Acrylic on unstretched canvas
2475 x 1280mm
The inclusion of two texts for this work reflects the curatorial approach taken for the exhibition Te Huringa/Turning Points.
Diane Prince is a leading New Zealand multi-media artist, weaver and award-winning set designer. She is also an important social and political commentator and a veteran of Bastion Point, as well as many hikoi and Maori sovereignty protests. She has worked extensively with indigenous artists in North America and the Pacific and been involved in cross-cultural exchanges.
Odyssey of a Sale explores the theme of land as a contested site, taking the form of an allegory charting events that are the result of actions taken by the Crown and its agents. In it, either visually or in the prose poem along the work’s lower section, there are references to Treaty settlements, the America’s Cup, big business’s relationships with the Crown, the fiscal envelope and the goings-on of MPs in the Beehive itself.
A deeply allegorical comment on colonialism in Aotearoa, this work uses bee-like forms to refer to this country’s nexus of political power, the ‘Beehive’ Parliament building in Wellington, and its powerful inhabitants. Prince, a respected advocate of Maori rights and critic of that Pakeha hegemony that has brought numerous inequalities and injustices to Maori people, never illustrates Aotearoa as a land of blissful equality. In this painting, the overwhelming presence of politico ‘bees’ that enjoy disproportionate wealth and power is highlighted. It also reflects the fact of Maori people’s continued struggle against cultural alienation and the inequity of a system that has harmed them in various ways.
Prince’s work reflects the fact that many Maori people consider parliamentary busy-bees as complicit both in continued dubious dealings with off-shore enterprises and internal policies that directly and negatively affect Maori culture. Although this painting precedes the foreshore and seabed controversy, its relevance to that issue and many others that have taken place ever since the advent of British colonisation remains startlingly real.
Te Huringa/Turning Points: Pākehā Colonisation and Māori Empowerment, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, Whanganui, 8 April to 16 July 2006 (toured)