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  • About the Artist:Selwyn Muru

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Photo by Margaret Nepia-Muru

Selwyn Muru (Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupōuri), one of New Zealand's most senior Māori artists, is a tribal repository of knowledge, painter, sculptor, playwright, musician, pioneer broadcaster, fisherman, educator, and former orator for New Zealand's governor-general, Sir Anand Satyanand.

Muru first studied art under Katerina Mataira at Northland College. He later founded Te Toi Hou, the Māori Art Department at Elam School of Fine Arts, and taught Māori whaikōrero (oratory) classes for the University of Auckland's Māori Studies Department; he was also official Māori orator for the University of Auckland. He acted alongside Kiri Te Kanawa in the film Runaway. He wrote the first Māori-language play to be televised, To Ohaki o Niho, and several other plays in English that were brought to the stage in New Zealand, including The Ballad of Tupou, The Gospel According to Tane, and Get the Hell Home Boy. He produced and directed many documentaries for radio and television, and his art has been represented in numerous national and international exhibitions, including the first Johannesburg Art Biennale in 1995.

Some of his work, including paintings from his 1970s Parihaka series (featured in this issue), is rooted in specific Māori tribal knowledge and the enduring legacy of colonialism and loss of land in New Zealand. Other works have protested international issues such as nuclear testing in the Pacific or the apartheid regime in South Africa. Also prominent among his legacy are more humorous works, such as his seven-meter-high Waharoa (Gateway), embellished with carved animals, musical instruments, and poetry for Auckland's Aotea Square and the quirky carved palisade that surrounded his home in Freeman's Bay. For Muru, "Māori art has always been contemporary"—it circulates ideas and remains forever relevant through the ways we think and interact with it. [End Page vii]

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Te Whiti and Titokowaru Drawing Inspiration from the Mountain, by Selwyn Muru, 1975–1977.

Oil on board, 1218 mm x 982 mm. Photograph by La Gonda Studios. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

On 9 June 2017, 135 years after government troops invaded and violently decimated the Māori settlement of Parihaka (and at the time this issue of the journal was about to go to press), a Crown apology was finally offered to the people of Parihaka. The gesture is more than symbolic: an additional deed of reconciliation, legacy statement, ongoing relationship agreements with local and national government, a development fund, and legislation are being put in place to ensure that the Crown's commitment is legally binding. Parihaka Papakainga Trust Chair Puna Wano-Bryant's declaration of a "new dawn" echoed sentiments expressed at the time of Parihaka's founding. The cover image depicts two important prophets, peacemakers, and leaders of nonviolent resistance in this story: Te Whiti o Rongomai, who helped establish Parihaka with Tohu Kakahi, and their colleague Riwha Titokowaru, who was blind in one eye, and who was arguably "the best general New Zealand has ever produced" (James Belich, in Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand []). [End Page viii]

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Te Whiti and Tohu, by Selwyn Muru, 1975–1977.

Oil on board, 1200 mm x 900 mm. Photograph by La Gonda Studios. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and a private collector.

Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi were appointed by Taranaki iwi (tribes) in 1865 to lead a nonviolent resistance movement against the New Zealand government's proclamation of war and confiscation of Māori land. They helped to develop a prosperous agricultural community at Parihaka, encouraged the plowing up of confiscated land, and repaired fences that the armed constabulary had broken. Numerous arrests and imprisonments without trial followed. Crown troops invading Parihaka in 1881 were met with children singing and dancing and villagers sitting on the ground. Te Whiti and Tohu were charged with sedition and imprisoned until 1883. Over 1,600 people were expelled...


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