Kawakawa, a rongoā/medicinal plant indigenous to Aotearoa, is central to this exciting two-part project by leading Ngāi Tahu artist Lonnie Hutchinson, on show at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū from 19 June to 31 October 2021.
Ahu timataka / Trace elements brings together rongoā plantings on the Gallery’s forecourt and cut-out works upstairs in the Gallery. In both their real and symbolic forms, Hutchinson’s rongoā plants express manaakitanga – kindness, kinship – and opportunities for gentle healing.
“Manaakitanga and gentleness are the key words here, and a sense of care is something we’ve come to associate with Lonnie’s practice,” says Christchurch Art Gallery Director Blair Jackson.
“The works and plantings are an expression of love and support for a community that has been through so much, and the delicate, meticulous way she translates organic forms into black paper and metal ‘cut-outs’ makes them a captivating experience.
“By cutting into folded vintage wallpapers, sheets of acrylic and many individual pieces of metal, Lonnie creates a compelling sculptural presence and shadow play on the wall,” Mr Jackson says.
Kawakawa is the most important healing rongoā herb and has been used to treat a wide range of ailments for centuries. On a more symbolic and spiritual level, it’s considered a life-affirming plant, used in birthing and naming ceremonies, and to bless sacred ground and war parties before battle. Kawakawa also took on an important role in tangi (funerals), where mourners would carry leaves and wear them in their hair to symbolise loss.
Hutchinson has consistently worked with rongoā plant motifs throughout her career – Sista7 (2003), one of the most beloved works in the Christchurch Art Gallery collection, also includes rongoā imagery.