City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Israel Tangaroa Birch: Ara-i-te-Uru

26 November 2011–2 December 2012

Israel Tangaroa Birch uses light and dark to address the relationship between te ao mārama (the physical world, the world of light) and its metaphysical counterpart, te pō (the world of darkness). Taniwha exist between these realms. Customarily, they hold an important position within te ao Māori as guides or guardians, warning of imminent disaster. However, in recent times, in a role reversal, Māori have protected the taniwha, causing media controversy and testing tolerance of Māori worldviews. For instance, in 2002, part of State Highway 1 near Meremere was rerouted away from the domain of a taniwha, named Karu Tahi, after Ngāti Naho expressed concerns. In his installation, Birch represents his ancestral taniwha from the Hokianga harbour, Ara-i-te-uru (meaning veil or path in the west), as a river of light rippling across the water-like surface of a mirror—a tangible representation of an ethereal entity.