Signs of strength and vulnerability

Kalisolaite ’Uhila, Kapa Ma (2019) in ‘‘Hurahia ana ka Whetu: Unveiling the Stars’’, 
Kalisolaite ’Uhila, Kapa Ma (2019) in ‘‘Hurahia ana ka Whetu: Unveiling the Stars’’, installation view, Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
A work in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery has taken a beating.

In 2019, Kalisolaite ’Uhila spent 11 weeks in Otepoti Dunedin as part of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s Aotearoa New Zealand Visiting Artist Programme. During his residency and concurrent exhibition, "Kapa Ma", ’Uhila used a stockpile of metal cabin bread tins in an ongoing drumming performance within the gallery space. The kapa/tins — representing a common food item in homes throughout the Pacific and across the world — became carriers of ’Uhila’s time and energy, with their surfaces becoming increasingly dented and marked. ’Uhila’s work often explores ideas of time and "hard labour". His practice considers how these connect to Polynesian masculinity and gender ideals of male strength and power — using performance as a means of shifting these qualities to also examine vulnerability, humility and contemplation. At the end of the performance period, the drummed tins, along with ’Uhila’s drumsticks and stool, became a sculptural installation, which was then acquired by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

The installation Kapa Ma is part of the exhibition "Hurahia ana ka Whetu: Unveiling the Stars", the result of a series of ongoing conversations between the team at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Paemanu, a group of Ngai Tahu (Kai Tahu) visual artists. "Hurahia ana ka Whetu" celebrates the history of this collection, the first of its kind to be established in Aotearoa. It upholds the stories and ideas carried by artworks that reside within this institution. Through partnership, working to elevate Maori and indigenous voices, and layering multiple viewpoints, this exhibition looks to the past to create new paths forward.

The exhibition

"Hurahia ana ka Whetu: Unveiling the Stars" is on display until October 2022.

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