Michael Parekowhai's teasing, punning, provocative artworks upturn expectations of the relations between Māori and European culture. This example is 'He kōrero pūrākau mo te awanui o te motu: story of a New Zealand river'. The work and its title reference Jane Mander's 1920 novel The story of a New Zealand river, Jane Campion's 1993 film The piano, and the pianos that held pride of place in many New Zealand drawing rooms from the mid-19th century. This imposing instrument is a Steinway concert grand, with its wooden case richly carved in traditional Māori motifs. It appeared in the 2010 Venice Biennale, and was bought the following year by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for $1.5 million. Art critic Justin Paton has asked, 'Is it a European instrument decorated with Māori carving, or a Māori carving that has engulfed a piece of European high culture?'
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Photograph by Philothea Flynn
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