Two Rooms presents the work of New Zealand’s foremost photographers, Mark Adams and Fiona Pardington.
Both artists have had a long engagement with our cultural memories, their retrieval and representation. In this exhibition, evocative photographic works document our long history with the deposits of greenstone (pounamu) discovered in the West Coast of the SouthIsland. Mark Adams, renowned for his informative landscape panoramas has documented the pounamu trails whilst Fiona Pardington revisits the treasured artifacts crafted from this prized stone, now housed in our national museums. The resulting works from theirinvestigations recall the stories of the geographical history and historical disputes associated with this trade and collection.
In the late eighties Mark Adams took a journey to the west coast of the South Island,retracing the steps of Maori, who sourced the prized pounamu. From the Canterbury plains, the journey passed up the Wilberforce River through Noti Raureka – the Browning pass into theheadwaters of the Arahura River, where major deposits of the nephrite pounamu had been discovered. Because of its tough characteristics, this was to become the main source of material used for weaponry and tools.
The Arahura greenstone was carried back to Canterbury where in the early 18th century Ngai Tahu set up a large trading centre at Kaiapoi, from where the pounamu was dispatched to many regions of the North Island. The Kaiapoi Pa was destroyed in 1832 by Te Rauparaha on one of his forays into the South Island. One of his motivations was to control the pounamu resource. The monument, erected in 1898 to commemorate this site is the starting point of the exhibition.
Further south, Adams photographs Lake Whakatipu, another legendary source of thepounamu. The journey from here would take a day’s march through the forests and mountains to the head of Lake Whakatipu, onto the Dart River and the Routeburn, a source of the highly prized pale Inanga pounamu (Inanga was a word used to describe whitebait and adapted metaphorically to describe this pale greenstone). The final part of the journey leads to Piopiotahi – Milford sound, where the Tangiwhai pounamu was found – a translucent bowenite used for jewellery and ornaments.
Fiona Pardington continues her study of taonga held in our museum collections with a visit to the Whanganui Regional Museum.
The Whanganui Regional Museum was established in 1892 and actively encouraged local Maori to contribute to the collection. At the time many artifacts were disappearing overseas so the Museum was seen as a place where taonga could be held for safekeeping. This policy also created another source of ownership dispute with many of the locals regarding these “donations” as deposits that would be returned at a later date. However, by 1928 The Whanganui Museum held the fifth largest collection in New Zealand
It is here Pardington discovers a collection of quirky, idiosyncratic Heitiki, possibly made by both Pakeha and Maori. Strange modernist style artifacts sit alongside the traditional Taranaki Heitiki. Heads are unfinished, redone and some expertly mended. The JH Burnet Collection purchased by the museum in 1925 is the main focus of her attention.
As with her previous collection of Heitiki, these hand printed silver toned black and white prints imbue the pounamu with light and use scale to bring to life the centuries of intrinsic ancestral histories associated with the carving of this sacred stone.