AN ICON FOR EAST FRAME

A striking, sixteen-metre tall, totem-esque sculpture is planned for Christchurch’s East Frame, adding a touch of Tongan and Aotearoa New Zealand culture to further complement the city’s cultural diversity and understanding. Named Vaka ‘A Hina. the artwork by Sēmisi Fetokai Potauaine will be in Rauora Park on the eastern fringe of the city.

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SCAPE Public Art is installing this work in partnership with Christchurch City Council, Ōtākaro Ltd, John Jones Steel, GHD, and Leighs Construction. The sculpture will be gifted to the city thanks to funding from these Christchurch businesses, Creative New Zealand and a public funding campaign.

Described as a beacon, meeting point, and way finder, Vaka ‘A Hina will be a new point of reference in a refreshed part of the city. It provides another opportunity to connect with the community and to celebrate cultural differences. The sculpture will have a tall, resolute, continuous presence during day and night. A lighting scheme created by GHD, and Philips Lighting, will further enhance Vaka ‘A Hina’s stature. A spectrum of colours is available providing the ability to customise illumination for special occasions; from green for St Patrick’s Day to pink for Breast Cancer awareness.

SCAPE Public Art Executive Director Deborah McCormick says that Vaka ‘A Hina’s combination of Pacific Island culture and striking geometry embodies the uniqueness of all the different people who make up a community.

“Public art has the power to reflect our city’s true identity and developing narrative. At this time when harmony, respect, compassion, and understanding have the power to provide resilience, Vaka ‘A Hina becomes more than a visual cue of cultural diversity – it is an opportunity for sharing, questioning, learning, understanding, and change.”

Ancient Tongan and Moana Oceania (Pacific) folklore provide the background story for Vaka ‘A Hina, which translates to English as ‘Vessel of Hina’. Hina is a Tongan goddess who lives on the moon above the langi (sky) in vāvā (outer space) and travels frequently back and forth to maama (Earth). Vaka ‘A Hina can be imagined as the vessel she uses as transportation on these trips – it’s her vaka (canoe) – thus evoking ideas of travel, motion, and movement.

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The sculptor, who has lived and worked in Christchurch, is an Auckland-based Tongan architect, lecturer, researcher, and a multimedia artist.

Potauaine explains the artwork and its setting in Christchurch.

Potauaine says that on an abstract level Vaka ‘A Hina points to the intersection or connection and separation of tā (time) and vā (space). In its physical form, the sculpture is made up of kupesi (complex geometric designs) that move in multidirectional and multidimensional ways.

“As a means of transportation, transformation, or projection, Vaka ‘A Hina gives a sense of flight and escape into the realm of vāvā away from the domain of vaha (seascape) on maama (Earth), where navigation as an art is conducted at their intersection or connection and separation,” he says.

Potauaine hopes the sculpture can become a point of unity in light of recent events in Christchurch.

“With the recent tragedy in the city, I do hope the presence of Vaka ‘A Hina as a way-finder offers relief to those who have been stricken and provides connection to those who have been separated.”

The sculpture is expected to be in place before the end of 2019.