I spy - Regional News | Connecting Wellington
 Issue 218

I spy by Alessia Belsito-Riera

Take a moment to think about the whenua you’re standing on. Consider what else and who else has also been there next time you’re passing by Swamped, the new Courtenay Place light box exhibition by artist Turumeke Harrington (Kāi Tahu, Rangitāne) in collaboration with Ōtautahi Christchurch-based curator and educator Chloe Cull.

Present in what was once Te Aro Pā until the 3rd of June, Swamped addresses the complex history of whenua on the site where it sits. “I think public art can offer a kind of time travel and that’s really interesting to me,” Harrington says.

Once one of the largest pā in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, the area was included in the New Zealand Company’s Port Nicholson deed of purchase. Harrington explains that “the tumu (stumps) reference the survey stakes used at Te Aro Pā to mark and divide Māori land, and the removal of these by Māori residents in protest.”

The title Swamped is a reference to the original swamplands that provided residents of Te Aro Pā with food and resources, and the overwhelming nature of modern life. 

The artworks couple critical reflection with humour, encouraging passersby to engage in a game of ‘I spy’ by searching for native and introduced species hidden in each tumu. This duality is signature of Harrington’s work, which she tries to make accessible so that “anyone who experiences it is able to engage with it”.

“I like to use humour and bright colours to express darker or more challenging stories informed by whakapapa and whenua.”

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« Issue 218, April 23, 2024