• Reuben Paterson

"The kingdoms of the seas and the skies are ultimately connected through the pathways and stories of whetū / stars."

Reuben Paterson (Ngati Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi) brings together the kingdoms of moana and rangi in his continued exploration of celestial navigation, as he himself navigates his new home and the landscape of New York City.

Kingdoms will feature a series of works depicting brightly coloured coral, alluding to a survival instinct that sees some coral turn fluorescent neon as they fight to survive within rising water temperatures as a result of climate change. Paterson is interested in the way coral doesn't exist as an individual entity but rather an interconnected organism, with the artist drawing parallels to ideas of migration, whānau, and whakapapa.

"One beautiful piece of knowledge I have just come across is that the milky way is shaped like a whale Te Ikaroa - The Long Fish, and all migrational journeys were timed to the feeding and breeding migrations - November for sailing south, and February for sailing north. There are also other stories, such as Paikea who travelled from Rarotonga on the back of a whale, following the whale migrations."

Alongside the coral paintings are works whose surfaces are covered in precious pearls, referencing Pacific creation narratives around these aquatic jewels as tears that have fallen from the skies. "The stars cried tears into the waters, so the oceans in their darkness, could have light," says Paterson.

While previous works have seen Paterson begin to examine the various ways stars and constellations were used as navigational tools by Māori and Pasifica voyagers, Kingdoms sees Paterson dive more specifically into the migration of Māori from the departure point of the fleet of the seven great waka at Ngatangiia Harbour in Rarotonga.

"I have replicated the main guiding constellations in the southern sky that were used to navigate Māori to Aotearoa. Every work contains a pacific pearl sourced from Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. Each pearl, on every pearl constellation painting, has been plotted in the exact position and to scale, where that star sits from the Hubble telescope images."

Dina Jezdic has written a response to KINGDOMS, which you can find here. Jezdic is a dear friend of the artist and an independent curator, Toipoto Creative Mentoring Programme Director, community organiser, and art writer. Her current projects investigate what connects Indigeneity, diaspora, and belonging. She recently submitted her doctoral thesis, which delves into collaborative autoethnography, decolonial curatorial practice in museums, and contemporary Indigenous performance art. She co-curated Te Whāinga: A Culture Lab on Civility in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian-Pacific American Center and is the inaugural Obama Foundation Fellow: Asia-Pacific region.

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday - Friday 10am-5pm
  • Saturday 10am-4pm


  • 42 Victoria Street
  • Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington, 6011