Horatio Gordon Robley (28 June 1840 - 29 October 1930) a soldier, artist and collector of Mokomokai and antiquities. Lived and fought in Māori land wars in BOP and had family here. Image taken from photo of him sitting with mokomokai collection. 

Moko: Image taken from cover of book written by HG Robley, Moko or Maori Tattooing in 1896.

Thumb print: Random thumb print depicts form of identification as does the moko.

Musket: Image taken from historical photo of musket seized in Bay of Plenty land wars.

Feather: Together the feather and musket represent the statement “the pen is mightier than the sword” A play on the controversy and conflicts of the two versions of the Treaty of Waitangi documents and signing, and the battles that are still fought today.

Tiaha: A traditional Māori weapon of war, today often seen used in kapahaka and  powhiri when greeting manuhiri onto the marae, counter balances the musket.

Mauao and Harbour View: A harbour view with of ships with waka close by (1860s). Image idea from visiting Tauranga Art Gallery Mauao exhibition with historical drawings and paintings.

Tuhua and Kawera: Mayor Island and Kawera behind H G Robley. Tuhua is the Māori name given for Obsidian.

Hongi: 'Princess Diana comes face-to-face with an old Maori custom and finds it a bit of a giggle during a visit to New Zealand in 1983' (Daily Times). I chose this image as I wanted a modern portrayal of New Zealand’s connection to the monarchy.  Her life and time in the royal family was controversial and a cultural encounter in itself. The hongi is a ritual designed to be symbolic of the first breath of life, to unite the life force of the visitors (manuhiri) and their hosts.

Southern Cross, stars: Part of the New Zealand Flag and many flags from different cultures.  It I represents the modern New Zealand Flag. The first New Zealand flag “The united Tribes of New Zealand Flag” is represented through the stars and crossing nature of the Koru.

Cross/moon/stars:  This image is taken from the battle flag at the Battle of Gate Pa/ Pukehinahina held by Hine Te Kiri Karamu, Jane Foley or Heni Pore. The cross here is also representing Christian religion, introduced. This counter-balances the kete or Māori world view.

Waka: Ko Tanui me Takitimu oku waka.  I wanted a depiction of a traditional Māori war canoe, so as a way of putting a piece of my whakapapa in the mural I chose my ancestral waka Tainui. This is my depiction of the present day Tainui waka.

Kete: The three are the three baskets of knowledge in Māori mythology, representing the cultural encounters between the Māori world view and Christian religions introduced to Māori.

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Cultural Encounters by Karen Francis Lawson