Friday, October 16, 2009

Treasure Trove

Waka Huia 2009 Areta Wilkinson. Image: Studio La Gonda
Waka Huia is a treasure trove of precious jewellery, objects and stories created by leading New Zealand jeweller, Areta Wilkinson (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe/Waitaha, Pakeha) – a beautiful, personal exhibition that opens tonight at Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery, in Napier. Traditionally, a waka huia was a treasure or feather box used by Maori to store personal and special objects associated with adornment and spirituality. This Waka Huia takes viewers on a journey through Wilkinson’s life history, connecting each object to korero (stories) that reflect her delight in the extraordinary nature of ordinary moments.
A Stolen Moment 2009 Areta Wilkinson. Image: Studio La Gonda
Each story is intensely personal, anchored to Wilkinson’s own whanau, iwi and community but, through the act of storytelling, she evokes a wider narrative that considers the role that everyday objects play in our collective cultural memory. Areta Wilkinson (b.1969) has been making jewellery since 1991. She has worked as a design lecturer at Unitec Auckland and has made brooches for Queen Elizabeth II, the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu and for Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. She currently lives and works from her studio in Oxford, in North Canterbury; and in May this year she received one of New Zealand’s most prestigious awards for contemporary jewellery – TheNewDowse Gold Award.
Tawai 2009 Areta Wilkinson. Image: Studio La Gonda
Waka Huia is a touring exhibition and as it travels to different venues around New Zealand, it is gradually re-shaped by its journey. As a special addition to the Waka Huia project, Wilkinson visited the collection of Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust/Ruawharo Ta-u-Rangi to research a new series of works. Among the collection was a small toggle made from albatross bone. Albatross bones were prized by Maori, used in instruments and adornments that utilised their strong, hollow form. This indigenous ‘finding’ (a jewellery component/clasp,hook,back) captured Wilksinon’s attention and she has translated the artefact into a series of sterling silver toggles, entitled ‘Memory Aid I, II and III. For Wilkinson, this series acts as a reference point to the local history of adornment. All images by Studio Gonda, courtesy of Areta Wilkinson 2009. Waka Huia is open to the public at Hawke's Bay Museum & Art Gallery from October 17 to March 14, 2010.

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