Michael Parekowhai is one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary artists. Primarily sculptural, his works often play with scale and space, using humour to comment on the intersections between national narratives, colonial histories and popular culture.
Parekowhai is known for bringing together an array of references, sometimes in a single object, with in-jokes and snippets of personal biography sitting side-by-side with art historical playfulness and big-picture cultural critique.
The spectacular and beautiful The Horn of Africa 2006 is a feat of perplexing engineering. The balancing act performed by the seal and a grand piano allows the artist to metaphorically prod and toy with shifting ideas of State and culture. Particularly important are the intertwined pakeha and Maori histories that make up present day New Zealand. It speaks to the geography of Aotearoa, while simultaneously invoking Jane Mander’s 1920 novel The Story of a New Zealand River and Jane Campion’s 1993 film The Piano.
Black and glossy, and rich with filmic and literary references, the work also refers to the complex historical, scientific and political events surrounding a war-torn stretch of contested African land believed to be the birthplace of humankind.
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