Auckland’s Maritime Museum very effectively uses art installations to explore ideas linked to its core story of New Zealand’s maritime heritage and identity.
Its current exhibition “carving water painting voice” is a collaborative installation by four artists, led by Kazu Nakagawa, that investigates themes of migration and identity.
The installation is built around Kazu Nakagawa’s beautiful sculpture based on a wooden Niuean waka and paddles suspended from the ceiling. It is contains a sound installation composed by Helen Bowater of human voices, many of whom are migrants, singing or speaking in their native language. Alongside is a display of three poems by Riemke Ensing and data maps by designer Andrew Caldwell that chart migratory patterns from pre-history to today. Andrew’s interesting conclusion from his research is that migration is in the human DNA, it is a feature driven by our curiosity to explore different places and different lives.
I attended a panel discussion last week with the four artists, who spoke about the work as well as some of their own experience of migration. This led so some of the people attending the discussion sharing some of their own personal experiences with migration in the Q&A and over the drinks afterwards.
The exhibition shows beautifully how art can be a catalyst for a discussion of a key topic of today that is not politically charged but shows a bigger picture as well as brings out individual, personal experiences.