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Hinemoa Lisa

Hinemoa Lisa


Acrylic on Canvas

80cm diameter




The love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai on Mokoia Island, Rotorua New Zealand.


The love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai on Mokoia Island, Rotorua New Zealand.

Tutanekai lived on Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, where of an evening he and his friend Tiki used to play – the one on a “horn”, the other on a “pipe”. The sound of this music could be heard across Lake Rotorua at Owhata and it charmed the beautiful and noble-born Hinemoa who lived there. When Tutanekai visited the mainland with his people, he met Hinemoa and they fell in love. The young man had perforce to return to his village, but the lovers arranged that every night he would play and that Hinemoa would follow the sound of his music to join him.

Tutanekai kept up a nightly serenade but Hinemoa's people, suspecting something was afoot, had hidden all the canoes. The maiden, however, was not to be deterred and, selecting six large, dry, empty gourds as floats, she decided to swim to the island. Guided by the strains of her loved one's music, Hinemoa safely reached the other shore and landed near a hot spring, Waikimihia, in which she warmed and refreshed herself – the pool is on Mokoia Island to this day. Just at that moment Tutanekai sent his servant for water. This man disturbed the girl who, pretending to be a man, spoke in a gruff voice and, when she learnt his errand, begged for a drink from the calabash which she smashed as soon as she had had her fill. The servant then went back and reported to Tutanekai what had happened. He was ordered back again and again, each time with the same result, until all the calabashes were broken. The now irate young man himself went down to the pool and to his joy discovered Hinemoa. Like all good stories, the legend has a conventional ending – they lived happily ever after.   

Hinemoa is painted as the Mona Lisa (one of the most celebrated artworks) and is painted with the greatest of respect to bring the love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai to a larger audience.  The viewer recognises a familiar image and is curious as to the story behind the changed imagery.

Hinemoa came from the Te Arawa iwi on the mainland in Rotorua.  The women of Te Arawa were the only iwi to have forehead tattoos.  The design is native to Te Arawa, as the pattern on her headband and moko.

This painting has had permission from local iwi and has been signed off.

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