The Art Island

Playing in the Wind by Jay Lloyd Cast aluminium on stainless steel rods
Playing in the Wind by Jay Lloyd Cast aluminium on stainless steel rods

Waiheke has a higher than average percentage of artists and arty people, so in the New Zealand ‘have a go’ culture there’s lots of activity here with variable results.  I scour the events listings in the local papers and find that Sculpt Oneroa is opening on Friday at 6pm.  This is a new initiative since I was here last and is open only to Waiheke residents.

Cheers to vines by Veronika Evans-Gander Grape vine canes flax and steel
Cheers to vines by Veronika Evans-Gander Grape vine canes flax and steel

As usual I arrive early as I’ve still not got the exact timing for the drive from Rocky Bay so I’ve got time to have a quick look at the work.  The opening is an out-door affair on a space in front of a sculpture shop.  There’s a trestle table with drinks and nibbles around which a few people have gathered – mostly the artists.  At the last minutes people turn up from all directions and after a bit of milling around, there is a po?whiri (welcoming speeches) starting off with one of the artists, a Maori, then the organiser and then it’s all over.  I’ve collected a leaflet and go off to check out the few works I’d missed earlier.

Portentous Portal by Grant Lilly Tanalised Plywood
Portentous Portal by Grant Lilly Tanalised Plywood
Quarter-acre Weather-board paradise by Richard Wedekind Timber and steel
Quarter-acre Weather-board paradise by Richard Wedekind Timber and steel

It’s a week later and I’m spoilt for choice.  Miranda Hawthorn has opened her exhibition of sea birds at the The Red Shed (Art Collective) in Palm Beach. http://waihekeredshed.webs.com/the-red-shed-artists

Raukura - The Plume by Toi Te Rangiuaia Aluminium
Raukura – The Plume
by Toi Te Rangiuaia
Aluminium

I realise that as I’m away for Christmas, today is my only chance to catch it. Her colourful acrylic paintings include anomalous objects so there’s a Kingfisher in flight with a dangling chain and sink plug in its beak.  A group of birds are ignoring a Faberge egg in their midst while my favourite which makes me laugh out loud is a group of gulls squabbling over a $100 bill.  Miranda is delighted to hear me laugh and we chat about her work and the albatross she painted in response to the death of her father.  There’s an opening of a new exhibition at the Community Art Gallery this evening at 6pm but I shall have to catch this one later as I’m of to Mangare Arts Centre on the mainland for the final performance around Rosanna Raymond’s workshop and exhibition ‘Dead Pigs Don’t Grow on Trees’.

Dead Pigs performer
Dead Pigs performer

Rosanna has Samoan heritage, writes poetry and is a curator of Polynesian fabric – mainly ceremonial tapa cloth. The first challenge is to get there by public transport – no mean feat in this city of motorways and cars.  All the trains leave from the Britomart Centre just a few metres from the ferry terminus.  I find I can buy a hop on hop off ticket which works just like a London Oyster Card.  There’s a train about to leave which takes me, fairly slowly to Onehunga where I immediately catch a bus which, the driver promises, will take me to Managre.  It’s all been quite easy, but I’m disappointed that so few people are using this bus service.

Rosanna and cast
Rosanna and cast

Because Rosanna is rehearsing her show, it’s not possible to look at the exhibition so I go and wander around the indoor shopping centre hoping perhaps for a coffee.  It’s not that sort of shopping centre, being full of bargain shops, butchers, a fish-market that stinks and various takeaway joints serving the mainly Pacific Island people who live here.  There’s nothing to do except sit in the late afternoon sun and read my book.  It’s a novel which caught my eye in the new Waiheke Library – For Today I am a Boy by Canadian/Chinese writer Kim Fu. It was the title which caught my eye; it’s so clearly about gender and brand new writing, published this year.  The library has apparently sent all of its old books back and got new ones from the Auckland Library system. It’s always advisable to have a book to read as I wait for the ferry and indeed there’s 35-40 minutes of reading time on the journey to and from Auckland.

Dead Pigs strong female performances

Dead Pigs strong female performances

It’s time to go into the Arts Centre, have a glass of wine and a nibble before being called into the performance/exhibition space.  What ensues is a powerful performance from strong and for the most part, bare breasted women clothed in traditional raffia skirts and cloaks.  Many early European photographers captured the bare breasted pacific women on film and the exhibition has found a number of these images which were then exploited in the West as soft porn.

Samoan man telling the story of navigation
Samoan man telling the story of navigation

The piece is about colonialisation and subjugation of women.  Raymond has penned some strong stuff here performed by her and other strong members of the cast.  Christianity also comes in for a beating when a Pacific woman is scrubbed of her traditional body tattoos by a Christ like figure, dressed in white with illuminated fairy lights halo like around his head.  Out in the open air for the last acts, the Samoan men have the last word, telling of the great navigational feats around the Pacific and treating us to a finale of a twirling flaming baton.

Flaming baton
Flaming baton

There’s a feast to follow, but I have to get back to my Island and there’s a bus about to leave.  It wanders around the suburbs with only two passengers taking me right into central Auckland and the ferry.

 

 

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