The Hero's Journey
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Original painting SOLD, oil & flashe (vinyl) on canvas, 1680 x 2380mm, 2018
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The story of The Hero's Journey
“We're not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalises.”
- Joseph Campbell
This portrait of a wahine toa (courageous woman) is a call to the hero’s journey, to become the hero of one’s own myth.
The woman is surrounded by both Western tradition and ancient Maori tradition.
This painting took over one year to complete. I finally put down the brushes and interpreted the symbols in relation to my own life.
There is both defiance and incorporation of Western and Māori cultural influences. I am Swedish, Irish, Māori and English and have lived periods of my life here in Aotearoa as well as overseas in Samoa, Sri Lanka and China.
Within the portrait there seems to be a process of challenging all of the ancestral voices from the past. Their conflicting advice, histories, tikanga and rules can sometimes feel like an impossible situation to navigate. And yet there is composure and wisdom in her eyes. She doesn’t seem overwhelmed but embodies mana wāhine (the divine feminine).
She wears all the various cultural elements with such dignity. She has reintegrated the traditions on her own terms, with higher self-knowledge.
The Victorian dress is stifling with its tight, buttoned corset. It is impractical with its extra folds of heavy material and hump at the back. And yet the form is undeniably beautiful. It creates a gorgeous shape. Equally beautiful is the ornate, golden floral wallpaper design.
She strikingly wears moko kauae, traditional Māori tattoo carved into her lips and chin, signifying mana and status. The colour of the ink mirrors her pounamu (greenstone) earrings. Tā moko is an indelible, outward sign of an inner, spiritual link to one’s roots. This is particularly true for those who wear moko in the 21st century.
The top hat is trimmed with tāniko designs, fusing an English cultural symbol with a Māori one. Both top hat and tāniko are associated with adding decoration to formal dress.
The carved wooden taiaha she holds is a traditional weapon. Its sharp point features an arero (tongue) poking out beyond the mouth - an expression of defiance.
Taking up the lower third of the background is a silhouette of Mt Hikurangi in gold. Hikurangi is the sacred maunga (mountain) of Ngāti Porou, Sofia’s iwi (people). As the highest point on the East Cape of the North Island, Hikurangi is the first place in Aotearoa to see the sun every day.
The royal blue of her dress is the colour of the sixth chakra in Hinduism. It is the third eye, associated with seeing beyond the capability of the eyes. Royal blue is the colour of synthesis. Of assembling seemingly separate, unrelated criteria into a complete or whole understanding. It is like knowing, but not knowing how you know. It evokes intuition, perception and inner wisdom.
On the Hero’s path, Joseph Campbell has this to say:
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone
for the heroes of all time have gone before us.
The labyrinth is thoroughly known ...
we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.
And where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves.
Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the centre of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.”
Sofia Minson Paintings | New Zealand Artwork