Hai Romana was born in Te Hapua, Aotearoa (New Zealand) in 1957, among the Ngāti Kuri people, who, he explains, predate the Maori. During his residency at Artbeat, Hai worked in acrylic and oil on canvas, and pencil drawings on paper. Hai says he prefers to use the simplest of tools, and lays no store in fancy trappings. His paintings often incorporate animals and bright landscapes and explore themes and experiences from his family history in Aotearoa going back a thousand years and more.
Hai’s work commonly depicts allegorical scenes, including both Ngāti Kuri narratives and inverted biblical themes. He describes the abstract Maori designs which appear prominently in his paintings as his way of ‘speaking in tongues.’ “I’ve got a big mouth,” he adds, “but I can paint!”