Research on Housing Becomes Art Exhibition

(From left) Toi Ohomai senior art tutor Riley Claxton, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, artist Sydnee Murray and Toi Ohomai Head of Māori Research Tepora Emery.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

A home, house or shelter may not appear on the inside as it is on the outside. This is a perception explored by Sydnee Murray in her art exhibition Te Āhuru Mōwai. 

The Toi Ohomai Bachelor of Creative Technologies graduate opened her first exhibition, housed at the Rotorua Lakes Council Galleria last week. 

Sydnee took part in a summer research project looking at Critical Geographies of Home. 

“I was a part of the project which is part of two National Science Challenges, Building Better Homes Towns and Cities, research programmes called Affordable Housing for Generations and Poipoia te Kākano kia Puāwai. Within this was my project called Critical Geographies of Home.”

While Te Āhuru Mōwai – is a calm place or safe haven, Sydnee is aware that a home, a house or shelter may not appear on the inside as it is on the outside.

He kokonga whare e kitea, he kokonga ngakau e kore e kitea: a corner of a house may be seen and examined but not so the corners of the heart. This whakataukī is central to Sydnee’s mahi. It expresses how people can see the corners of a house, but not corners of the heart.

For Sydnee, this is similar to the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover and as she worked on this project she considered how one person’s perception of home can be very different to the next. 

“The materials, the location, the size, the level of ownership, who you live with – all have an impact on the feeling of safety, comfort and ultimately happiness within your home. Essentially home is where the heart is.”

She said taking part in the research project was something outside of her comfort zone.

“It was a project I had to think a lot on. I wasn’t sure if I could portray what I wanted or how I would portray my work efficiently and in a way that wasn’t too farfetched from the meaning. But once I had my designs and ideas, and I knew that they worked with the concept of home I was going for, I had really enjoyed putting the pieces together.” 

Sydnee’s work incorporates corrugated iron and paint, materials that are commonly used to create and coat shelters, and keep people safe and protected from the elements, but she also uses raranga, literally weaving steel into her works.

By combining traditional Māori patterns and time-honoured building materials, Sydnee is not only drawing attention to the strength of her mediums, but the strength and riches of culture and tradition.

Sydnee says it is surreal seeing her work on display. 

“It hasn’t fully sunken in yet but it’s cool, I do like seeing my work on display for others.

“I’m also thinking of creating more pieces over the next couple months, still using the same medium or the corrugated iron or looking for other similar aged materials.”   

Te Āhuru Mōwai will be on display at the Rotorua Lakes Council Galleria until Tuesday, 15 June. The Galleria is open Monday – Friday from 8am to 5pm.

Pictured: (From left) Toi Ohomai creative arts tutor Riley Claxton, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, artist Sydnee Murray and Toi Ohomai Kaupapa Māori Research Leader Tepora Emery.

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