Fiona Pardington, The Golden Huia: ‘Spectacular’ new commission for The Dowse

Jul 24 2021

Fiona Pardington, *Te kuia whitinga o te pō (the shining lady of the night) – the golden huia*, 2021. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum, commissioned by The Dowse Foundation 2021.

The Golden Huia by Fiona Pardington (Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Ngāti Kahungunu, Clan Cameron of Erracht) comprises four works: a series of three dramatic large-scale photographs, and a gold-plated sculpture moulded from the skull of an extinct huia bird.

The work can be seen as both a memento mori for the illustrious manu huia, and as a cautionary sign for ecological extinctions ahead at a time of climate change. Reflecting the rare and precious qualities of this bird, the gold plated sculpture and photographs celebrate what was one of Māoridom’s most precious taonga.

It was commissioned through funds raised by The Dowse Foundation, an independent charitable trust, to be gifted to The Dowse’s art collection to mark its milestone anniversary.

Rick Wells, Chair of The Dowse Foundation, says “it was an easy call for The Dowse Foundation to commission this spectacular new artwork.”

“This major commission initiative has been possible because of the generous support of many donors within the Hutt Valley, Wellington region and beyond,” he says.

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry says that it’s an honour to have Fiona’s work on display, and it was particularly appropriate to unveil it during The Dowse’s 50th anniversary.

“I’m thrilled that our residents and those traveling to our city now have the opportunity to see Fiona’s work, and all the other local art that makes The Dowse truly special.”

“For 50 years now, The Dowse has been an incredible community asset that has grown to become a place of regional and national significance, and it’s encouraging to see this legacy continue.”

Karl Chitham, Director of The Dowse, says having the artwork in The Dowse’s art collection will mean that people can experience it for generations to come, both in Te Awakairangi Hutt Valley and nationwide.

“We are incredibly grateful to The Dowse Foundation,” says Chitham.

“The four works that make up this commission illustrate Fiona Pardington’s ongoing exploration of memory, nostalgia and loss,” he says. “Each work adds another connection the overarching story of the now extinct manu huia, and the way we remember moments of grief.”

“As a photographer and contemporary artist, Fiona Pardington shows us the beauty and poignancy of the things we have lost, through the careful placement and treatment of seemingly unconnected objects. They tell rich and complicated stories of our histories here in Aotearoa.”

“The Dowse 50th Anniversary allows us to reflect on our history and connections with hundreds of artists over the decades, and delve deeper into our collections to celebrate the amazing works we have,” says Chitham.

Dr. Fiona Pardington is an internationally renowned photographer and artist, with a distinguished career spanning four decades. She has been appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to photography (2017), the Chevalier Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2016), Colin McCahon House Artist in Residence (2013), the Arts Foundation Laureate Award (2011), and Laureate Artistic Creations Project with the Musee du Quai Branly, France (2010).

The Dowse Foundation is an independent charitable trust established in 2003 to raise funds to support projects at The Dowse that transcend its core activities, create value for local communities, and reinforce The Dowse’s reputation as a world-class arts institution.

The Dowse Art Museum marks its 50th Anniversary in 2021. To celebrate this milestone, The Dowse has created a special programme of exhibitions, talks and events that reflects the institution’s past while looking forward to the future.

Over the past five decades, The Dowse has become a space for artists to test ideas, challenge preconceptions and offer something out of the ordinary for local audiences and visitors from around the country and all over the world.

The Dowse Collection is one of the largest public collections of New Zealand studio craft. There are over 3500 works across the entire collection, including ceramics, paintings, sculptures, jewellery, photography, costume and so on.

The Dowse continues to add to the collection, with recent acquisitions showing a support for key developments in contemporary New Zealand art. Visit to see The Dowse Collection online.

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