Paratene Matchitt - Te Pakanga series

Featured Work


Te Pakanga III Mate Ana Te Ao. Pungarehu Anake Te Ao
Acrylic and ink on paper

Te Pakanga XXVI Me Mate Ētahi o Tātau, Kia Ora Ai Ētahi O Tātau
Acrylic and ink on paper

Te Pakanga by Paratene Matchitt is a series of drawings completed in 1974. The drawings were commissioned by School Publications in Wellington as illustrations for a book called Te Atea (The New World) published in 1975. Te Atea, by Katerina Mataira, was written in Maori for a Maori audience. The book and the Matchitt illustrations are about the perils of war and the path to restoration.

Matchitt describes the story across 35 drawings revealing an evolution, or passage, from destruction through to redemption. He employs kowhaiwhai and tukutuku patterning to reiterate the cultural/personal context for the drawings. Indigenous motifs are highly stylised and graphically dynamic, with a strong modernist black, white and red palette that works within a template structure - the picture plane is divided into thirds on the horizontal with a central vertical segment. This formal pictorial structural device alludes to the notion being emphasised, that is, the importance of the reinvigoration of belief systems and cultural structure. 

The threat of nuclear holocaust was a palpable concern - felt and feared by many in the 1970s. But the nuclear warfare aspect of Te Pakanga is a metaphor too, in so far as Matchitt’s premise of return to order and cultural strength may be applied ongoing and in broader contexts for its simple and unifying ideology. This series of images describes an antidote to complexity as well as a solution to dysfunction born of greed and hatred. 

There are thirty-five drawings in Te Pakanga.

Pakanga (
1. (noun) battle, strife, hostility, war, engagement, conflict.   I te tau 1830, ka tū te pakanga e kīia nei ko Taumatawīwī ki ngā harapaki ki te raki o Maungatautari (TTR 1990 wh317).In 1830 the battle called Taumatawīwī took place on the northern slopes of Maungatautari. 

2. (verb) to fight, battle, wage war, be at war with.   Ko tāna mahi i tēnei o ōna hokinga mai he hohou haere i te rongo i waenganui o ngā hapū e pakanga tonu ana tētahi ki tētahi (Pipi 6/1907 wh5).His work on this return trip was to establish peace amongst the kinship groups that were still at war with one another.

Photographs of the Te Pakanga drawings in Te Atea

Author, artist and academic Kāterina Mataira (Ngati Porou) was born in Tokomaru Bay in 1932 near Gisborne on the east coat of the North Island. Kāterina credits her gift of storytelling to her parents, Raniera and Erana Harrison, who raised a large family in Ruatoria. Māori was their native tongue. ‘My father was a brilliant storyteller,’ Kāterina recalls. ‘Many of his stories were about his own life. They were full of real people and real events. There were scary ones too. He loved to tell ghost stories, then send one of us kids outside to fetch wood for the fire.’

Kāterina was educated at St Joseph's Māori Girls College in Napier and trained as a teacher and art educator. She established the first Māori language class in a state school at Northland College in Kaikohe in 1956. In 1958 she was part of a movement of Northland art educators that presented the first exhibition of contemporary Māori Art.

Kāterina has been at the forefront of Māori language revival and teaching for many years. In 1985 she helped set up the first Māori language immersion school, Kura Kaupapa Māori at Hoani Waititi Marae in Auckland, and co-authored Te Aho Matua – the philosophy and charter for kaupapa Māori schools. In 1987 she was appointed a foundation member of the Māori Language Commission. In 1996 she was made an Honorary Doctor at the University of Waikato. She has published a number of award winning picture books in Māori for children. However, her ground-breaking work has been the writing of novels in Māori - Te Atea (1975), Makorea (2002) and Rehua (2006). In 1998 Kāterina was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of her contribution to New Zealand. 

Paratene Matchitt was born in Tokomaru Bay, East Cape in 1933. He is of Whanau Apanui and Ngati Porou descent. Matchitt attended St Peter’s Maori Boys College and then went to Auckland Teachers College. After graduating he took a Dunedin based course in teaching arts and crafts in schools. At the time of the Te Pakanga commission, 1974, he was an Arts Advisory Officer in South Auckland. 

Para Matchitt has been formative and important in contemporary Maori art. He uses personal emblems and symbols inspired by his ancestry and influences such as motifs from Te Kooti and the Ringatu Church. He works as a carver, painter, printmaker, drawer and sculptor. He has work in collections both public and private throughout New Zealand and has been a full time artist since 1986. He lives in Napier.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Conservator Ute Larson working with one of Chartwell's works from the series, Te Pakanga XVIII, upon acquisition (as featured in NZ Herald, 6 October 2010)