In this gallery, artist Shane Cotton offers a meditation on the theme of journeying in historical European, contemporary New Zealand art and Māori art. Journeys are full of promise, but they also take us into the unknown. They involve the prospect of new encounters, discoveries and experiences, or perhaps a return home. The land and water over which one travels represents a threshold, and sometimes crossing a threshold involves a test of character, endurance and skills of navigation. In myths and narratives, journeys often involve quests for individual self-discovery.
Vessels are intrinsic to the idea of journeying. A mode of transport, they also accompany the journey-maker, carrying important objects of culture and exchange. Vessels, too, carry people in and out of life: the pregnant body holds new life, while waka koiwi offer passage for the dead.
How a vessel is decorated or adorned relates to more than its purpose – its social value is signalled in this way. Conveying and containing the histories and stories of people, the ornate carvings on waka taua (war canoes) speak to the whakapapa (lineage) of journeying, both in a literal and in a genealogical sense.
Situated in the historic Mackelvie Gallery, this installation traverses the geographic and temporal to chart an ever-shifting and open-ended journey that considers various cultural associations to the land – its containment, colonisation and ownership. In this regard the waka is both the vessel and the catalyst for journey and contemplation.
The Passage is a part of Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art. Click here to learn more about the full exhibition.
- Curated by
- Nigel Borell, Shane Cotton, Emma Jameson and Sophie Matthiesson
- Mackelvie Gallery