Whakapapa: An Elemental

2022, D2

This project is a studio for Fred Graham, renowned NZ sculptor and Tainui kaumaatua. It explores how the four elements, water, earth fire and air, might influence spaces that engage the idea of whakapapa. The journey returns people both physically and emotionally to their roots, tying tuhanga with kauwheke.

Entering in through air raid tunnels on Kitchener Street, visitors are led through small, narrow and dimly lit tunnels. Upon reaching the subterranean site, they are met with a dramatic change in space and light. A light sculpture that resembles an abstracted wharenui stands in the centre of a large, underground cavern. It represents te tangata o Te Horotiu, who once lived in this area but lost their pa to colonisation. The juxtaposition of the colonial history and the metaphorical burial of the tangata whenua stands as a sobering reminder of all that has been lost by our people.

Upon reaching the ground level, the visitor is welcomed by a large studio flooded by light. Wooden posts and beams interrupt the light, giving a playfulness that is reminiscent of the air element. It contributes to a creative space by which Graham can pass on his knowledge and skills to others.