• Mahiriki Tangaroa

Cook Islands artist Mahiriki Tangaroa presents a site specific series of new paintings for Personal Structures entitled Kaveinga – Angels of the Ocean.

Personal Structures is a global contemporary art showcase hosted by the European Cultural Centre (ECC) that runs concurrent to the Venice Biennale. Personal Structures presents a wide selection of works from emerging and internationally renowned artists, photographers, sculptors and projects of academic institutions from all over the world. In the upcoming edition at Venice, the Cook Islands will be included for the first time.

The artist writes,

“Governed by the ocean, we are a small island nation vulnerable to the tropical elements. Intense sun, rain, rust, and corrosion. The majestic volcanic mountains embrace us, so too the land that we continue to inherit from our ancestors.

Sacred enclosures and celestial spheres are the underlying currents that dictate our existence. Our belief in spirituality, superstition, has been transformed into the western concept of religion.

We traversed the expansive ocean to secure and maintain relationships. Traditional history links us to the East and West of Polynesia. Chiefly titles, linguistics, shared iconic deities, and sacred landmarks are proof of this connection.

As seafaring people, navigation was critical to our livelihood. To reunite with neighbouring tribes and family. To seek and settle new lands. The skill and knowledge of the navigator was held in the highest regard. The ability to read the constellations of the stars, patterns of the ocean, and ominous signs in the weather ensured safe passage on what was an often uncertain journey.

The legendary ancient ocean god, and god of fertility, Tangaroa (Taʻaroa, Tangaloa, and Kanaloa in different dialects), is recognised as a senior deity throughout Polynesia. Worshipped to promote longevity of the tribe, he also ensured safety on both land and ocean.

This exhibition examines and explores our traditional Polynesian history. How, as warriors, we circumnavigated a third of the world’s ocean. The battles that were fought, the alliances that were made, and the empires created to sustain and further strengthen the health and livelihood of a people.”

Kaveinga – Angels of the Ocean will be accompanied by a Bergman Gallery publication featuring essays from curators Francis McWhannell and Arthur Buerms and a suite of photographs from Ewan Smith.