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This is one of McCahon's major works of the mid-1970s, along with the Urewera Mural, the Blind series, and the Parihaka Triptych. It has several motivations and triggers. The primary one is the shining cuckoo's song, spoken of in a Maori poem passed…

"One of the most favourite mysteries presented by the strolling companies in the southern provinces, is "The Spectacle of the Sun and Moon" (Allom, 1842, v II, p. 28).
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