August 2021

'That Vase' by Dame Robin White and Tamari Cabeikanacea donated to Te Papa


Dame Robin White is an inspirational New Zealand female artist, of Ngāti Awa and Pākehā decent who has spent much of her career living and working in the Pacific. Since returning to New Zealand in 2000, Robin has continued to practice embarking on large-scale collaborative works with artists and practitioners across the Pacific. That Vase, 2019 is the most recent collaboration of Dame Robin White and Fijian artist Tamari Cabeikanacea who have been creating collaborative works since 2017.

The work was recently purchased for the collection through the generous support of Chris and Kathy Parkin.

In 2019, Dame Robin invited a small team from Te Papa to visit her on location in Lautoka Fiji as she completed That Vase, 2019 a masi (Fijian tapa) made in with her collaborator Tamari Cabeikanacea. This trip was a rare opportunity for curators Nina Tonga, Curator Contemporary Art and Jill Trevelyan and Michael O’Neill, Manager Collection Imaging, to document the artists at work. Over the course of a week the team gained insight into the artist’s creative process and witnessed the careful and repetitive application of draudrau (stencils) on the masi gradually building the image of an empty living room. The room was partly inspired by the living room where the work was made with the artists replicating details such as the neighbouring plantation and the tiled pattern of the lino flooring.

The artists titled the work That Vase after the concluding line of the poem Home is So Sad by English poet Phillip Larkin that personifies an empty house and its objects as if they were longing for their owners. In a similar fashion, the artists personify a single vase that is half-hidden behind a doorway as if peering into in the living room.

In 2022 Te Papa in partnership with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki will present a major retrospective of Dame Robin White.


Article by Nina Tonga, Curator Contemporary Art

Image Credit: Robin White 160, 2019. Photo by Michael O'Neill. Te Papa (145026) 
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