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Fiona Pardington

Portrait of a Life Cast of Piuraki / John Tikao (Painted)
With thanks to the Musée de l’Homme (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle), Paris
From the series "The Pressure of Sunlight Falling"

Artist

Fiona Pardington
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1961

Title

Portrait of a Life Cast of Piuraki / John Tikao (Painted)
With thanks to the Musée de l’Homme (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle), Paris
From the series "The Pressure of Sunlight Falling"

Date

2010

Materials

Ink-jet print, 2/10

Dimensions

145.2 x 108.7 cm (sight)

Credits

Gift of the artist, inv. 2020.47

Collection

Graphic Arts

After a photographic residency at the Musée de l’Homme, Paris, the New Zealand artist Fiona Pardington, who is of Maori and Scottish descent, took as her subjects the series of old plaster casts of Maori heads made in the nineteenth century by the phrenologist Pierre-Marie Alexandre Dumoutier. The now discredited pseudoscience of phrenology, which was popular in his day, claimed that the mental capacities and personality of an individual could be determined by the shape of the skull, thus perpetuating racist ideologies. Pardington’s photographs refer to the history of the English colonization of New Zealand. This portrait depicts Piuraki, the Ngai Tahu chief, a signatory of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori and the British Crown, who challenged the sale of ancestral lands to the colonial governments after noting that it was unjust. Through these monumental images, Pardington reclaims Piuraki’s spirit and restores his dignity by highlighting his traditional tattooing (Ta Moko), thus transforming the objectification of the plaster cast into a tribute to her direct ancestor.

© Courtesy of the artist and Starkwhite, New Zealand

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