New exhibition reveals power struggles hidden in our landscapes

Tony de Lautour, Send off, 1999, oil and varnish on an old oil painting on paper mounted on board. Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (1999-0021-2)

A new exhibition opening at Te Papa on Saturday 8 October explores how artists past and present have expressed their relationships with the land in Aotearoa.

Hiahia Whenua | Landscape and Desire showcases historical landscapes from the colonial period alongside contemporary works.

“Every picture of the landscape is also a picture of the person who created it,” says curator of historical art Rebecca Rice.

“There is no such thing as a ‘simple, realistic’ picture of land – beneath the surface of the most traditional painting is a hidden drama of power and politics.

“Who desires this land? Who is connected to it? What is missing from the picture?

“By placing historical works from the collection alongside contemporary artworks, we raise those questions and gain fresh new insights into our landscapes and ourselves.”

The collection of historical landscapes covers the length of Aotearoa, from Kororāreka in the far north to Tamatea in Fiordland.

Included is Te Papa’s oldest landscape painting of Aotearoa, William Hodges’ Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe [sic], painted in 1776. It is on display for the second time since it was purchased in 2019.

Alongside historical landscapes, the exhibition features works some of New Zealand’s most important contemporary artists including Emily Karaka, Wayne Youle, and Tony de Lautour.

It takes its title from a triptych of photographic prints by Shane Cotton. The series Hiahia – meaning to want or desire – depicts a mountain, both nearby and receding, photographed from the window of a moving car.

Megan Tamati-Quennell, curator of modern and contemporary Māori and indigenous art, says the contemporary works complicate the image of Aotearoa found in the colonial landscapes.

“There are many ways to think about land – its value, its ownership, and how it was lost, sold or stolen,” she says.

“During the colonial period we often speak of Europeans as ‘settling’ the land. These contemporary works ‘unsettle’ the landscape revealing complexity and conflict below the surface.

“For example Wayne Youle’s What Do You Say Savages is a series of prints listing items such as 100 red blankets, 120 muskets, 20 dozen red handkerchiefs – symbolic of land deals throughout the country.

“Tony de Lautour ‘restores’ amateur 19th-century paintings found in garage sales and junk shops, populating them with watchful beasts, surfacing both a humorous critique and a hidden sense of menace.”

The most recent work is the 2020 painting by Emily Karaka, Nga Tapuwae o Mataoho, which was inspired by the occupation of Ihumātao.

“Her painting expresses the whakapapa of Ihumātao, the history between Māori and the Crown, and the complex political landscape in contemporary Aotearoa,” Ms Quennell says.

The 24 artworks will be on display until mid-2023 when a new hang will bring additional works into the exhibition.

The opening of Hiahia Whenua | Landscape and Desire is the first in a series of new art exhibitions opening at Te Papa in the coming months, marking the first complete refresh of Te Papa’s Toi Art gallery since it opened.

Over 2.1 million people have visited Toi Art since it opened in 2018.

Entry to Te Papa, Toi Art, and this exhibition is free.


Media contact

Kate Camp, Kaiwhakahaere Whakapā | Head of Marketing and Communications
029 601 0180

Images for download of the following works, captions included in link

View and download the images

  • William Hodges, [Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe], 1776, oil on panel.

  • Tony De Latour, Lookout 1, 1999.

  • Tony De Latour, Send off, 1999.

  • Emily Karaka, Nga Tapuwae o Mataoho, 2020.

  • Wayne Youle, What Do You Say Savages [100 RED BLANKETS], 2013.

  • Shane Cotton, Hiahia, 1997.

  • Shane Cotton, Whakapiri atu te whenua, 1993.

  • William Strutt, View of Mt Egmont, Taranaki, New Zealand, taken from New Plymouth, with Maoris driving off settlers’ cattle, 1861.

  • George O’Brien, Otago landscape, 1870.

  • Messenger Sisters, Landscape with settlers, 1857.

Images are supplied for the purposes of non-commercial use for media coverage of the exhibition Hiahia Whenua | Landscape and Desire. Media may not crop, alter, or edit the images in any way without Te Papa’s prior permission. The content must be fully attributed as per the provided credit line(s). If you wish to use the images again in future, please come back to Te Papa to seek further permissions on a case-by-case basis. Third party permissions and licensing fees may apply in future.

Full list of works in Hiahia Whenua | Landscape and Desire

  • William Hodges, [Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori canoe], 1776, oil on panel.

  • Shane Cotton, Hiahia, 1997, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print.

  • George O'Brien, Otago landscape, 1870, watercolour.

  • William George Baker, Lake Manapouri, unknown date, oil on canvas.

  • Christopher Aubrey, Hollyford Valley, 1888, watercolour.

  • Tony De Lautour, Send off, 1999.

  • Tony De Latour, Lookout 1, 1999.

  • Conrad Martens, Kororareka in the Bay of Island, 1841, oil on canvas.

  • Nicholas Chevalier, Cook Strait, New Zealand, about 1884, oil on canvas.

  • Kennett Watkins, Early Spring; or, A Narrow of the Waikato River, 1881, oil on canvas.

  • John Gibb, The wool season, 1885, oil on canvas.

  • Charles Blomfield, Scene of Kauri Bush, gumdiggers at work, 1892, oil on canvas.

  • Alfred Sharpe, A golden eve, Waiheke Island, 1890, watercolour.

  • Wayne Youle, What do you say savages, 2010, ink and wax on Fabriano Tiepolo paper – collection of six prints.

  • Messenger Sisters, Landscape with settlers, about 1857, oil on board.

  • Artist unknown (overpainting on canvas signed by Charles Blomfield), Shaw’s House, Karekare, about 1900.

  • Edith Stanway Halcombe, The Pines, Fielding, about 1878, lithograph.

  • William Strutt, View of Mt Egmont, Taranaki, New Zealand, taken from New Plymouth, with Maoris driving off settlers’ cattle, 1861, oil on canvas.

  • Emily Karaka, Nga Tapuwae o Mataoho, 2020, mixed media on canvas.

  • Louis John Steele and Kennett Watkins, The blowing up of the Boyd, 1889, oil on canvas.

  • Murray Hewitt, Recessional, 2010, digital video with sound.

  • Shona Rapira-Davies, Taku whanau, Motairehe, Aotea, 1985, oil painting.

  • Matt Pine, F series no. 4 – Te Porere variation, (stockade, palisade – open, closed space), 1979.

  • Matt Pine, F series no. 2 – Impressions on Gate Pā (excavations) 1979, 2021 (realised by the studio of Parekōwhai), 1979.

About Toi Art

  • The dedicated art gallery within Te Papa opened in March 2018.

  • 2.1 million people have visited Toi Art since it opened.

  • 3,980m2 floor area of Toi Art.

  • 40,000 artworks in the national art collection.

  • 74km wall length needed to display entire national art collection.