Owae Marae Waitara, Mt Taranaki Landscape connecting Australian Maori

This is a super sized (1.25 metre) canvas artwork I’ve just produced for a Sydney family featuring Owae Marae, Waitara and the majestic Mt Taranaki (also known as Maunga Taranaki or Mt Egmont). The traditional carved Maori Meeting House belongs to the Maori people of the Te Atiawa tribe, from which I descend as does the proud new owner of this artwork Erana Naughton (nee Moore). Waitara is situated on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. owae-marae-waitara-mt-taranaki-tania-niwa-photographyErana has kindly allowed me to share an insight into why it was very meaningful for her to purchase this artwork. She was just five years old when her parents parted and she moved from Taranaki to Sydney with her mum who is from the opposite side of the North Island (of Ngati Porou tribe). Erana said she didn’t see her dad again until she was 22 years old. One year later in 2007 she chose Owae Marae as the setting to be married to her husband Paul who has a mix of Australian, Lebanese and Irish heritage.
Erana’s dad Tai Moore is the oldest of 12 siblings. It was when Erana was visiting her uncle Peter in Perth that she first saw a framed photo of the Marae that I had produced back in the nineties. Erana, having just given birth to her third child, decided she would love a calming scene of her homeland as a central focus in their home. It now sits on a wall opposite their wedding photo. Imagine her Australian born children growing up seeing The Marae image every day and how this will stimulate conversation and education about their Maori culture and customs.
Officially named as Owae-whai-tara Marae (but affectionately referred to as Owae Marae for short), it is a central focus and source of pride for my small hometown of around 4000 people. It provides a sense of identity and a direct connection with our Maori ancestors. The Marae is strategically placed at one of the highest points in our town, overlooking the Waitara River, which the town was built on both sides of. In the early days before all the trees grew so big, there was a clear view of the river mouth and the Tasman Sea. The mountain is a central source of spirituality and is greatly treasured by all the tribes [of the province] of Taranaki.
I have fond and vivid memories of the morning this image was created back in 1992 when I was in my early twenties. I had a deal with my boss at the time Photographer John Crawford, that we would use his 500 mm telephoto lens on his Mamiya RZ67 film camera as my kit of lenses were just babies compared to his. You might not realise but it was taken before sunrise where the light was very gentle. After a week of false starts because the mountain would be hiding behind clouds, we arranged to take this image from an elevated point, which was at the neighbouring house from their garage (of the Morehu family). I had grand plans of photographing from here again last year, but the trees you see here have grown so much that it is no longer possible. I’m thinking a cherry picker might be worth a try one day.
If you would like an image on your wall of Owae Marae, or of Mount Taranaki please be in touch. I will be adding a new series of snow capped Taranaki Mountain landscapes taken last month. You can also view my New Zealand Inspired fine art photography on my website by clicking here

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