Deeply moved to see the devastation that Cyclone Gabrielle brought to the Te Matau-a-Māui, celebrated artist Dr. Fiona Pardington has donated an artwork to aid in the recovery efforts of her Ngāti Kahungunu iwi.
This artwork is the Manawarahi Male Huia, MTG Hawkes Bay (2022), an image from Pardington's series of huia photographs taken at MTG Hawke’s Bay Tai Ahuriri last year.
The artist feels this artwork has a wonderful relationship to the rohe and was the right one to offer for sale towards Ngāti Kahungunu’s cyclone relief fund.
Not only is the male huia the tohu for Hastings Boys and Hastings Girls High Schools, but the art work depicting this huia will be seen for the first time from 20 May when Pardington’s exhibition opens to the public at MTG.
For over twenty years, Pardington has sought out and photographed taonga of the natural and cultural world held in collections worldwide.
Some seventeen years after her first photographs of the now extinct huia, Pardington came to her iwi rohe, Te-Matau-a-Māui Hawke’s Bay, to photograph huia held in the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection.
In what must now be considered a distinct project, Pardington photographs huia in museum storehouses and private collections, infusing these birds with new presence through exquisite large-scale portraits such as these.
The sacred huia bird is a powerful reminder of the concept of mana or rangitira. It’s symbolic value emphasised by its unique lineage, setting it apart from other birds in the spiritual realm of Tāne Mahuta.
The illustrious, and sadly extinct, huia is a revered taonga with strong connection to Ngāti Kahungunu and their rohe. Iwi kaumatua have passed on knowledge including the following: "Whanahuia is a place in the Ruahine. It means '1000 huia birds rising as one from the mountain ranges of Ruahine'. Maungaruru was the effect of the birds rising on the wing, roaring like thunder.”
Alongside the photographs of the taxidermied pair of birds in her MTG exhibition Tāku Huia Kaimanawa, Pardington will show two photographs that show huia feathers also held in the Trust’s collection. One of these feathers once owned by William Colenso.
Pardington has talked of photography as a place of memory and mourning. These haunting photographs mourn the loss of this sacred bird, not by way of laying them to rest, but in such a way that huia are brought into the realm of the living like treasures returned to the world.
The notion of artists working with museum collections is not new and this kind of exhibition project provides richness and depth while adding a new interpretative dimension to the material itself.
For those at MTG, Pardington’s visit to the collection was an extraordinary experience. It was great to have the taxidermied birds, a pair of huia, and feathers from the collection photographed by an artist of the calibre of Fiona Pardington.
The donated artwork was sold by Starkwhite Gallery a short while after putting it up for sale.
Fiona Pardington’s exhibition Tāku Huia Kaimanawa at MTG Hawke’s Bay Tai Ahuriri will open at 9.30am on 20 May, 2023.
Published in the Hawke's Bay Today newspaper 6 May 2023 and written by Toni MacKinnon, Curator Fine Arts at MTG Hawke's Bay.
Image: Manawarahi Female Huia, MTG Hawkes Bay (2022) by Fiona Pardington
8 May 2023
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