The entries in these competitions are able to be seen weekday mornings in the St Georges Gate Pa Church Hall. There is parking available both on Cameron Road in front of the Reserve (with a short walk around the corner) or in a small parking area adjacent to the hall and the Church.
The first time I went to see this exhibition I wasn’t aware it was only open in the mornings. I’d parked in front of the historic reserve and started to walk through the trees towards what looked like a work site. A very small fire was wafting a tiny plume of smoke over Cameron Road. I tell the Kaumatua why I am there and he directs me towards the newly constructed platform in front of the lych gate. I read the memorial plaques.
Under two blue tarpaulins two carvers are diligently creating shape, pattern and design on the base and limbs of two recently felled totara. I stop and talk with Brian Rikirangi about the work and the carvings. Each tree features the work of several carvers and will be finished for the formal commemoration. The tree trunk is unnaturally smooth and silky to touch. There are chips and bark around. I tell Brian the trees have grown on and absorbed the battle site and the people who fought and died there. I ask if I can take away a piece of the totara bark. Brian mentions the other preparations that have been going on – one of the kapa haka leaders is someone I was with in an Auckland University kapa haka group many, many years ago.
The second time I go back the ground fixtures for the symbolic pou facing Cameron Road have been finished and are waiting for the dominating carvings. Today I’m not the only person in St Georges Church. A man is standing with the exhibition attendant explaining that “60 years ago, while his parents were playing tennis over the road, he and his young friends would go up the back and play in the trenches…” He wonders if they’re still there or if they too were bulldozed away.
The art entries in the Church Hall are more than worth viewing. While they are topic focussed works of art what they display is a fragment of the creative talent of Tauranga. I was fascinated by some of the adult art work I was amazed and impressed by the sophistication of thought and finish of work attributed to young people and children. It was difficult to think of some of it as the work of “children”. The competition winners will be announced at the formal Commemoration Dinner, later this month. The exhibition is open weekday mornings until 06 May 2014.
Later when I open my Weekend Sun (Thursday 24 April 2014 at Page 12) is the Merle Foster article “Expressing Gate Pa’s Battle” The image with the article is of the entry of Maia McCauley – its a display of the collection of rubbish she found around the historic site.
Pukehinahina Te Ranga Puhirake Taratoa
Coco Cola KFC
institutionalised racism DWB
Ironically the over-riding theme of the Commemorations is forgiveness and reconcilliation.