Thursday 14 March 2013

Behind the Brush: a documentary series featuring Auckland Art Gallery's Māori portraits by Gottfried Lindauer

Back story to the television series

When I first met AWA Films' director for Behind the Brush I immediately thought of The Matrix (1999) and the character Apoc - a freed human and crewmember on the Nebuchadnezzar led by the mysterious Morpheus. In the film, Apoc is a liberated good guy and the first victim of Cypher who decides the Zion resistance movement is not what it’s cracked up to be and makes a deal to be reinserted back into the Matrix.

I loved that Behind the Brush director Julian Arahanga played Apoc in The Matrix and that he sent Māori into the future – not literally of course, but figuratively – and I sensed he understood responsibility to the past, the present and the future.

Eighteen months after that initial meeting, Māori Television will broadcast the first documentary series featuring Auckland Art Gallery’s 21 Māori portraits painted by Gottfried Lindauer in the 19th into the early 20th centuries. The first episode will screen 19 March 20013 at 8pm on Māori Television.

The artist, the patron, the descendants and their ancestors

The stars and the success of Behind the Brush are the descendants; Lindauer’s grandchildren, Henry Partridge’s successors and the many and varied mokopuna tuarua (descendants) of beloved Māori ancestors. At the commencement of this journey we agreed that the series would be driven by descendant stories and that we would privilege these rather than replay history according to art, social and political history.

The great thing about descendants is they have personal relationships, memories and stories related to the artist, the patron and their ancestors. The series contains the epic narratives of love, life and death found in all histories. They are somehow more heartfelt in Behind the Brush because each of the 21 stories will affect the way you see portraiture, the past and the future in this matrix of liberating korero.

Eru Tamaikoha is my Ngai Tuhoe ancestor. Not only does he feature in the first episode of Behind the Brush, he is also on display in the Gallery's historic New Zealand portrait gallery.

Gottfried Lindauer, Eru Tamaikoha Te Ariari, 1903, oil on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr H E Partridge, 1915

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