Saturday, October 31, 2020

Weka Pass

Last week I tramped to Weka Pass Cave, where people made art with charcoal and ochre five hundred or more years ago. Now I wonder: was that iron fence by the cave's limestone overhang intended to keep humans out, or to keep the painted cryptids - writhing eel-birds, lizard-dogs, dancing insect-men - in? When I close my eyes creatures surface, through the blackness.

Caves like this are not only sacred to Maori. Generations of Pakeha artists travelled here, to learn what could not be learned in the polite galleries of tight little colonial towns. I could sense Tony Fomison and Theo Schoon, as I squatted beside the cave mouth. Both men were possessed by these caves, and this art: both spent years in these limestone galleries.

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