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Niwhai Tupaea

Papatuanuku; mother earth 2007
Coconut, metal, waxed strings, photography and mixed media

Digital Print

Artist Statement

Two of the works which are being presented as a diptych features self portrait photographs of the artist dressed in the guise of sacred Maori deities ‘Papatuanuku’ (‘mother earth’) and ‘Hinenuitepo’ (goddess of death’). The works depict the balance and cycle in and between life and after life in Maori belief system. The photographs also showcase the technical skill of the artist as a jeweler, where she appears in the photographs adorning her own jewelry.
The tattoo patterns featured on artist’s body is known as a ‘kirituhi’ meaning a generic Maori Tamoko or tattoo pattern with no distinctive linkage to tribal affiliation however still capturing the ‘mana’ or the spirit of the artist’s cultural identity. The patterns are designed by Sydney based Tamoko artist Tutahanga Tuheke.


Niwhai Tupaea is an artist of Maori descent and one of the founding members of Pacific Sister Collective based in Aotearoa New Zealand, exhibiting and performing within the group internationally since the 1990s. Currently residing in Australia for the past 10 years, she has continue to lobby, raise awareness and issues affecting how she manages to juggle respect, value her ancient Maoritanga heritage as well encompassing contemporary values. Niwhai’s diverse practice explore mediums including; spoken word poetry, multi – media performances and visual art exhibitions. Niwhai has been developing body adornment and costume for the past 15 years.

Hinenuitepo; goddess of death 2007
Medium: Coconut, metal, waxed strings, photography and mixed media
Courtesy of the artist