Race Relations.

Emily Karaka, Artist

This is one of the painting assemblages in our collection. It was made in New Zealand in 1986.
About the Work
'The painting of Emily Karaka is cross-cultural. Her paintings have a strong neo-expressionist quality not unlike Philip Clairmont or Allen Maddox. Her debt to McCahon is acknowledged in her painting Race Relations Triptych, 1988, where his name is scrawled in red under a skeleton figure made of ox bones. The sense of oppression and of being a victim comes through in this panel. The variant of McCahon’s ‘I Am’ lettering at the right appears as a tribute to McCahon and as a criticism of Christianity, also acknowledged in the cross-shape of the central section. Karaka takes signs of anger – gesture, symbols and words – from European art to protest against values oppressive to Māori people, in her case there is more of an emotional response to the forms and meanings of traditional Māori art.'
Michael Dunn, New Zealand Painting: A Concise History, p.193

The artist considers this one of her most important works to date. It was entered into the Lindauer awards. There are a number of references to artforms in the meetinghouse in the three panels. In particular, the artist relates the central panel figure to the carving motif manaia. The concerns with racial conflict between Maori and Pakeha bear an affinity with ideas dealt with in Hotere's print 'This is a Black Union Jack' and Adsett's painting 'Tane and Tama Uprooted'
- Rangi Panoho, Curator of 'Te Ao Maori' exhibition, Sarjeant Gallery, 1989
Installed 2120 x 3600mm
oil paint and mixed media
This work is a triptych of three panels mounted side by side. It is painted in multiple colours and uses many found items mounted on to the panels. It also incorporates painted text and well-recognised motifs.
The left panel has a bone skeleton mounted on top of a white rectangle, much like a field stretcher. It has the words "Race is him / Artist or terrorist" across the top as well as "McCahon" across the bottom. There are carved wooden hills at the bottom of the panel with a beaten metal form in between the hills.
The centre panel has a cross with a beaten metal face, hands and feet attached to the cross with a chain strung between these features. Across the top of the panel is the text "Race Relate IONS" and across the bottom are various painted artist names such as Hotere, Maddox, Fomison, Te Whata and Clairmont.
The right panel has a wooden door mounted on it with a radiating design of wire inside the door frame. Carved into the bottom half of the door are the letters "I am" or "aIm". Also painted on the door are the words "Race Against Time". To the left of the door is a painter's palette.
At the left and right edge of each panel is a painted cross silhouette that looks like a sword. In the background are colourful painted hills, reminiscent of the hill forms in Colin McCahon's work.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Purchased, 1992.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
11 Mar 1992


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