Te Puke Times
A Life and Painting to treasure
By John McMenamin
NewsPaper. Te Puke Times
April 21,1999

The remarkable talent of Artist Peter Caley has bought to life a vibrant and stunning
image of a notable Te Puke kuia. Even with limited public exposure to date, his portrait
of the late Mauria Te Tauri Mokena (Morgan)much revered as ‘Nanny’ – has excited
much interest and acclaim.
The painting, taken from the cherished photo, is an
inspired work which has a living presence and it could be destined to win
regard as a New Zealand Master piece.
But, however,  the formal art world eventually classifies the painting, most importantly
to the artist, it has bought joy to the whanau of it’s endearing subject. Her Grand
daughter Ruby Rota of Te Puke long held the dream of having a painting done that
truly reflected the love, dignity and wisdom of the wonderful woman who raised her and
sister Teiria. After becoming friends with Peter Caley she learnt he was a painter and
on seeing some of his work felt he must be the one to realise the family dream.
It is believed Mrs Mokena was at least 103 when she passed on in 1972, a lack of birth
records preventing exact verification. Born in the Thames valley area, she spent most
in the Te Puke district. She was a descendant of Tia, Hei and Tama te kapua. She was
a kaumatua and Tangata Whenua in Hei, is Haraki Marae, Kuia Karanga, he kuia
awhina manaaki, he aroha ki te tangata. In 1972 Nanny was one of only 35 kuia in New
Zealand with the original moko, signifying her bloodlines and she wore it with dignity.
Active all her life, she took part in a walkathon months before her death to raise funds
towards a meeting house for Hei marae – some whanau were concerned about the
effect on her But Ruby Rota recalls with affection that there was no stopping Nanny
when she put her mind to something. Ruby also remembers well that one of the biggest
wishes was that we should all embrace each other as whanau and live in peace.
For Peter Caley the painting has been a major catalyst in his life, drawing him back to
live in New Zealand after a decade in Australia. Now much in demand as an art teacher
and living between Hamilton and Tauranga for the moment, he has previously
concentrated on wildlife paintings plus regular commissioned work.
The Taku Kuia
portrait is a breakthrough work for him, an awakening that could lead him to
the forefront of the art world. He has become a master of colour and brings
an incredible three dimensional force to his paintings.
More immediately, Peter, who has Ngai Tahu links, will have his work featured in a new
Auckland gallery being opened this month by Tame Iti.
One of its aims is to promote
the work of unknown Maori Artists. The portrait gives testimony that he will
not fit that description and his name is sure to become recognisable.
Peter Caley now regards this painting as part of his destiny, and he formed a close
attachment with his subject, really feeling her presence as the work progressed. It is a
treasure in many regards