Fri, Feb 9, 2024 10:30 AM

Gazing on Greenstone


William Woodworth

Treasured taonga hosted in Marlborough has helped a promising start to 2024 for Marlborough’s Art Gallery, with more artistic treats to come this year.

The ‘Kura Pounamu – Our Treasured Stone’ display on loan from Te Papa and Ngāi Tahuhas attracted thousands of gallery guests to Te Kahu o Waipuna since early December’s opening.

Art Gallery Director Cressida Bishop says that the combination of the holiday break, local interest and the multi-media approach to the exhibition has led to great success.

“We have had thousands of people come through the ‘Kura Pounamu’ exhibit, with so much support from locals and tourists, and heavy backing from local iwi,” she says.

“The display is part of a living history, containing everything from historic hei-tiki (human symbols), mere (weapons) and toki (tools) that date as old as 800 years, through to contemporary pounamu pieces, examining the natural geology of the stone, interactive touch stones, and details of stories behind the pieces where possible.”

Full backstories are available for many of most highly prized taonga, but also many that have been handed in and recovered without background.

Cressida says each piece brings their own story and add their own mana to the collection.

“Pounamu is so historically significant for Māori for tools, weapons and art, and having a touring exhibition in the South Island is a homecoming for many of these artifacts.”

“I’ve just been astounded at the amount of support this collection has had from artists joining us to impart some of their wisdom on us, to the popularity it has had from the public.

“When we look at the security cameras, you can see how much guests admire the pieces – some people stand in front of the wall of hei-tiki like they’re just mesmerised.”

With the ‘Kura Pounamu’ exhibition coming to the end of it’s run in central Blenheim and the collaborative Don Binney – Flight Path exhibit touring collaborator galleries in Nelson and Timaru, Cressida is eager to present the variety of displays curated for 2024.

“Looking forward, we’re hosting ‘Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist’ starting this February, which has been touring New Zealand and we had to wait on having Te Kahu o Waipuna ready to host.

“However, we’re also wanting to balance between touring or collaborative exhibitions and our own curated displays, with the bi-annual Youth Folio Show showcasing young local artists and our JS Parker collection, who was a massive fan of the region, this Spring.

“It’s a very exciting present and future for the Gallery.”

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