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by Rachael Comer

Powerful portraits of Maori women feature in a new exhibition at the McAtamney Gallery in Geraldine.
The eight paintings on display in “He Wahine, He Tapu – The Sanctity of Women”culmination of Timaru woman Janelle Wilson’s work for her master of Maori visual arts degree from Massey University. The exhibition runs until March 23.
Executed in oil and acrylic, the works depict friends and family wearing traditional cloaks and feathers.
Wilson said she aimed to celebrate and empower women through her art and wanted to provide positive depictions of traditional female roles and virtues.
“The women I have painted are all women I know, but they are also symbolic women,” she said.
“The portraits depict the sanctity and specialness of women.”
In Maori tradition, each woman was sacred, she said.
“They have inherited their own mana and tapu which I have tried to capture and want to celebrate.”
She invited the women to bring their own cloak, feathers and taonga or greenstone to the sitting.
“The women aren’t stereotypical Maori.
“The reality is that we have become bicultural and multicultural and there is a beautiful combination of influences in Maori wahine today. I want to celebrate other cultures as well as Maori.”
Wilson has had an interest in Maori culture from a young age but did not discover her Maori lineage until she was a teenager.
“My maternal grandfather was part Maori and my whakapapa is Ngai Tahu and Te Whakatohea, from the Bay of Plenty.
“I also have lots of Pakeha history: French, Scottish and Irish.”
The exhibition opened on Friday evening.