This painting honours the traditional system of Māori medicine “Rongoā”, which focuses on the spiritual dimension of healing transferred through plants, karakia (prayer and intention) and physical therapies such as massage.
A bouquet of native plants, flowers and berries from Aotearoa as well as a few recent migrants with notable abilities for healing human suffering and blockages, hang in the cosmic blackness of Te Pō - The Long Night. This creative blossoming of intelligent plant entities makes up a planetary bouquet representing Gaia - our Earth Mother Papatūānuku.
The guardian of balance
Intricate Māori motifs in white dance over ponga (fern) leaves and unfolding koru fronds; a kauri pine cone; mushrooms; cannabis and kawakawa leaves; harakeke, pohutukawa, mānuka and kōwhai flowers; and red karamu and miro berries.
Papatūānuku’s creations are framed above by Ranginui - Sky Father - in the form of a manaia. The manaia is a guardian figure that carries messages between spiritual and mortal realms, with a bird’s head and serpent’s tale.
Here it forms the never ending circular symbol of the ouroborus, found across time and cultures as the dragon or snake eating its own tale. We could see this as the idea of a complete universe, encompassing a perfect balance of forces.
Enter the world of light
Matariki (the Pleiades constellation, also known as The Seven Sisters) are ngā whetū (the stars) which appear in mid-winter, signalling the beginning of the Māori New Year. They appear almost in a stardome-like effect here, between the blossoming earth mother and the encircling sky father above.
Within this representation of the cosmic mother and father is their son Tāne-mahuta, in the form of the pine cone at the apex of the plants. Here the pine cone, which contains within it the potential to grow into a mighty Kauri tree, holds up the sky.
Tāne is the progenitor of humankind and of all of the flora and fauna found in creation. His parents, the earth and the sky, once clung together in a tight embrace and were finally, with much effort, separated by Tāne. Air, space and light were able to enter the realm between them - Te Ao Mārama. From a confined world of darkness came an expansive World of Light, perfect for the growth of plants, animals and ourselves.