Toi Nati
Written by:
1 Apr 2014

Sofia is of Ngati Porou descent through her tipuna May Hermanson (grandmother) and great grandmother Matire Te Horowai from Waipiro Bay. Sofia is developing a new series of art works and needs your help to make it a reality. A new series of contemporary Māori portraits by Sofia Minson uses Western figurative painting to celebrate the mana and diversity of the modern face of Maori.

“We’re creating positive images of our people to share with each other and with the wider world for hopefully centuries to come” says the artist. For 10 years Minson’s bold portrait and mythological landscape paintings have been exhibited and collected in the USA, Europe and throughout New Zealand. The 29-year-old Auckland-based painter has won three national art awards including the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award in 2005 and is a four-time finalist in the Adam Portraiture Awards.

One of her aims is to help revive the art of Maori portrait painting, which has arguably been in limbo since the likes of Goldie and Lindauer. While she is inspired by their works, she says her portraits “are far from Goldie’s recordings of a vanishing race” and are intended to fill an important niche for her generation. “Nowadays we find that it is not so easy to define who or what is Māori,” says the artist of mixed Ngāti Porou, Swedish, English and Irish heritage. “But one thing’s for sure, our culture is alive and continues to evolve.”

Having spent much of her childhood in Samoa, Sri Lanka and China, on returning to New Zealand as a teenager, painting enabled Minson to further explore the variety of cultures and faiths she lived amongst overseas as well as reconnect with her homeland and her mixed Māori and European roots.

“I enjoy collaborating with other artists and can’t wait to collaborate with the public on this new series of portraits,” says Minson, who has been featured in documentaries such as Canvassing The Treaty in 2010, which followed six artists as they deepened their knowledge about the Treaty of Waitangi and created cross-cultural collaborative artworks together at Te Tii marae.

She has also been commissioned to do largescale public artworks, in February 2014 painting an enormous portrait of musician Tiki Taane on a 40ft shipping container on Queen’s Wharf in downtown Auckland.

Minson is particularly keen to hear from those who have Ta Moko Kanohi and/or Moko Kauae – visually striking expressions of a person’s inner connection to their heritage. She asks “if you would like to help make a positive contribution to our people by sitting for a portrait, or know someone who might, please email me at, I’d love to hear from you!”

Sitters will receive a complimentary, signed, limited edition print of the finished painting for their whanau. The artist will meet with the sitter first and get to know their story, then she will briefly photograph them.

Tukuna mai o whakaaro