Te Papa has paid what is believed to be a record $18,000 for a striking piece of modern Papua New Guinean art by an artist who says New Zealand defined him.
“Look Within 2″ by Daniel Waswas, a two metre by 1.5m canvas, features the image of a girl looking within herself and ahead.
Its vivid colours are typical of modern PNG art.
O’kaioceanikart, the gallery that sold the painting, said the artwork’s $18,000 price tag was a record for a Melanesian art piece.
”Papua New Guinea is a mini-United Nations in one country, a thousand tribes and 860 languages, so in order to have advancement, you have to be bold,” Waswas says.
The Pacific had been colonised and then countries defined but in earlier times there were no countries and the ocean united rather than divided.
This gave modern Pacific Islanders a tendency to blame others for what was wrong.
”I think for too long we blame, and now we need to look within and look forward.”
In the painting he uses the girl to look at herself, and upward, to the future.
”The answer lies within ourselves.”
Waswas said he saw himself as a philosopher as well as an artist.
Look Within 2, painted in 2007, was going to a good home, he said.
He came to New Zealand to do his art degree and stayed 10 years.
”The prime of my life was spent here, I would rather put something back into a home that taught me my youth, taught me who I was as a person. he said.
”The values system in the painting is Papua New Guinea, the training and model and fashion is New Zealand.
”I live in Papua New Guinea but I call New Zealand home, it defined me as a young man.”
Waswas comes from PNG’s Southern Highlands.
No decision has been taken yet on when Te Papa will exhibit the painting.
Te Papa would not comment on whether the painting had set a record or not, saying the legal title process had yet to be completed.