Location: Tauranga waterfront
Kids - can you find two gavels (small hammers) hidden in the trees?
On any given day, Tauranga’s waterfront echoes with the sound of children running and calling to each other as they race around the playground. The sandpit plays host to a well-used digger, on which children endlessly scoop and shift sand back and forth. In his stainless steel work Pōhutukawa, artist Kereama Taepa (Te Arawa, Te Ātiawa) responds to the site and the history of Tauranga’s coastline.
Pōhutukawa is a functional design that provides shade, while the children play in the sandpit below. The intent of the shade design is to protect and nurture while the children have escaped the day into their own worlds, full of play. "I thought of this as a framework for the shade design and was inspired by the famous tree of the same name, pōhutukawa; the Christmas tree of Aotearoa. Our coast here in Tauranga was once filled with these trees. I tried to imagine back 200-odd years ago with these trees covering the area, their red flowers in full bloom. I imagined the birds singing and playing amongst the branches, feasting on the sweet nectar. And so the design makes reference to not only the trees and the provision of sustenance to the birds… but also the birds themselves.”
Looking up into the canopy of the trees, you’ll see the sky filtering through the cut-out flowers and leaves, some using Māori motifs. Shadows cast onto the concrete and sandpit below, shifting as the sun moves throughout the day.
About the artist
Taepa has a Masters of Māori Visual Arts from Toioho ki Āpiti, Massey University in Palmerston North, and teaches at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua. Recent public installations include
Whuture Whakairo at Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island 2019, and interactive sculptural work A (Very) Brief History of New Zealand, 2016, for the Four Plinths Sculpture Project outside Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. Taepa also exhibited as part of SCAPE Public Art Biennial, (2019). He won the Supreme Award for the Rotorua Art Awards 2017, and received the Runner Up Award in the National Art Awards 2018.
Kereama Taepa (Te Arawa, Te Ātiawa), New Zealand, Pōhutukawa, (2018), stainless steel. Commissioner: Cooney Lees Morgan on the occasion of their centenary, 1918-2018. Images: Anne Shirley