The New Zealand Mandala- Heritage I


I decided I would create several mandalas that represented a snapshot of my cultural heritage. I am curious to see how that might look as an artistic representation. So I have created four mandalas. I was born in Wales, I have an English/ Welsh father and an Irish mother. I am married to a Dutchman and now live in the Netherlands. I grew up in New Zealand.

So here is the first of those four mandalas. This is a linoleum cut. It is approximately 29.2 inches square. Its printed on Simili Japon paper using oil based ink. Black is the national color of New Zealand. Many of you will be familiar with the black fern on the All Blacks rugby shirts.

Some people have asked me whether the mandala is created using a series of stamps – the answer is no. It would have been a lot less work. But this piece is a whole lino cut – as they all are.

The New Zealand mandala is very much one made up of aspects of the natural world. Starting from the outer most ring:

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the New Zealand honey bee:

imported in 1839 and introduced to pollinate exotic crops and produce honey. New Zealand has 28 native bee species and they do pollinate flowers, but do not produce honey. They also can not be farmed in hives the same way domestic honey bees can.

the Tui: “>

Tui have almost-black heads, underparts, wings and tails that have an iridescent blue and green sheen, especially on the head and wings. The upper back and flanks are dark reddish brown with a bronze sheen, the nape and sides of the neck have filamentous white feathers, and there are two unusual curled white feather tufts on the throat (poi). Small white shoulder patches on the upperwing show prominently in flight, but are usually concealed when perched. The bill and feet are black, and the eye dark brown. Tui diet varies depending on the seasonal availability of nectar and fruits. Their preferred diet is nectar and honeydew, and they will often shift to, or commute daily or more frequently to, good nectar sources, such as stands of puriri, kowhai, fuchsia, rewarewa, flax, rata, pohutukawa, gums and banksias. In the breeding season, tui supplement their nectar diet with large invertebrates such as cicadas and stick insects obtained by hawking or by gleaning from the outside of trees.

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the Kowhai:

perhaps my favourite flowering tree. Kōwhai are small woody legume trees within the genus Sophora that are native to New Zealand. There are eight species. Kōwhai trees have small leaflets and juvenile branches. Some of the species are twisted and tangled. They grow from a seed in the ground and can grow up to 25 m high. The Kowhai is found throughout New Zealand in a diverse range of habitats from riparian forests, coastal cliff faces to inland grey scrub communities. The native birds such as the tui, bellbird, kākā and New Zealand pigeon/kererū/kūkū/kūkupa all benefit from kōwhai trees.

the Potutakawa:

otherwise known as the New Zealand Christmas tree. Pohutukawa and its cousin rata also hold a prominent place in Maori tradition. Legends tell of Tawhaki, a young Maori warrior, who attempted to find heaven, to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.

A gnarled, twisted pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many New Zealanders. For Maori this small, venerated pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.

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the fern:

which is such an iconic New Zealand plant. New Zealand has an unusually high number of species for a temperate country. There are about 200 species, ranging from 10 m high tree ferns to filmy ferns just 20 mm long. About 40% of these species occur nowhere else in the world. I have symbolized the variety with the use of two different sized fern leaves.

the kiwi:

The kiwi is a unique and curious bird: it cannot fly, has loose, hair-like feathers, strong legs and no tail. Kiwi are a family of birds endemic to New Zealand. There are five species of kiwi: Great Spotted, Okarito Brown (Rowi), Tokoeka, Little Spotted and North Island Brown. Almost everything about them is unique. Over millions of years, kiwi adapted to live in an environment unlike anywhere else on Earth, free from the threats of mammals. It’s pretty safe to say the kiwi is a biological oddity.

the gecko:

Three genera of geckos are native to New Zealand – Hoplodactylus, Naultinus and Toropuku. … New Zealand geckos are omnivorous – their diet is primarily insectivorous in nature – flies, spiders, moths etc., but they will supplement it with fruit (i.e. from mahoe) and nectar (i.e. from flax flowers) when it is available. I notice a distinct absence of geckos these days, but when I was young I remember the rock faces in the South Island littered with amazing coloured geckos. There are at least 39 species of gecko in New Zealand.

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the owl or morepork (ruru):

is New Zealand’s most widespread owl species. A bird of the bush and the night, it is also an important species in Maori mythology.
The Morepork is the only remaining native owl species found in New Zealand apart from the Barn Owl, which has only very recently colonized New Zealand from Australia. It is also the only species of owl in New Zealand that inhabits forests.

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the tiki:

a New Zealand manadala would not be complete without a tiki. It has been suggested that this ornament is a fertility charm representing the human embryo, and that it should be worn only by women. However, early European visitors saw men wearing the hei-tiki and it is probable that the squat shape of the figure was influenced by the hardness of the material and that it was later likened to an embryo and endowed with magical powers. The shape is also probably due to the fact that tiki were often made from adze blades. Adzes and chisels made from greenstone were also prestige items and the shape of a greenstone adze lends itself to conversion into a tiki. Tiki remain prestige items in New Zealand today; heirlooms (toanga) in Maori families and European families as well. They are worn by Maori on ceremonial occasions.


the turtle:

there are five species of turtle that are seen in New Zealand waters. Green and Leatherback turtles are the most common. Five species of turtle have been sighted in New Zealand waters, and 60 per cent of sightings occur in Northland. By far the most common species reported is the leatherback. Generally only seen at sea, this species—the largest in the world—can weigh up to 970 kg and measure three metres in length. As its name suggests, this species lacks a top shell, having instead a rubbery skin.


the koru:

the centre of the mandala. The koru (Māori for “loop or coil”) is a spiral shape based on the appearance of a new unfurling silver fern frond. It is an integral symbol in Māori art, carving and tattooing, where it symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace. It seemed fitting to have it as the centre piece. The circular shape of the koru conveys the idea of perpetual movement and change.



  1. Sarah this is a fantastically creative idea especially with your diverse cultural circumstances! You mentioned this idea to me on my first visit to , and, back then I was so intrigued. I may just cheat and copy this idea for myself as, I too, have a culturally rich foundation. I am no artist but your influence In my life has awakened a creative streak that excites the hell out of me!❤️❤️

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