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.
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Object Detail

About the Work
“I was lucky enough to work closely with this painting not too long ago as I prepared it for outgoing loan for a survey exhibition of Sandy Adsett’s work. This powerful image speaks to colonisation in NZ, particularly the introduction of Christianity and the upheaval of Māori customs including spiritual beliefs and language. Māori still feel the effects of colonisation today and tangata whenua continue to fight for equity on their own land.”
– Te Maari Barham (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Te Rangi) Registrar at the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui, for the August 2021 instalment of the My Choice exhibition series

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



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