Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui) is known for his large-scale sculptures exploring indigenous histories, politics, and philosophies. His exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata addresses the New Zealand Wars and their legacy, through the architectures of warfare and war memorials. As an artist versed in the language of public sculpture, Graham has created haunting, enigmatic, alternative war memorials. His prophetic vision both recalls a dark world corrupted by human endeavour and issues a grave warning in the present.
Most of the works were created for Graham’s celebrated recent exhibition at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, curated by Anna-Marie White (Manukorihi, Te Āti Awa). That show focused on the relationship between Taranaki and Tainui Māori, and on Te Kīwai o te Kete, the pact of solidarity they forged during the New Zealand Wars. Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington mana whenua Te Āti Awa hail from Taranaki.
The title of both shows, Tai Moana Tai Tangata, was taken from a remark Ngāti Toa rangatira Te Rauparaha made to Te Wherowhero, who would become the first Māori King: ‘Ka pari te tai moana, ka timu te tai tangata’ (When the ocean tide rises, the human tide recedes). Graham chose it for its relevance to the current global-warming crisis and the fear of rising sea levels.
Special thanks to Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.