Māoriland was a nineteenth-century fiction that offered a romanticised ideal of Māori life and custom for an international market, while a colonial imposition was being forced upon Māori themselves. These faux hei tiki from the Wellcome Collection, London are part of that history – neither taonga nor mass-produced trinkets, their makers are unknown and their purpose was most likely trade to tourists and collectors.
The mystery and in-betweenness of these objects held an affinity for photographer Fiona Pardington, who is of Ngāi Tahu descent and produces critically important work through her whakapapa and relationships with international collections of Ngāi Tahu taonga.
Pardington’s reparative vision embraces the personality found in these objects, offering manaakitanga, kindness, by recognising and dignifying them as the orphans in a complex story of interaction, exchange and exploitation.
Exhibition toured by Starkwhite.