Totems

May 8, 2015

In 1978-1979 I received an exchange teaching position in New Zealand to instruct art classes for an international mixture of cultures in a large high school near the city of Auckland in the north island. These students comprised a melting pot of Australians, Cook Islanders, Asians, Koreans, East Indians, Samoans, Indonesians, English, Fijians, and Maori. The Maoris comprised the majority of the students as they represented the singular national indigenous culture of New Zealand. Within the school campus one building was dedicated to Maori studies. Among the general studies the program offered courses in oral Maori history, retaining indigenous language, arts, crafts, and sculpture. I became enamored with their carving motifs that were present in meeting houses, churches, paintings, ritual canoes, weavings, tikis, pendants, and tattoos. Their classic motifs took organic shapes that expressed the importance of the environment, their spirituality, and the value of the arts known as the “Kete Aronui” the three baskets of knowledge. My interest in their artwork is expressed in my own adaptation of design shapes but with controlled stylized shapes called The Totem Series.