Paptuanuku and Ranginui were commemorated on the new stamp issue

May 15th, 2014

When the star cluster known as Matariki rises in the sky in late June it will signal the beginning of the Māori New Year. The Matariki 2014 stamp issue tells the Māori creation narrative of Papatūānuku and Ranginui.

As with many stories born from ancient folklore, there are different variations of the story of Papatūānuku and Ranginui. A widely known account tells that Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, loved each other dearly and embraced so tightly that their sons were stuck in the darkness between them. Their sons decided to separate them so they could live in the light, and their son Tāne, god of humankind and forest life, pushed with all his might to force them apart. Ranginui was sent to live in the sky and Papatūānuku was sent below to live as the earth, creating Te Ao Mārama, the world of light.

This self adhesive stamp issue looks at this creation narrative through the eyes of six accomplished New Zealand artists, who represent parts of the narrative in their own unique ways.

80c – Cliff Whiting

Te wehenga o Rangi rāua ko Papa

A monumental work for its time, this piece is housed in the National Library, and shows the central figure of Tāne thrusting apart his parents in the inverted position by using his legs. This image is part of a larger work that explores the Māori narrative on the creation of Te Ao Mārama, the world of light.

80c – Phil Mokaraka Berry

Rangi and Papa

In this work Berry uses the design languages of Māori tattooing and the kaokao pattern from the traditions of other Māori artistic conventions of Tāniko and Tukutuku to add emphasis to the representation of Tāne separating his parents. This customary design symbolises the energy and strength needed to wrench the heavens from the earth.

$1.40 – Kura Te Waru Rewiri

Te whakamamae o te wehenga

This work shows the triangular mask of Tāne that separates his parents, Rangi and Papa. The three siblings of Tāne are represented as pou (posts) and stand on the upper eyelid of their mother, aghast at the pain of the separation. The vessel in the sky has been prepared as the place where Rangi will dwell, forever separated from Papa; thus night and day are created.

$2.00 – Fred Graham

The separation of Rangi and Papa

This work is housed in the National Archives, which also houses Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Graham has applied the theme of the Rangi and Papa narrative to symbolise the role of the National Archives as an institution that seeks to enlighten people through the dissemination of knowledge. It is noteworthy that the relevance of the dual meaning of 'marama': light and knowledge is founded in this creation narrative.

$2.50 – Pauline Kahurangi Yearbury

The children of Rangi and Papa

In this frame, Papa is clutching Rangi in a supportive embrace with the umbilical cord of her last child still present. This work by Yearbury is indicative of her visceral style and her clever use of line to project movement in her visual exploration of Māori narratives. Yearbury was lost to the Māori art world well before her contribution had been fully recognised.

$3.00 – Robert Jahnke

The Ranginui doorway

This doorway was commissioned for the Marae floor in Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand. It retracts upwards and layers the three levels of colour over the other panels. When the doorway is fully lifted, it represents the state of Te Po (darkness), and when fully closed it represents Te Ao Mārama.

The set of six stamps is displayed on a miniature sheet and two first day covers. The miniature sheet is the only way to obtain the stamps in a gummed format, so make sure you order yours for your collection.

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