Siu i Moana I, Dame Robin White / Ruha Fifita, 2011

Robin White, Across the Pacific

This is Siu i Moana I by Robin White, one of three pieces by the New Zealand artist that were part of the exhibit Kermadec – art across the Pacific at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (MAC) in Santiago, Chile, the first half of last year.

The large pieces, measuring about four meters by five meters, dominated the museum’s main atrium, with the late afternoon sun beautifully casting light on the school of fish swimming below the boat. They looked very determined and very much alive. Below is Siu i Moana II.

Siu i Moana II, Dame Robin White / Ruha Fifita, 2011
Siu i Moana II, Dame Robin White / Ruha Fifita, 2011

The aim of the exhibit, a group show comprised of eight artists from New Zealand and one from Australia, was to reflect on man’s relationship with the Kermadec Islands, an island group located about 1,000 kilometers northeast of New Zealand’ s North Island. With the exception of one station on Raoul Island, the group is entirely uninhabited and considered one of the last pristine areas on the planet.

About White’s pieces, collaborations with Tongan artist Ruha Fifita, from The

The three ngatu which make up Siu i Moana speak of the things that bind New Zealand and the Pacific islands. The title of the group suggests movement—‘a reaching across/ towards the ocean’.


Siu i Moana traces patterns of migration, in relation to fish species as well as humanity. The long-finned tuna, prominent in two of the ngatu, follow a migratory path which takes them the length of the Kermadec Ridge, from New Zealand to Tonga and back. ‘As human beings, we are creatures that live in the space between,’ White reflects. Hence the particular poignancy of the flying fish which, she says, ‘lives between the different elements, as between physical and spiritual worlds’.

Read more here.

Rangitahua, Dame Robin White / Ruha Fifita, 2011
Rangitahua, Dame Robin White / Ruha Fifita, 2011

I had never heard of White and was delighted to come across her work. Widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s greatest working artists, she was most prominent in the 1970s, and lived and worked on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati for nearly two decades.

A little more about White and here work:

  • A short profile via The Kermadecs: an ocean wilderness
  • A 40 minute conversation with Sarah Farrar, the Curator Contemporary Art and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington (1 April 2013)
  • A 24 minute discussion on her works Florence and harbour cone and 28 days in Kiribati at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (29 November 2009)


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