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Jesus Suits

Playing card motifs have been appropriated and assigned significance in many cultures to signify many things, from religion to currency. New Zealand is no exception. In Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Poverty Bay, Gisborne) the club and diamond motif appeared on clothing and on the outside of the Hiona (Zion) temple at Maungapōhatu. The temple was a place of worship for followers of the Ringatū faith, a Māori Christian faith founded by the prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki in the 1860s. The clubs signify the King of clubs, the King yet to come, the last in the line of David and also for the Holy Ghost. The diamond represents the sacred hidden stone of Maungapōhatu, the mauri whenua (the physical repository of the life force) of the people and land.1

Andreas Reischek explored the King Country in 1882 where he met King Tāwhiao and his senior wife Hera Ngapora. She wore a garment on which ‘all manner of card games were printed’. 2 Amongst other things, the garment signified not only her high status and the high status of her guest, but alluded to global knowledge outside her immediate realm

A further example of playing card motifs appearing in Māori culture can be seen in a kahu huruhuru, a cloak made with feathers and wool. The cloak is from the mid 19th Century and includes the four playing card symbols, although their significance remains unknown3

‘The Deck of Cards’ is a recitative first popularized in the U.S. in 1948 by country musician T. Texas Tyler. The track tells the tale of a young soldier arrested and charged with playing cards during a church service. The soldier uses the deck of cards as mnemonics, serving as a Bible, an almanac and a prayer book.4

Te Kooti remains an enigmatic figure, described variously as a guerrilla leader, violent rebel, traitor, spy, executioner and religious fanatic, and later as a pacifist, teacher, healer and prophet who claimed to be Jehova.5 For the purposes of this installation based on an image of Te Kooti, and in context with his deck of cards speech bubble, the name Jesus suits.


1 Binney, Judith, Myth and explanation in the Ringatu tradition: some aspects of the leadership of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and Rua Kenana Hepetipa The Journal of the Polynesian Society Volume 93, No. 4 (1984), 359. Retrieved January 6, 2012, from http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document/Volume_93_1984/Volume_93,_No._4/Myth_and_explanation_in_the_Ringatu_tradition%3A_some_aspects_of_the_leadership_of_Te_Kooti_Arikirangi_Te_Turuki_and_Rua_Kenana_Hepetipa,_by_J._Binney,_p_345-398/p1
2 Te Arapo Wallace, Patricia. (June 2009). Jack, Queen, King: Playing Cards as Influence of Empire?. Amended version of paper presented at the New Zealand Empire Costume and Textile Symposium, Napier. Retrieved December 14, 2012, from http://canterbury-nz.academia.edu/PatriciaTeArapoWallace/Papers/1125863Jack_Queen_King_Playing_Cards_as_Influence_of_Empire
3 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. (2011). Object: Kākahu with feathers and wool (cloak) Registration Number ME015747. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www.collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?oid=169655&term=kakahu
4 Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (2012). The Deck of Cards. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Deck_of_Cards
5 Binney, Judith. (2012). Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t45/1


Jesus Suits Revisited
Artstation, Upstairs, 1 Ponsonby Road, Auckland
16 April - 4 May 2013
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (detail)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (detail)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (installation view, with Ngatapa, Paratene Matchitt)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (installation view, with Ngatapa, Paratene Matchitt)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (detail, deck of cards)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (detail, deck of cards)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi


Jesus Suits (detail, King of Diamonds)
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs, 89 Grey Street, Gisborne
3 February - 3 March 2012
Photograph: Megan Hansen-Knarhoi

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