Last weekend Huhana Smith spoke about her exhibition Rae ki te Rae / Face to Face in the Deane Gallery here at City Gallery Wellington. Following the talk we all jumped on a bus that took us out to Kuku Beach on the Kapiti Coast, where Huhana lives with her partner Richard, and where she’s been working hard with Manaaki Taha Moana (MTM) and local iwi to restore and enhance coastal ecosystems.
Writing this on a day where the temperature has dropped to fifteen degrees and the skies of Wellington have turned a persistent grey, the glorious weather of last weekend seems like a distant memory, but luckily we’ve got photos to prove it.
We’re always looking for ways to reach outside the walls of the gallery, talking with people not just about artworks within an exhibition, but about ideas that extend into or out of contemporary art into the wider world (and vice versa).
Huhana’s paintings speak to a space outside the gallery, most specifically to the area in which she lives and works. Her paintings are one outcome of her environmental research, a way of visualising the often challenging process of helping people to understand the importance of saving our water from the affects of degradation.
This hīkoi drew together a diverse range of people including Huhana’s whanau, friends and research colleagues, lovely ladies from Forest & Bird who monitor the birds in the area, regional councillors and City Gallery Friends and staff. Everyone was there to listen to Huhana talk about the work her team have been doing clearing, replanting and restoring water quality in the region, while walking through and talking about the land itself.
Off we go!
Learning about invasive weeds clogging up our waterways, diminishing water quality and suppressing plant and animal life.
Seeing first hand the amazing impact that water and re-planting can have.
And we made it to the top!
There was a bit of bush bashing and gorse wrangling here and there.
But also some moments of calm and quiet reflection in the sunshine.
Just as we arrived at the end of our walk we came face to face with some of the people who make Huhana’s job really difficult – a group of guys on quad and trail bikes determined to race up and down the dunes causing noise, destroying middens, shellfish beds and bird nesting grounds. The people of Te Rangitawhia and Matiawa, hapu of Ngati Tukorehe, and kaitiaki (guardians) of this area have been dealing with this kind of behaviour for a long time, with people assuming unrestricted access to Kuku Beach, and not treating the area with the respect it deserves. Huhana served them up some calm but forceful words, telling them this would be the last time they’d be able to bring their bikes down to the beach, and with that they raced off, revving their engines. As much as this this sort of confrontation isn’t pleasant, it was valuable for us all to appreciate the work that still needs to be done in order for people to understand the importance of respecting and caring for our environment.
Te Hakare Dune Wetland showing all the great work that has been done
At the end of it all a glorious and well-deserved afternoon tea, complete with a delicious cake made by Huhana and scrummy scones courtesy of Nikau Café.
Lily Hacking, Assistant Curator/Visitor Learning