Ngā Tai e Whā | The Four Tides of Tangaroa


exhibition Details

The title Ngā Tai e Whā – The Four Tides of Tangaroa refers to the vast and expansive sea, domain of the all-powerful Tangaroa (god of the sea). The sea is mapped by four tides – Te Tai Hauāuru (the tide to the west), Te Tai Rāwhiti (the tide to the east), Te Tai Tonga (the southern tide) and Te Tai Tokerau (the northern tide).

Brett Graham’s five sculptural works acknowledge the vast nature of Tangaroa’s domain and his ability to transform our world with creative and sometimes destructive force. He is the originator of the art of whakairo (carving) and the controller of tides (Tangaroa whakamautai).

The tides of Tangaroa cover all corners of the earth, even the icy reaches of Antarctica. This is captured in 90 00’S 00 00’E, 2018, in which the patchwork appearance references the great southern continent’s vulnerability in the time of global warming, as ice shelves fracture and separate.

The works Te Uru, 2014 and Rāwhiti, 2014 evoke Apirana Ngata’s references to Waikato iwi (tribe) as being in darkness while his own enlightened people assimilated more quickly to the western world of the 1920s. ‘Te Uru’ in classic moteatea (ancestral song) is a reference to Hawaiki – the homeland ancestors came from and to where our souls return when we die.

Elsewhere in Graham’s 2012 Tangaroa Piri Whare series, Tangaroa’s destructive power is the subject, seen in the devastating tsunamis that have ravaged coastal villages from Japan to Samoa (Saanapu) and Chile (Talcahuano). Tangaroa’s mana (authority and strength) remains ever present.


In Ngā Tai e Whā or The Four Tides of Tangaroa Brett Graham’s provocative circular forms pay tribute to Tangaroa – to his mana and his ability to shape and transform our world on land and sea in profound ways.


Curated by
Nigel Borell
Gibbs Corridor

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