Tane and Tama Uprooted

Sandy Adsett, Artist

This is one of the paintings in our collection. It was made in 1985. The place where it was made is unknown.
See full details

Object Detail

About the Work
"Though I haven’t had the pleasure of viewing this artwork in person, I feel drawn to its immediately recognisable narrative links to works from Dr. Sandy Adsett’s 2021 survey exhibition ‘Toi Koru’ at Pātaka, as well as his masterful contributions in ‘Toi Tū Toi Ora’ at Toi o Tāmaki over 2020-21. Both felt like well-overdue acknowledgments of how Aotearoa might benefit from listening to and (re)viewing its cultural framework through Indigenous experiences, which have long been subjected to fragile colonial impulses that subjugate and silence histories of erasure and violence, the effects of which are prevalent today following the conversion and upheaval of Māori spiritual, linguistic and cultural practices. Paintings like these offer a powerful cue for those conversations around the dominant culture that, however uncomfortable, individuals and institutions alike mustn’t be afraid to have today." - Areez Katki, multidisciplinary artist & writer for 'My Choice' online exhibition series, May 2023

The signature of Sandy Adsett's graphic design is instantly recognisable in this dark and disturbing picture. Its dominant darkness plunges koru and other rakau whakairo (woodcarving), including maihi and tekoteko references, into low visibility in relation to a single white square with a dark cruciform, much like the windows found in wharenui, churches and school halls. The closely confined interiors of those buildings add a sense of mysticism, of secrets, that may convey a sense of foreboding to religious and secular congregations alike. Looking at this work's title reminds us that such dimly lit spaces can also hide many travesties, such as Māori cultural losses that resulted from the introduction of Christianity in this country. The so-called 'enlightenment' brought by colonisation and its attendant Christianity did, indeed, uproot a Māori social and religious order that had already existed here for hundreds of years. It was uprooted through an institutionalised conviction that all non-European cultures and their belief systems were inferior. For Māori people, its progress led eventually to cultural alienation, land losses and economic decline. Perhaps this picture will inspire new light on the subject of cultural alienation which may yet lead to a more accepting and respectful attitude towards Māori cultural perspectives. - JD
Like so many of the Māori artists in this exhibition, the focus of Sandy Adsett's life is teaching. For him, Māori artists must work first and foremost for their own people.
"A Māori has an obligation to the art of his/her people. It's the people's art. It doesn't belong to you. It must identify Māori to Māori if it is going to remain relevant to statements about our tribal beliefs, values and mana in today's and tomorrow's world."
This work makes powerful reference to the uprooting effect of the introduction of Christianity on Māori cosmology. While there have been many successful attempts at integrating the two, there can be no doubt that much has also been lost. The message of this work is unmistakeable: the cross has cast a long, dark shadow over the world of traditional Māori belief.- PS
- Te Huringa text
Image 1275 x 1077 mm
Frame 1280 x 1078 x 60 mm
acrylic on board
Dark painting showing a single source of light, a window with a cross at its centre. at centre top of the image. bands of shadow/light extend outwards across the image. On the right side are three figures, on the left are koru and curved designs. The painting is done in muted greys, blues and blacks.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Purchased, 1985.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
29 Oct 1985



Accession Number:

Part of 1 highlight set