Tangaroa piri whare is an expression that describes the omnipresent power of the sea. Tangaroa is the god of the sea in Maori mythology and not only refers to the power of water and its ability to be everywhere at once, but Tangaroa is attributed with creating the first Maori carving. According to legend, Tangaroa abducted Manuruhi, son of Ruatepupuke, who had offended him, and transformed him into a wood carving to adorn his house beneath the sea. He was eventually rescued and returned to his world along with other carved posts introducing woodcarving to humanity.
In 1998 Graham was commissioned to make a work for Te Papa and in homage to the legend of Tangaroa, Graham created Te Korokoro o Te Parata, a large circular sculpture depicting swirling whirlpools of water.
In his latest exhibition, Graham looks at the devastating effects of the tsunami and its presence in the Pacific and how the ripple effect of the tidal waves reaches all parts of the ocean and affects us all. The tsunamis of Samoa in 2009, Chile in 2010, and Japan in 2011 were felt thousands of kilometers away, on coastlines on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.
His new works are shields that we use to protect ourselves, real or imaginary, to avert disaster, malevolence, or even in our daily social interactions to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations. They are entitled Kesennuma, Talcahuano And Saanapu, after the three towns effected by tsunami, in Japan, Chile and Samoa respectively.