555 × 865 mm
Image size: 505 x 785mm
Paper Size : 555 x 865mm
Atua Wāhine is the Māori term for goddess. Sofia painted this portrait from her imagination, intending her face to be of indistinct ethnic origin, yet have a strong feeling of indigenous spirituality and kaitiakitanga (guardianship). Native American and Māori cultures were at the forefront of the artist’s mind.
In particular the goddess and creator of all living things - Papatūānuku or Earth Mother - was in Sofia’s thoughts, but so too was her granddaughter Hinenuitepō or the goddess of the night, who left this earthly realm and travelled to Rarohenga, the home of the spirit, to receive all those who pass from the physical world to the next.
Dame Whina Cooper
Upon finishing the painting an observant viewer noticed the loose resemblance with respected kuia (elder) Dame Whina Cooper, who spent her life fighting for Māori land rights and striving to improve the lot of Māori women. Cooper was even given the title Te Whaea o te Motu ("Mother of the Nation") by her own people. To the artist this similarity wasn’t planned but is a very welcomed coincidence, considering the wairua (spirit) of the painting.
The earrings are tapu (sacred) native New Zealand huia feathers. In traditional Māori life the huia’s white-tipped black feathers were worn in the hair of high ranking people and were kept in a special carved box called a waka huia.
Moko kauae or the tattoo on a woman’s chin, lips and sometimes forehead, painted here in metallic gold, traditionally contain ancestral messages specific to the wearer, telling the story of their whakapapa (genealogy), family and tribal affiliations, knowledge and social standing. In recent decades there has been a revival in ta moko and many Māori men and women now wear moko as an expression of cultural pride and mana (integrity).
Minson has painted this moko kauae in a very non-traditional way, referencing triangular designs seen in woven tāniko and tukutuku panels in marae (meeting houses) and also in mathematical fractals. Fractals is an area of great fascination for the artist - they are simple formulas that when expressed visually can create infinite patterns that are chaotic yet easily recognisable as natural and harmonious, because we see them in real world forms all the time - for example in mountain ranges, shells and tree branches. When zoomed in on, these patterns are never ending with infinite repeating forms. The artist is struck by this undeniable connection between mathematics, nature and patterns seen in ancient culture and art. In this work the Atua Wāhine wears a moko that is a symbol of her divine, cosmic power.
From her studio in Auckland, New Zealand, Sofia Minson paints bold, soulful, finely detailed portraits, landscapes and surreal oil works. She is inspired by the land, myths and people of Aotearoa (NZ) as well as the unity she sees amongst richly diverse cultures from around the world.
For 13 years Minson's paintings have been exhibited and collected globally. The artist is inspired by her mixed Ngati Porou Maori, Swedish, English and Irish heritage as well as the taonga (treasure) that are Aotearoa's people, land, forests and birds.