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Motorway art as cultural communication

8 November 2004

Motorway art as cultural communication

A sculpture with a deep cultural reference is due to be installed along Auckland's recently upgraded Grafton Gully motorway.

In the next two weeks a 13-metre stainless steel Tewhatewha - a modern version of a treasured Maori artifact - will be added to the two existing artworks, 'Maumahara' and 'Ropeworks' that already grace the area.

The artwork is the result of a unique and successful partnership between Transit New Zealand, the motorway project delivery team (Freeflow), Ngati Whatua o Orakei and the Auckland City Council who effectively collaborated on the project.

"It was a very exciting and successful project," says Auckland City Council community arts co-ordinator Stephen Bradshaw. He hopes that the piece will create dialogue while also adding to the aesthetic appeal of one of Auckland's major roading environments.

"It is a bold contemporary statement of ancient references," says Ngarimu Blair of Ngati Whatua o Orakei who collaborated with related iwi artists on the project. He explains that the Tewhatewha was an important early communication tool and as such was invaluable for conveying visual signals. The piece is also inspired by an ancient chant that foretold the arrival of Governor Hobson and a new authority on the shores of the Waitemata in 1840 and also therefore symbolises the city's bi-culturalism.

The presence of the artwork at the gateway to the port acknowledges the traveller in the context of the area's ancient institutions. Grafton Gully was once a mecca for botanists before the trees made way for development. The gully too is surrounded by pa sites, burial grounds and many institutions vital to Auckland City such as the University, Port and Hospital.

"The artwork aims to deepen a sense of this heritage while looking to the future - Auckland as a dynamic and creative city and peoples" says Ngarimu Blair.

The Alliance Project Manager John Burden adds, "Being part of team delivering this artwork has been a fascinating and hugely enjoyable experience for me and my project staff. It has provided us with a focus for the historical context of our work in this area and underlines the importance of our relationship with the community."


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