Lisa Reihana, “Digital Marae,” 2001
Five deities from Maori legend, rendered by Auckland, New Zealand’s contemporary artist Lisa Reihana. She is a proud feminist and a multi-media artist. the “Digital Marae” collection of 2001 is made of color photographs printed on aluminum. The following artworks are life size digital works. Nevertheless, Reihana claims to think of them as “carvings” similar to the ancestral carvings from primitive Maori culture.
Hinepukojurangi – mist madien
Hinepukojurangi is the mist madien or the Goddess of wind from Maori legend. It is believed that she fell in love with Uenuku, a human among men. She would visit him in our world at night and return to the heavens no later than dawn with the Goddess of light, Hinewai, sister to Hinepukojurangi. Similar to many legends where there are Gods among men, the flawed human betrays his love’s secret and she is forced to leave him until the end of his days.
Reihana recreates Hinepukojurangi in a sacred environment rising above earth and into the heavens. The space is rendered to look vast, she has split the space into three sections, the clouds at the base blend into a deep blue in the middle, which blend into a true darkness at the top of the composition. The figure is placed in the middle of the ceremonial space split into thirds. The figure hovers above the cloud line, which represents earth. She is rendered expressionless, her body language is strong, her eyes filled with passion, and her heart mourning for the one she has lost. She embodies the grace of Marvel’s present day hero “Wonder Woman” (Smith201).
Hinewai – light goddess
Hinewai is the little sister of the mist maiden Hinepukojurangi. Hinewai is the essence of light, the goddess of the sun. She represents the purity of the divine. Riehana has rendered this artwork in radiant light, fitting that of the beautiful Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Kurangaituku – bird woman
This artwork is based off of a Maori Legend. Hatupatu, the protagonist, ventures alone into the dark forest. He realizes how dark, cold and far away he is from everything he knows, when he hears a loud screeching sound in the distance. As he becomes acquainted with the sound he realizes it is coming from a large bird-esque form. He began to run, and looking back the bird took the shape of a woman. Hatupatu runs for cover under a rock, Kurangaituku–the bird women–tries to finagle her way in, with little success. This is a familiar story about predator vs prey. Reihana creates a magnificent space of darkness, and in the middle is the bird woman, as if she is launching out of the canvas towards her prey, Hatupatu.
Mahuika – fire goddess
The goddess of fire is rendered on a throne, representing honor and power. The red ribbons of color add a splash of vigor, the sky is illuminated in a complementary glow. Mahuika is centered with importance in the midst of the dark ceremonial space within the composition.
Marakihau – sea monster
Marakihau, is the word for sea monster. Reihana has created a human-esque figure sharing the resemblance of a mermaid tale, her hair is wild similar to the cursed snake covered head of the mythical Medusa. The image in the text book was mislabeled Marakihau, however the still in the Smith’s book representing Reihana’s Digital Marae turned out to be the first goddess of mist or wind, “Hinepukojurangi.”
Resources on Reihana and her famous “Digital Marae” are referenced on my Pinterest board, “Maori Art Legend.”