Emily Karaka

Emily Karaka was born in Auckland in 1952 where she continues to live and work. She belongs to the Tamaki Makaurau hapu (sub-tribe) of Ngai Tai. Karaka has exhibited regularly since 1980 and cites artists Colin McCahon, Philip Clairmont, Allen Maddox, Ralph Hotere and Tony Fomison among her mentors. Karaka is a well-known land claims activist, and is respected as a strong force in the Maori art movement of the 1980s.

Karaka paints in an expressionist style characterised by vibrant colour and heavily applied paint. Her work is guided by her whakapapa [genealogical links], and has focused on humanitarian and environmental issues, notably the Treaty of Waitangi. "Passionate, expressive, gritty, challenging, simultaneously celebratory and confrontational - these are words that often describe her work." (1)

In recent years Karaka's paintings have become less overt in her political message and more optimistic, reflecting the vitality of Maori contemporary society, which she describes as 'our new dawn'. While the work still deals with issues such as loss of language, disempowerment and land loss, the outlook is more confident and the approach more considered, with a focus on reviving and maintaining matauranga Maori [Maori knowledge systems].

(1) Tamati-Quennell, Megan (2002) 'Taiawhio', Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Te Papa Press.


Works by this Artist