It was an emotional moment for artist Ayesha Green when the covers came off her Ko te Tuhono sculpture in the Octagon yesterday morning.
The latest piece of public artwork was unveiled in the lower Octagon at the former site of the public chessboard.
Ms Green said yesterday morning’s ceremony was really lovely, and she felt lucky that there were so many people present to support the unveiling.
“In a personal context it is really important for me and has allowed me to feel… a deeper connection with my whakapapa and with coming from Otakou.”
Although Ms Green lives in Auckland, she has ancestral links to Otago and lived in Dunedin for two and a-half years from 2018.
She said it was a great honour to contribute to the city streetscape.
“The work for me was really thinking about Maori voices, particularly Otakou voices, become a part of the city and urban landscape.”
The sculpture is a replica of a carved entrance at Otakou Marae and is cast from aluminium.
The unveiling did not go entirely smoothly as the tarpaulin covering the sculpture refused to unfurl in the expected manner.
Amid a smattering of polite laughter from the gathered crowd, a man on a chair with a borrowed walking stick came to the rescue, unhitching the errant sheeting and revealing the new art work to general applause.
The sculpture had cost the Dunedin City Council $65,000 and was selected in early 2020 by the city’s public art selection panel.
Council Maori, partnerships and policy general manager Jeanette Wikaira said Ko te Tuhono was a testament to Ms Green’s bold vision to create a cultural monument that acknowledged the past, present and future of the city.
It was symbolic of the council’s efforts to celebrate and embed mana whenua identity, values and traditions in the city’s urban environment.
Mayor Aaron Hawkins said the city would be all the richer for the work.
“Mana whenua cultural narratives and designs have not been reflected in the built form of our city in the past, and we are working to ensure they are reflected in the future.
“In that sense, Ko te Tuhono marks a cultural maturing of our city.”