A pair of NorthTec Maunga Kura Toi – Bachelor of Māori Arts – students won two out of three awards at last week’s Whangarei Sculpture Symposium.
Graham Nathan and Anthony Dunn, who are both in the final year of the degree programme, won the $4,000 Te Au Mārie Award, and the $1,000 People’s Choice Award for their work, after competing against established artists from throughout New Zealand.
Both students are studying the whakairo (carving) strand of the degree programme, and were taught by the noted carver and NorthTec tutor, Te Kuiti Stewart, who sadly passed away last month. Their work in Oamaru limestone was their first attempt at working with stone, rather than wood.
The sculptures were on show at the symposium, held at the Hihiaua Peninsula, for 10 days until last week’s judging and public auction.
Organised by Creative Northland, the theme of this year’s symposium was to create a form that represents “Journey” and interprets a local influence. The theme was inspired by the 250th anniversary of the voyage of the Endeavour, captained by Lieutenant James Cook, commemorating his exploration of the New Zealand coast.
Entitled He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata, the NorthTec students’ triptych represented three figures: Cook; Tupaia, a Tahitian navigator who travelled with him and later acted as a translator; and local Māori.
The work, consisting of three one-metre high limestone sculptures each sitting on a base of totara wood, will be installed at Kerikeri Airport in 2019 as part of the 250th anniversary events, with the artists set to attend the unveiling ceremony.
Graham and Anthony were among 20 artists who submitted work to the event. They now plan to gift part of their prize back to the NorthTec Maunga Kura Toi programme, so that another student can enter the next Whangarei Sculpture Symposium in two years’ time. The gift will be named in honour of Te Kuiti Stewart.
Graham said: “The work represents three people that came together at the point of the first engagement with Bay of Islands Māori. The “Journey” theme for us was about people, cultures and whakapapa. The idea is that we are all cut from the same stone. We all aspire to the same things for ourselves, our children, our children’s children and our planet.”
He said the other artists had been very happy to see the students do so well, and the exposure they had gained through the symposium was “phenomenal.” He added: “I’m so happy that we proved ourselves in that forum amongst those artists.”