PALM SPRINGS, CA – January 2005: The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum’s cultural exchange with the Maori people of New Zealand is continuing with the opening of an exhibit of artwork at the ACCM. “Art from the Land of the Long White Cloud” will open on Wednesday, February 16th with an evening reception.

Acrylic illustrations, oil paintings, and hand-carved and hand-woven objects are representative of a contemporary art movement sweeping the country of New Zealand. Intense geometric line work combined with ancestral images and bold coloring are characteristic of this work.

Art has always been an integral part of the Maori community. Communal buildings were elaborately decorated with wood carvings. Personal ornaments such as amulets and carved stone or bone pendants were worn. Ta Moko, beautiful and intricate tattooing, often from head to toe, reflected a man’s rank.

As guests of the Palm Desert Sister Cities project, a group of Maori artists and educators from the North Island of New Zealand spent two weeks in our area. The artists attended an aesthetic training program at the McCallum Theatre, toured local museums and art-related facilities, and displayed their own art at the Palm Desert City Hall. This artwork is now on loan to the ACCM for this exhibition.

In exchange, ACCM Education Director O’Jay Vanegas traveled to Gisborne, New Zealand as artist-in-residence where he designed and constructed a large mural depicting a Cahuilla bird singer with Bighorn sheep spirits and petroglyph symbols. He spent time at the internationally recognized Maori school of contemporary arts, Toihukura; visited Maori community maraes; and received a traditional Ta Moko (tattoo).

Polynesian navigator Kupe is credited with the discovery of New Zealand in 950 A.D. He named it Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud. Maori, the name for the indigenous people of New Zealand, is derived from Ma-uri, which means Children of Heaven.

Today they number approximately 500,000. Most live in the cities but maintain strong ties to their traditional maraes, meeting places where their ancestral spirits reside.

Join the Museum staff for refreshments at an opening reception at 6PM on Wednesday, February 16. This event is free and open to the public.

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is located at 219 South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday from noon to 5:00 PM. Admission is free. For more information please call 760/778-1079 or visit www.accmuseum.org.