Selwyn Muru's 'A Life's Work': 'A proud day for Ngāti Kuri and Muriwhenua'

By Kelvin McDonald
Selwyn Muru, Te Whiti with the Sacred Birds of Taranaki, 2003. Private collection

A survey of the life’s work of leading Māori artist Selwyn Muru (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Muri Kahara, Ngāti Rehia, Te Whakatōhea) opened to a full house of whānau and friends this week in Auckland.

Once described as one of the most original Māori thinkers of his time, Muru, now 85, has never had a major retrospective dedicated to his work, The Wallace Arts Centre where his work is being shown says.

The exhibition at Pah Homestead in Hillsborough presents many artworks never shown publicly before, including paintings and drawings alongside documentary photography, audio and video.

Curator Dr Moana Nepia, who is Muru's stepson, told Waatea News that the exhibition encompasses a range of Muru's work since the 1950s, capturing the diverse communities he worked with, and conveying his social commentary and advocacy for his Ngāti Kuri people.

“It’s telling the story primarily through his art, that is a wero for us all because so much of it is very thought-provoking.

"Those ideas are very much present in a lot of the work, particularly those that he incorporated text, poetry by Hone Tūwhare and citations from leaders and not just Māori.” 

Professor Ella Henry, who was at this week's opening, described the exhibition celebrating Muru's life and work as "a proud day for Ngāti Kuri and Muriwhenua" on social media.

Selwyn Muru: A Life’s Work is open until May 28.