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Waka returns to original landing place

Auckland City Council Media release

8 February 2008

Waka returns to original landing place on Queen Street

A new public sculpture being installed at the intersection of Swanson and Queen streets tomorrow marks the site of the city's original foreshore and a former waka landing place.

The art work is a key feature of the Queen Street upgrade and reflects Auckland City Council's plan to showcase distinct and highly visible New Zealand art and design throughout the CBD.

The 7m high artwork, entitled Waka Taumata (resting canoe), is by well known New Zealand sculptor Fred Graham. Mr Graham's public sculptures can be found at the Auckland Domain, Auckland Botanic Gardens, Auckland's District and High Courts and Mission Bay.

The art work represents a stylised stern post and prow of a waka, with a flock of terns (sea birds) in flight at the top.

Mr Graham used corten and stainless steel materials in the design, which will develop a weathered, rust-like appearance over time.

"I wanted to suggest that the waka had been there a long time and the city grew up around it," he says.

"On this particular site, was a beach on which Ngati Paoa kept their canoes so in historical terms I believe a waka taumata is an appropriate sculpture for this site."

Auckland City Council's brief for the work was to reveal the area's significance both historically and culturally. The work was also required to make a visual impact both day and night, be constructed from robust materials, and allow for pedestrian and vehicle flow.

Councillor Greg Moyle, chairperson of the Arts, Culture and Recreation Committee, says the sculpture provides a strong visual presence and is a point of interest on the city's main street. It also coincides with the upgrade of Swanson Street.

"Most importantly, it captures the historical and cultural significance of the area and tells a story of our city to visitors and Aucklanders alike."

Fred Graham

Born in Arapuni in 1928, Mr Graham is of Ngaati Koroki, Kahukura and Ruakawa descent. As a young man he worked as an art teacher in Rotorua, Bay of Plenty and Northland. He was one of a group of Maori artists, including Ralph Hotere, Para Matchitt, Cliff Whiting and Arnold Wilson, who were trained by Gordon Tovey as national art specialists for the Department of Education during the 1950s.

As well as marking the original waka landing place for Ngati Paoa, Mr Graham's work Waka Taumata also reflects the importance of the area for Tainui.

He explains: "A number of ancestral canoes passed through Auckland and settled the area with Tainui becoming the most prominent. The Maori proverb 'Mokau ki runga, Tamaki ki raro', defines the tribal boundaries of the Tainui canoe, from Mokau in the south represented by the prow of the canoe to Tamaki Makau rau in the North represented by the stern post of the canoe."

"The name Tamaki Makau rau or 'spouse of a hundred lovers' is the Maori name of the Auckland Isthmus and emphasises its desirability as a place to settle, with its rich soil, waterways, food resources and harbours."


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