Standing up for water in new show

Airini Forbes

THE idea for a “water is life”-themed exhibition had bubbled in raranga (weaving) student Airini Forbes’ mind since July.

Part of her inspiration was the “cleaner water” rally in Gisborne in March.

The gathering was one of 21 around the country in support of NZ Water Forum founder Jen Branje’s 16,000-strong petition that called for a moratorium on bottled water exports.

Mixed media artist Tawera Tahuri, who completed a 320km hikoi last year to support a petition calling for the Government to increase minimum freshwater standards, also inspired Forbes. The North Dakota Standing Rock protests over a pipeline that would put the Missouri River, the water source for a Lakota reservation, at risk, was another inspiration.

“I did the water rally in March and haven’t stopped since,” she said.

“It woke me up to thinking ‘what can I do?’ It woke up a passion in my heart and an idea for our people to tell their stories about our waterways.

“The exhibition idea came to me in July. It has kept me awake at night. I wanted a place where everyone would come to exhibit.”

That space became unexpectedly available at Tairawhiti Museum. Forbes had one week, minus two days due to flu, to put the show together.

She went with the flow and the Water is Life exhibition features work by 15 artists including Forbes’ woven cobalt blue and white piece maro (apron) that represents Rere Falls.

“Everything I weave turns to water,” she said.

Also in the exhibition is a ceramic water jar by Mike O’Donnell. The Hauraki artist and storyteller has carried his clay water jars to several parts of the world, and he appeared in the documentary The Water Whisperers.

“He gave it to me to carry the water and tell our stories,” Forbes said.

“He’s given these to people around the world.”

The clay and glass waitaha O’Donnell gave to Forbes now carries water from her birthplace near Te Upoko o Te Ika (Wellington), from Taranaki and from this region.

Marchers’ signs from the water rally have been included in the show.

Even Bunnings have got involved. A water feature with two streams that cascade into a bowl stands at the museum entrance.

“What’s cool about this is the work is all different,” Forbes said. “People in Tairawhiti are standing up for water.”

THE idea for a “water is life”-themed exhibition had bubbled in raranga (weaving) student Airini Forbes’ mind since July.

Part of her inspiration was the “cleaner water” rally in Gisborne in March.

The gathering was one of 21 around the country in support of NZ Water Forum founder Jen Branje’s 16,000-strong petition that called for a moratorium on bottled water exports.

Mixed media artist Tawera Tahuri, who completed a 320km hikoi last year to support a petition calling for the Government to increase minimum freshwater standards, also inspired Forbes. The North Dakota Standing Rock protests over a pipeline that would put the Missouri River, the water source for a Lakota reservation, at risk, was another inspiration.

“I did the water rally in March and haven’t stopped since,” she said.

“It woke me up to thinking ‘what can I do?’ It woke up a passion in my heart and an idea for our people to tell their stories about our waterways.

“The exhibition idea came to me in July. It has kept me awake at night. I wanted a place where everyone would come to exhibit.”

That space became unexpectedly available at Tairawhiti Museum. Forbes had one week, minus two days due to flu, to put the show together.

She went with the flow and the Water is Life exhibition features work by 15 artists including Forbes’ woven cobalt blue and white piece maro (apron) that represents Rere Falls.

“Everything I weave turns to water,” she said.

Also in the exhibition is a ceramic water jar by Mike O’Donnell. The Hauraki artist and storyteller has carried his clay water jars to several parts of the world, and he appeared in the documentary The Water Whisperers.

“He gave it to me to carry the water and tell our stories,” Forbes said.

“He’s given these to people around the world.”

The clay and glass waitaha O’Donnell gave to Forbes now carries water from her birthplace near Te Upoko o Te Ika (Wellington), from Taranaki and from this region.

Marchers’ signs from the water rally have been included in the show.

Even Bunnings have got involved. A water feature with two streams that cascade into a bowl stands at the museum entrance.

“What’s cool about this is the work is all different,” Forbes said. “People in Tairawhiti are standing up for water.”

Water is Life, He ora te wai, a collection of work by 15 artists, will be held at Tairawhiti Museum until November 26.

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