Monday, January 18, 2016

The final time capsule opening in Mapua, New Zealand

Mapua School, Mapua, on the South Island was the last stop on the time capsule opening tour of the World Sculptures. It was warm and sunny in December 2015 and very near to the time of summer solstice there in the southern hemisphere.

Neil and I
When I arrived at the school, the teachers and the Principal, Neil Chalmers welcomed me. Children were running barefoot and wearing the blue school hats that they are required to wear because of the thin ozone layer in the summer.

Sixth grade teacher Sharon Prestidge introduced me to two sixth grade girls, Millie and Tyler, who were organizing plans for the ceremony to open the time capsule.

It was a unique and special ceremony. I was struck by the attention to the Maori culture. Millie described the planned performances of haka (dance) by 30 students and mentioned to me that she was one of the dancers and that she and her mother were Maori.

Tyler and me
Just before the ceremony Sharon Prestidge gathered all the visitors or guests into a group saying, “We are on the waka (boat) together, (remembering the Polynesian canoes that brought the original people to Aoteraoa or New Zealand) and we are joining in a common purpose. Think of those who came before us, and of the sacredness of the earth under the sculpture.”

We moved slowly toward the sculpture and heard the school children singing a welcoming song to us.

Sculpture and children

Soon after, a group of 30 students began haka performances, a Maori cultural dance performed in a line. (For rugby fans, the All Blacks, New Zealand’s World Champion rugby team performs a haka facing the opposing team using loud and tough warrior moves meant to challenge the opponent.) Mapua School boys perform their own challenge.

Boys haka. Video: Jennifer Robins

When the girls did their performance it reminded me Hawaiian hula performances I had seen.
Girls haka. Video: Jennifer Robins

Soon attention went to opening the time capsule.

Looking at capsule

Cutting capsule top
Two students who had placed artwork in the capsule in 2007 look through the drawings and sort them to show to others.

Sharon Prestidge passes them to children.

And the capsule is carried back into the Mapua School’s front lobby to rest for twenty-five years until 2040 when it will be opened again.

Children’s artwork from the Mapua time capsule

Below are a few selected pieces of artwork made by Mapua children.

Map of New Zealand

“The pukeko can be an annoying bird but beautiful in a quirky way.”

New Zealand’s signature bird, the  kiwi, is flightless and is vulnerable to extinction.

The following pieces were made by children in Vermont and Rhode Island.

This artwork was made by Japanese children in Izumi, Sendai, Japan.

Could these be rice plants?

Thoughts about the 1993-2015 World Sculpture Project

If I had to choose one word to describe this 23 years long art project, it would be connections.

My first intention was to connect people and cultures through art. 

There are geographic connections between the sun-aligned sculptures at specific latitudes. Each sculpture has a unique alignment with the sun or stars. The first three sculptures were placed at 22 degrees north latitude in Honolulu, Hawaii; 45 degrees north latitude in Stanstead, Canada and 60 degrees north latitude in Olso, Canada. 
When I was slow to find a sculpture site in Hawaii I decided on adding two pieces to the series: Sendai, Japan at 39 degrees north latitude and Mapua, New Zealand at 41 degrees south latitude. 

Making art with children was the most satisfying for me, and just plain fun. I encouraged children to express their feelings: “What is important to you? What are your joys and worries?” They loved making art pieces that could be part of a larger sculpture project. Their enthusiasm was contagious.

And the joy of children singing songs during the final time capsule opening in Mapua will stay with me for my lifetime.

January 14, 2016