Presented as stylised tribal carvings, Tongue of the false prophet is an incisive and sardonic commentary on the impact of colonisation on Māori people.
An early and important work by Peter Robinson, the sculpture uses false promises - made to Māori by European colonisers - to highlight the unequal nature of cross-cultural exchange. The consequences of that exchange included the introduction of new diseases, which caused the death of large numbers of Māori people.
Highly regarded in New Zealand and internationally, Robinson was the 2008 winner of the Walters Prize, given for an outstanding contribution to contemporary art in New Zealand.
This text was prepared for the Collecting Contemporary exhibition, June 2011.