Collection News

Godwit/Kuaka returns on view

Ralph Hotere's magnificent work, Godwit/Kuaka 1977, lacquer on hardboard, returns to show to the Auckland Art Gallery. Commissioned originally by Auckland International Airport for the Arrivals Hall of the Jean Batten Terminal Building in 1977, the work is now in the Chartwell Collection and is a much loved favourite for viewers to the Auckland Art Gallery. The 18 metre mural (2400 x 18000)  is installed on the Ground Floor and as you walk along the full length of the painting, you feel the sense of the journey of life through the symbol of the kuaka - a bar-tailed godwit which undertakes an unparalleled flight  between New Zealand and Alaska. At the centre of the mural are stencilled the words from an ancient Maori chant, and shortly before Hotere's death, the artist was recorded reciting part of the chant. This recording of the artist's voice can be heard as you stand in front of the work on the hour and every half hour.
Ruia, ruia, opea opea, tahia tahia

Kia hemo ake
Ko te kaka koakoa
Kia herea mai
Te kawai koroki

Kia tata mai
I roto i tana pukorokoro whaikaro
He kuaka
He kuaka marangaranga

Kotahi manu
I tau ki te tahuna
Tau atu
Tau atu
Kua tau mai

Scattering, gathering, forming a single unit

Death/exhaustion rises up
It is the rope, koakoa (the cry of the bird)
Binding you here to me
The cry/chattering of the flock.

Come close together
From inside its throat - a marauding party
A godwit
A godwit that hovers

One bird
Has settled on the sand bank
it has settled over there
it has settled over there
They have settled here

From Kriselle Baker's essay on the Godwit/Kuaka Mural, published by Ron Sang Publications. Baker thanks Te Whanaupani Thompson (Nga Puhi/Ngati Wai) whose help proved invaluable with the translation of this poem.


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