Collection

"Everyone will live quietly" Micah 4.4
Michael Parekowhai

1990

Michael Parekowhai
b.
1968
Title:
"Everyone will live quietly" Micah 4.4
Production date:
1990
Accession No:
91/1
Measurements:
255 x 2200 x 1500mm
Media:
Wood and laminates

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Purchased from the Monica Brewster Bequest with assistance from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand in 1991. assistance of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of NZ in 1991.

Michael Parekowhai is an artist who enjoys playing — with words, with meanings, with viewers’ expectations. His sculptures display a wit as polished as their immaculate surfaces, the sheen of which always disguises several layers of meaning. Everyone will live quietly: Micah 4.4 is classic Parekowhai wordplay. Comprising three-dimensional letters spelling out the name ‘Micah’ four times, the work is made from pine with a Formica laminate — four Formica Micahs.

The fourfold structure of Parekowhai’s work also directs us to the Biblical verse named in the title, Micah 4.4 of the Old Testament. The prophet Micah lived in the kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BC, and witnessed its colonisation by the powerful Assyrians. Micah rails against the Assyrians’ worship of false prophets and describes God’s punishment of the greedy and idolatrous. Verse four, line four reads, “Everyone will live quietly in their own homes in peace and prosperity”. Here, Micah promises the future redemption of the faithful who have been unjustly dispossessed of their land. Micah speaks in defence of the victims of dispossession, but in denouncing the colonisers of his country as “false prophets” he takes a totalitarian stance. Cultural pollution will not be tolerated. In Parekowhai’s work, the phrase ‘everyone will live quietly’ seems more of a command than a promise. With menacing overtones reminiscent of Brave New World-style social control the Formica letters seem to march forward with militaristic regularity.

Micah was an advocate of purity, but Parekowhai’s work, despite looking like it is fresh from an industrial assembly line, is anything but pure. The Formica was chosen because of its resemblance to pounamu. A plastic substitute for the real thing, it refers to the appropriation of traditional Māori art forms for the tourist market. However, the work also refers to the appropriation by Māori of things European, specifically the identification of 19th century Māori religious movements with the teachings of the Old Testament, and its narratives of struggle against oppression.