press release

10 Jul 2021 — 31 Dec 2024

Reuben Paterson
Guide Kaiārahi

Reuben Paterson’s much-anticipated major new sculpture Guide Kaiārahi, 2021, a 10-metre-high waka (canoe) made of 595 iridescent crystals, was revealed at Auckland Art Gallery on July 8, 2021.

Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery and Edmiston Trust, Aotearoa New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson (Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi) says Guide Kaiārahi navigates a spectacular journey from Papatūānuku (the earth mother) into the embrace of Ranginui (the sky father).

“As the crystals illuminate the Gallery in rainbow refractions, the waka appears to venture skyward, seemingly levitating above the forecourt pool,” he says. The inspiration for the crystalline sculpture is the legend of the sighting of a “phantom waka” on Lake Tarawera 11 days before the devastating eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 which resulted in the loss of life and displacement, and destroyed New Zealand’s iconic Pink and White Terraces.

“In the early hours of June 10, 1886, our ancestral mountains Wāhanga, Ruawāhia and Tarawera split apart, spewing forth millions of tonnes of ash and debris. By floating Guide Kaiārahi above the Gallery’s pool, he appears magical—an apparition that floats in the sky while having a narrative linked closely to our own history. He guides us as an escort into unknown or unmapped territories, in much same way as the waka of our migration journeys to Aotearoa,” Paterson says.

Hovering above Auckland Art Gallery’s forecourt pool like a compass needle in vertical orientation or a rocket, the waka sculpture suggests navigation to worlds beyond our own. It also refers to early navigators’ use of stars to traverse the vast Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa. Combining references to natural and supernatural realms, the sculpture draws upon Māori cosmology and creation narratives. It also has as a personal resonance for Paterson as his Ngāti Rangithi kaumātua describe their iwi, who descend from the Te Arawa waka of the Bay of Plenty, as “Te Heketanga-a-rangi,” those who descend from the celestial heavens, in reference to their tūpuna, Ohomairangi.

Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Guide Kaiārahi is owned and generously supported by the Edmiston Trust.