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Kauri Taonga To Au Marama 


Daniel Kirsch’s new line of work focusses on our magnificent Kauri. Kauri have had a large part to play not just in the landscape of Aotearoa, but also in our culture, and early history. To Māori, kauri are kings of the forest and a taonga (treasure) that connects people and their spiritual world. Kauri played an important role in many aspects of early Māori culture: besides being integrated into creation mythology, rituals, war, art and everyday life, some large trees were given names and revered as chiefs of the forest.


The artist created several lines of screen prints to explore the amazing trees from various different angles. The majority of the works are printed on recycled Kauri timber from old buildings in Coromandel. Some prints are on recycled exotic timber (pine), also extracted from old buildings, and with old, bent nails sticking out. This can be seen as an expression of how the environment is disrespected, and native bush fully removed and replaced in many instances by commercial pine forestry. All works are manually screen printed by the artist.


One line of work deals with the creation story as found in the Maori tradition. Ranginui and Papatuanuku (Earth and Sky) prevented light from reaching the world because of their close embrace, and their offspring lived in a world of darkness and ignorance between the bodies of their parents. And they plotted against their parents in order to let light into the world. Here the Kauri plays a pivotal part in the form of Tane Mahuta. It is him who is able to separate his parents Rangi and Papa after all other siblings who tried before him did not succeed. Lying on his back and with his strong legs pushing upwards he manages to lift up Ranginui, making space and letting the light into this world, which allows life to begin as we know it. The creation story has many beautiful aspects, some of which deal with a fascinating differentiation of states of nothingness, or rather potential (Te Kore), and of various states of darkness or night (Te Po). It is also Tane Mahuta who breathes the first breath into Hineahuone (the female element who comes from the soil). To this day we remember this first breath of life in the form of the hongi. Tane is the deity of men and the forest and all living things on land. Te Ao Marama, the world as we know, comes last in a sequence of many other dimensions.


With another line the artists explores how precious Kauri really are. New Zealand Kauri have been around for 20 million years. Kauri were prized too by the early European settlers, who felled almost all of the great kauri giants for profit. The timber was valued for its strength and ability to withstand sea-water conditions (ideal for ship masts and hulls).The almost complete removal as a timber resource through European settlers over a very short period of time in the relatively recent past had a huge impact on our country’s ecosystem. This removal further posed a serious threat to the traditional value system. On a national scale we now have less than half a percent of all trees left. A new menace, Phytophtara, or better known as Kauri Dieback Disease, is threatening these last remains of Kauri. The Coromandel Peninsula, where the artists resides, is one of the few places where we still find stands of mature Kauri. Unlike the Waitkere Ranges near Auckland which are very badly affected by the disease, the Coromandel Kauri are still relatively intact. However the disease has been confirmed in some locations even here, and the spread through soil movement (by us) is a serious possibility. With so few left and with this dangerous new threat we need to really take good care of our Kauri.


Some prints are just looking at the trees’ overall ’awesomeness’. On the Coromandel Peninsula we are lucky to be able to meet with some extraordinary trees. Some Kauri are extremely old and have been around when Christ or Buddha walked the Earth. Did you know that adjacent Kauri can connect their roots and support one another? Avatar on Earth… Everyone who has had the privilege to be in the presence of a Kauri will know about their special radiance.


Kauri – something to treasure.


Dimensions: 1370mm x 195mm x 50mm.