• Artist

    Ralph Hotere

  • Production Date


  • Medium

    enamel on board

  • Size

    2400 x 18000 mm

  • Credit

    Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Auckland International Airport Ltd, 1997

  • Accession Number


  • Accession Date

    17 Oct 1996

  • Department

    New Zealand Art

  • Classification


  • Collection


  • Subjects

    godwits, text, handwriting, abstraction

  • Chartwell Notes


    Ralph Hotere's magnificent work, Godwit/Kuaka, 1977, lacquer on hardboard, was on show when the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki re-opened to the public in 2011 following a major re-development project. Accompanying the work at the time in the new exhibition space and carrying the work into the future is the voice of the artist himself, as he is heard reciting the Godwit/Kuaka chant.


    With Leyton Glen as the sound recordist, Hotere recorded the chant around 2010 and for the viewer of the work, it is an opportunity to bring the words of the poem to life. It was a chant that Ralph Hotere heard his father recite numerous times – a poem of welcome as well as an introduction to the history of Te Aupouri.


    Hotere’s voice accompanying the work is a privilege and adds to its ongoing significance. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki curator Ron Brownson was able to also ensure the recording was present when the work toured later to the City Gallery Wellington where it was also warmly received. Later in 2018, it returned on show at the Auckland Art Gallery.


    Commissioned originally by Auckland International Airport for the Arrivals Hall of the Jean Batten Terminal Building in 1977, the work entered the Chartwell Collection, underwent a substantial restoration and has become a much loved favourite for visitors to the Auckland Art Gallery.


    In 2020 and 2021 Godwit/Kuaka has travelled to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (14 November 2020 - 28 February 2021) and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū (26 March 2021 - 5 July 2021).


    Due to the scale of the 18 metre mural (2400 x 18000), viewers are encouraged to walk along the full length of the painting, feeling the sense of the journey of life through the symbol of the kuaka - a bar-tailed godwit which undertakes an unparalleled flight between New Zealand and Alaska.


    At the centre of the mural are stencilled the words from the ancient Maori chant:


    Ruia, ruia, opea opea, tahia tahia


    Kia hemo ake
    Ko te kaka koakoa
    Kia herea mai
    Te kawai koroki


    Kia tata mai
    I roto i tana pukorokoro whaikaro
    He kuaka
    He kuaka marangaranga


    Kotahi manu
    I tau ki te tahuna
    Tau atu
    Tau atu
    Kua tau mai


    Scattering, gathering, forming a single unit


    Death/exhaustion rises up
    It is the rope, koakoa (the cry of the bird)
    Binding you here to me
    The cry/chattering of the flock.


    Come close together
    From inside its throat - a marauding party
    A godwit
    A godwit that hovers


    One bird
    Has settled on the sand bank
    it has settled over there
    it has settled over there
    They have settled here


    From Kriselle Baker's essay on the Godwit/Kuaka Mural, published by Ron Sang Publications. Baker thanks Te Whanaupani Thompson (Nga Puhi/Ngati Wai) whose help proved invaluable with the translation of this poem.

Exhibition history