Acrylic on Canvas, 61 x 91.5cm

A lot of the Maori who fight issues for Maori now live in the cities, and the uniform they wear is a suit. Unlike the past where they may have fought physically for what they wanted, in the contemporary environment they have to go in and negotiate their position.

You have to have an in-depth understanding of who you’re talking to and what their systems are, as well as a clear vision of what you want.

I’ve been in that position when I was working with the Iwi transition agency and our job was to negotiate with Government on behalf of different Maori tribes, and I realized that we were urban warriors. We were fighting a cause for our Maori people

There are only two Realms in Maoridom: the Spiritual Realm, and the Physical Realm. In this painting, the lines that you see on one side of the face, represents the lines of their Ancestors and where they come from. They go into battle with the knowledge of their ancestors, along with their knowledge of the modern world.

Wherever I’m going to negotiate a situation for our people, I also have a whole background understanding of our historical significance in that particular area. For example, in Wellington, the Capital city of New Zealand, that (Wellington) harbour is named after my ancestor ‘Tara’, who was the grandson of Rongoueroa, who was our tribal Matriarch. So when I go in there (to negotiate), I can walk in as a tribal chief, with the ‘Mana’ of the land behind me. It gives me the sense that I know that I’m negotiating for a very important reason.

There's a clear energy when you’re in the middle of debate with others; you’re totally focused on why you’re there and on the issues that you want to push forward. But at the same time, you have to listen very carefully to what the other side are saying, because they are also fighters and they’re in a situation. So you’re trying to negotiate something that works for everybody. But at times you have to take a much bolder step and push an issue hard if you think it’s important

The colour red, helps to emphasize this sense of urgency, and has been applied deliberately into this painting to express that. The buildings, visible in the background, also portray battle stations; places used by colonial soldiers to protect themselves, their hierarchies, their properties, and their own sense of prestige. The bigger and more elaborate the building, the more powerful a projection it can appear to be.

These urban warriors are in the thick of this environment, but despite being overshadowed by such structures – stand steadfastly and resolute in their mission.

More in this category: « Children of Tane The Urban Maori »