'Totem - Kotuku' by Wendy Munro
Oil on Canvas
Size: 60 x 50cm
This painting is symbolic of my connection with both my Celtic heritage and as New Zealander by birth, a strong connection with this whenua. The Kotuku represents ‘the lady of the lake’ as my Grandmother who had a strong connection with Maori. She is watching over the waka prow with the three Celtic spirals depicting the circle of life, death and rebirth and the consciousness of nature beginning from its centre and expanding outwards.
As a symbol of things both beautiful and rare, the Kotuku or White Heron occupied an important place in both Maori and Celtic folklore. Once hunted in NZ for their feathers almost to extinction they are now protected and the breeding population is now recovering.
To Māori, the bird is ‘he kōtuku rerenga tahi’, seen perhaps once in a lifetime and symbolising the beautiful and rare - when a person is referred to as a kotuku rerenga tahi this means this is a great person seldom found.
The Kotuku are also thought to be spirit messengers who inhabit the spirit land of Reinga which is the reason I chose this bird for my painting.
I have strong Celtic roots and in the Celtic world the White Heron is associated with the Goddess of lakes and water often referring to the bird as ‘The lady of the lake’ Warriors used the protective image on their shields representing this bird as a God that both gives and takes life.
Any resemblance to any particular waka is purely accidental as it is of my own design and in no way is intended to represent any NZ Iwi.