Purchased by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1988, Whakapapa IV is part of a series of works produced in 1987 exploring the geometries and symmetries of whare whakairo (carved meeting houses).
Matchitt has been a leading figure in Māori art since the 1960s. Along with Ralph Hotere, Fred Graham, and Arnold Manaaki Wilson, he played a key role in the development of a Māori modernist movement. Matchitt was also part of the ‘Tovey Generation’, a group of prominent artists trained from the 1940s to the 1960s by arts educator Arthur Gordon Tovey who championed bicultural visual arts education in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Whakapapa IV (1987) consists of four triangular units of equal size conjoined to form one large wooden A-frame structure.
Here the artist (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Te Whakatōhea and Ngāti Porou) calls to mind two common architectural forms in traditional Māori wharenui (meeting houses): low-lying sloped roofing and carved symbols.
Early in his career Matchitt worked with Pine Taiapa, a builder of many wharenui and a carver for Sir Apirana Ngata. From a lineage of master carvers, Matchitt began to develop his own formal language as an artist. This was a finely-tuned synthesis of motifs, symbols and patterns unique to a Māori visual arts tradition paired with techniques adopted from 20th century European abstraction.
E whā ngā kopanga tapatoru i Whakapapa IV (1987) kua whakakotahi hei taitapa rākau rahi. Ka tōia mai e te ringa toi, e Paratene Matchitt o Te Whānau-ā-Apanui rātou ko Te Whakatōhea, ko Ngāti Porou, ngā hanganga e rua nō roto mai i te wharenui: ko te taiheke o te tuanui me ngā whakairo katoa. I Te Ao Māori, ko te wharenui te ara matua mai i te ao kikokiko ki te ao wairua, mā ngā whakairo whakapapa e honohono ana i te ira tangata ki ngā tūpuna me ngā atua hoki.
Nō ngā tau 1960, he manutāiko a Matchitt i te ao toi Māori. Nā rātou ko Ralph Hotere, ko Fred Graham, ko Arnold Manaaki Wilson i whakawhanake i te tikanga toi pūkare mō te ao Māori. I whai wāhi hoki a Matchitt i te kāhui ‘Tovey Generation’, arā, he kāhui ringa toi matatau i whakangungua i ngā tau 1940 ki te 1960 e Arthur Gordon Tovey, te toa whakatairanga i ngā kura toi kākanorua i roto i Aotearoa.
I mahi tahi a Matchitt ki tō Pine Taiapa taha i te tōmuatanga o tōna umanga. Hei kaitārei wharenui a Koro Pine mā Koro Apiranga. He pūmanawa whao i heke ki a Matchitt, ā, i tīmata tāna whakawhanake i tōna ake reo ōkawa hei ringa toi. He kōmitimitinga waitohu, tūtohu, waihanga hoki e whai motuhaketanga ana ki te ao toi Māori, me te aha kua taurua ki ngā tāera o Ūropi, nō te rau tau 20.
I hokona a Whakapapa IV e te Whare Whakairi Toi o Govett-Brewster i te tau 1988, hei wāhanga o ngā mahi i pua ake i te tau 1987 e hōpara ana i ngā āhuahanga me ngā hangarite o ngā whare whakairo, ā, nā Matchitt i whakawhānui ake me te tātari mā tōna ake reo ataata.