The origins of art lie in myth, history, or somewhere between. Māori traditions speak of the gods as the original source of the arts and continuing artistic inspiration. Connections between the human and spiritual realms - a matter of deep and pervasive concern - are reflected in taonga (cultural treasures), both in what taonga depict and how they are used or regarded.
Archaeological evidence reveals the roots of Māori art as lying beyond these shores: ancient stone and bone ornaments found here are strikingly Pacific in appearance.
Western accounts usually see art as originating in prehistoric cave drawings. More specific lineages are traced from the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome through the European Renaissance and the artistic academies of eighteenth-century Europe.
European explorers carried this tradition with them to New Zealand. Artists on those voyages produced depictions of this land and its people that mark the beginning of a Pākehā art tradition here. By the same token, the tools, colour palettes, materials, and ideas that arrived with Europeans stimulated new developments in Māori art.