City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Greg Semu: The Battle of the Noble Savage

6 August–6 November 2011

Photographer Greg Semu is an Auckland-born artist of Samoan descent. He recently moved to Sydney after ten years in Paris. His travels have enabled him to experience different world views and perceptions of Oceanic art, culture, and people. Commissioned by Paris’ Museé du Quai Branly, his series The Battle of the Noble Savage (2007) responds to the Bonded by Blood poster gifted to Quai Branly to commemorate the All Black’s 2006 tour of France and the 2007 World Cup. The poster depicts the All Blacks performing the haka in a tropical rainforest. As a promotional strategy, the designers bonded the players’ blood into the image in the printing process. Semu’s response offers fictitious scenes of Māori ‘warriors’ engaged in battle, seemingly celebrating the Māori fighting spirit while addressing the objectionable stereotypes of Pacific people as ‘primitives’ and ‘savages’. Recalling colonial-period paintings by Louis J. Steele, Nicholas Chevalier, Walter Wright, Charles F. Goldie, and others, The ‘Battle of the Noble Savage offers a satirical take on the ‘noble savage’ image.