Songs of belonging & journeys back home

Nov 18 2019

Olivia Webb, Anthems of Belonging, 2019.

Two free exhibitions open at The Dowse, 29 Nov 2019

From creating new anthems that sing of contemporary life, to making journeys to walk up a sacred mountain or swim in a river - five migrant New Zealand families and four young Māori artists explore what it means to belong in Aotearoa, in two free exhibitions opening this summer.

Olivia Webb: Anthems of Belonging and Strands will open at The Dowse Art Museum on Friday 29 November 2019, and run until 22 March 2020.

Olivia Webb: Anthems of Belonging

In Anthems of Belonging, artist and musician Olivia Webb has worked with five families, from Kiribati, Zambia, Samoa, the Philippines and the Netherlands, to write, perform and film new anthems that reflect their feelings about place and belonging.

From the climate crisis in the Pacific and issues of racism and sexism, to finding strength in diversity, and the importance of family and bonds of community, the new anthems reflect the lives of each of the five families involved.

Together, these songs form a collective expression of our community, and the constantly changing nature of Aotearoa – with the families’ filmed performances projected life-sized onto The Dowse gallery walls.

“National anthems are usually songs that unite people,” says Olivia. “They sing of a nation’s values, history and identity.”

“I wanted to make a work that sings of the contemporary lives of New Zealanders – songs about the multiple histories, identities, cultures, beliefs and traditions in Aotearoa. Maybe through listening to such songs we might come to understand ourselves and others in new ways.”

Strands: Arapeta Ashton, Ayesha Green, Chevron Hassett, Ana Iti

Making journeys to meet whānau, walk up a mountain, swim in a river, or return to an indigenous practice, each of the four artists in Strands has recently revisited the whenua they are from.

Highlighting the role of whanaungatanga, Strands brings together the work of Arapeta Ashton (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Porou, Muriwhenua), Ayesha Green (Kai Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu), Chevron Hassett (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu) and Ana Iti (Te Rarawa).

Melanie Oliver, Senior Curator at The Dowse Art Museum, says the show is about processes of learning, reconnecting with whakapapa, and discovering how history threads through our lives.

“It’s exciting to be presenting the work of these four artists together” she says. “Each presents a unique perspective of mātauranga Māori, with the artists generously sharing aspects of their lives and relationships.”

“Our education system will soon provide the opportunity to learn about the history of Aotearoa New Zealand and te reo Māori is becoming more spoken in society. This exhibition shows how important history and language are for our identity, and the ways in which it underpins and informs artistic practice.”

The exhibition features large self-portrait paintings by Ayesha Green; photographs documenting the East Coast whakapapa of Chevron Hassett; Arapeta Ashton’s video and fibre work showing the preparation of kiekie plants to create kākahu; and a new work by Ana Iti exploring the journey of learning te reo Māori, indigenous language acquisition and early printing processes.

The two new exhibitions will join five other exhibitions on display over summer at The Dowse – including Dirty CeramicsZina Swanson: For VivianSolid GroundNomads, and Light Fall: Studio Glass from The Dowse Collection. Spanning ceramics, textiles, watercolour, sculpture, photography, studio glass, and painting, there’s something to see for every art lover.