In these playable art works the audience are invited to take up the controls and navigate a Pacific or British character through the a newly-discovered world. For Māori this included taming the harsh environment; for colonialist Pakeha it was taming the savages.

Maoriland Adventures

Half-blood is an exhibition that challenges the history and myths associated with both Māori and Pakeha identity through two playable digital artworks by graphic designer Johnson Witehira. The works, projected side-by-side in the gallery space, present two narratives; the arrival of Māori and the arrival of Pakeha in Aotearoa New Zealand. The audience are invited to take up the controls and navigate a Pacific or British character through the alien landscape, with each forced to overcome challenges in their newly-discovered worlds. For Māori this included taming the harsh environment; for Pakeha it was taming the savages.

Satire is put to use in these works to explore the darker reality of our shared history. The Māori-centred artwork asks questions about the accidental and deliberate destruction of environments and wildlife – while in the Pakeha artwork, we see Māori subjugated by the introduction of disease, religion and guns.

Aesthetically the works draw on influences including early Māori figurative painting (such as that seen in the whare Rongopai and Nga Tau e Waru), contemporary Māori art practice, and video game art of the 80s and 90s. However, the digital medium is also used in an attempt to engage new audiences, and extend beyond the gallery. The 2D graphic style has a nostalgic link to Witehira’s own upbringing as urban Māori, while connecting to the visual art and design associated with popular subcultures – such as comics, videogames and animation. While the forms seem simple, the content of the works is rich with meaning and complexity, forcing the viewer to confront a history that some would rather forget. Who are the winners here?

 In these playable art works the audience are invited to take up the controls and navigate a Pacific or British character through the a newly-discovered world. For Māori this included taming the harsh environment; for colonialist Pakeha it was taming the savages.

In these playable art works the audience are invited to take up the controls and navigate a Pacific or British character through the a newly-discovered world. For Māori this included taming the harsh environment; for colonialist Pakeha it was taming the savages.

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