New exhibitions at He Waka Tuia to explore southern environment

Two new exhibits set to open at Invercargill’s He Waka Tuia gallery are set to explore the environs of the deep south – with one from the perspective of a celebrated artist, and the other through the lens of the city’s tamariki.

He Waka Tuia Manager Sarah Brown said the first exhibit, Songs of the Land, would feature the artistic expression of renowned creative Janet de Wagt.

de Wagt would showcase work that reflected her keen observation of the natural world – particularly the isolated regions of Southland, Otago, and Canterbury, Brown said.

“Janet de Wagt is a renowned name in the New Zealand art world for good reason. Pieces on display in Songs of the Land will range from her innovative use of guitars and ukuleles as her canvas, through to her ‘Fishy Fakes’ series, which reinterprets the works of old masters’ prints to address conservation issues throughout Te Waipounamu,” Brown said.

“No matter the medium, her works are always a thought-provoking reflection of the landscapes she connects with.”

de Wagt said the exhibit would showcase the pressure the natural world was under, in an innovative and interesting way. From exploring the idea that nature has its own rhythm, through to delving below the depths of the waterways surrounding the motu, Songs of the Land was about exploring the relationship we have with the natural world.

“This whole exhibition is also about people coming together – one thing does not stand alone,” she said.

Meanwhile, the second exhibit opening soon at He Waka Tuia would highlight the creativity of Invercargill children between the ages of seven and 11.

What’s Inside? was a graphic novel created in 2023 by students from Enrich@ILT, who delved into their creative personas with the assistance of de Wagt and celebrated author Cilla McQueen.

Enrich@ILT educator Marlene Campbell said more than 200 children were involved in the process, which encouraged them to gain new-found confidence in expressing their ideas and imagination.

The goal of creating the graphic novel was to capture pupils’ experiences of the environment and different life events, and allow them to move from using these to inform a short piece of drama – the essence of which was then transformed into the written word to create What’s Inside? she said.

“We are very proud of the end result. It looks incredible, and how it evolved and came together is beyond our creative expectations,” she said.

Brown said the work the children created explored storytelling through illustration, drama, research, and poetry.

“Together they have crafted a quite captivating narrative that reflects their worldview of Waihōpai,” she said.

“He Waka Tuia is proud to be able to showcase the creative expression of some of our city’s budding artists, and to be able to do so alongside the perspective of a seasoned artist like Janet de Wagt will be a really interesting juxtaposition.

“Art is something that spans all generations, and we’re really looking forward to being able to bring these two complementary exhibits to the people of Southland,” she said.

What’s Inside? and Songs of the Land will both open to the public at He Waka Tuia, in Don St, on Friday, February 23. Both exhibits will run until March 24.

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