Waka Wairua


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  • Regular museum archival paper print - 580 x 690mm

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  1. Sofia Minson creates your exclusive signed print
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Original painting SOLD, oil on canvas, 630 x 750mm, 2013

The story of Waka Wairua

Before the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, the pink and white silica terraces used to cascade down the hillside in the thermal Rotorua region and were so spectacular they become known as 'the eighth wonder of the world'. Eleven days before the eruption, a number of people, Maori and European alike, reported a waka taua (war canoe) being paddled across Lake Tarawera with its occupants clearly visible and wrapped in flax robes, their heads bowed and their hair plumed as for death with the feathers of the huia and the white heron. Everyone knew there was no such waka on the lake in living memory. To local Maori the occurrence had only one meaning - it was a waka wairua (phantom/spirit canoe), an omen of disaster, dire and inevitable. The volcano violently erupted and could be heard as far away as Auckland to the North and Christchurch to the South. Several hours later, the bed of Lake Rotomahana blew out, burying the Maori villages of Moura and Te Ariki, killing 153 people.

In this work Minson depicts the taurapa (stern post) of the waka wairua against a vivid scene of the White Terraces, reminiscent of Charles Blomfield's 19th century paintings of the terraces. The long tails of feathers are white in this painting, indicating the KĊtuku or white heron feathers that were ominously worn by the occupants of the phantom canoe.

"I find it such an enjoyable mystery to paint mythical and primordial New Zealand landscapes" says Minson.  "It has something to do with letting your imagination loose in a world that might be familiar yet surreal at the same time.  In every geographical feature here in Aotearoa there are stories and rich histories to be uncovered from the land."

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Sofia Minson Paintings | New Zealand Artwork

SKU: 197 TAG: Regular archival paper

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