Loose mound of Kōkōwai collected from Ngāti Rakaipaaka rohe, incased in a Wardian Case. Depicting Rongomaiwahine.

The mana of Rongomaiwahine is well-known throughout Te Ao Māori, talk of her beauty and leadership of her people spread around the motu. Her descendants from her relationship with the equally prominent leader Kahungunu populated most of Wairoa, Hawkes Bay to the Wairarapa. This included her grandson, my ancestor Rakaipaaka, who our iwi Ngāti Rakaipaaka are named after. Having such a strong line of wāhine in my whakapapa is something I want to ensure my whānau remember and share.

I first created this piece immediately in response to Maōri Party MP Rawiri Waititi being thrown out of Parliament chambers due to wearing his beloved hei tiki instead of a tie. And a social media post made later that day by Labour Party MP Tamati Coffey, where he made a very colonised response to Waititi’s refusal to wear a tie. A hei tiki is a representation of ones ancestor, a tie is a piece of fabric. It is disgusting to me that Māori are still having to conform on our own lands to the colonised views of the settler government. Sadly, this is every day life in a racist NZ. But, what hurt me more on that day was seeing another Māori feel the need to further belittle Waititi for standing up for our people, and being so colonised himself they he didn’t even realise.

Tamati, it was never just about a tie.

This piece was acknowledged as a finalist with an Honourable Mention at the inaugural Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Awards exhibited at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery.

Photographic art print now in the Wellington City Council City Art collection.

Limited edition photographic art prints of this work are available now in online shop

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