Te Pakanga by Paratene Matchitt, is a series of drawings completed in 1974. The drawings were commissioned by School Publications in Wellington as illustrations for a book called Te Atea (The New World) published in 1975. Te Atea, by Katerina Mataira, was written in Maori for a Maori audience. The book and the Matchitt illustrations are about the perils of war and the path to restoration.
Matchitt describes the story across 35 drawings revealing an evolution, or passage, from destruction through to redemption. He employs kowhaiwhai and tukutuku patterning to reiterate the cultural/personal context for the drawings. Indigenous motifs are highly stylised and graphically dynamic, with a strong modernist black, white and red palette that works within a template structure - the picture plane is divided into thirds on the horizontal with a central vertical segment. This formal pictorial structural device alludes to the notion being emphasised, that is, the importance of the reinvigoration of belief systems and cultural structure.
The threat of nuclear holocaust was a palpable concern - felt and feared by many in the 1970s. But the nuclear warfare aspect of Te Pakanga is a metaphor too, in so far as Matchitt’s premise of return to order and cultural strength may be applied ongoing and in broader contexts for its simple and unifying ideology. This series of images describes an antidote to complexity as well as a solution to dysfunction born of greed and hatred.
There are thirty-five drawings in Te Pakanga. It has been in a private collection for many years and the works are now being exhibited and sold individually for the first time.