"Semu's work grapples with Western art history and leads us towards a Maori understanding of the events surrounding their ancestors' migratory voyage to New Zealand"
NGV director Tony Ellwood
"Semu is known for depicting the impact of imperial colonialisation on Indigenous cultures, particularly in the Pacific Islands. His reenactment of Steele and Goldie’s work unveils its historic inaccuracies, challenges representations of Maori settlers and discusses the systematic operations of the Pacific Islands."
"As he executes large compositions of navigational voyage, Semu’s work draws attention to the colonisation of the Pacific and the ongoing fight of Māori people for recognition of their rights and ownership of their own story and oral histories."
Sophie Verass, New work by Samoan artist depicts Māori settlement.
NITV, 13 June 2016 - 3:45PM
"Semu’s The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific), 2014–16, focuses on two celebrated nineteenth-century European history paintings: Louis John Steele and Charles F. Goldie’s The Arrival of the Māoris in New Zealand, 1898, and Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, 1804–05, both of which dramatise survival at sea. While growing up in Auckland, Semu was captivated by the beauty, pain and suffering of The Arrival of the Māoris in New Zealand. Although an icon of the Auckland Art Gallery, the work has polarised public opinion; Māori people have censured its historically inaccurate depiction of Māori seafarers as emaciated victims desperately clinging to survival, rather than as skilful navigators on deliberate voyages of exploration. Moreover, as Roger Blackley states, ‘The depiction of a desperate band hurtling forward on a broken craft represents a graphic realisation of the widespread colonial mythology of the “dying race”’.
Judith Ryan GREG SEMU: THE RAFT OF THE TAGATA PASIFIKA (PEOPLE OF THE PACIFIC), 2014–16, NGV, 10 June 2016