Mahara Gallery`s First Picture Book

By Nicola Easthope
19th June 2012

Children from Kapanui and Waikanae Schools came together last week to celebrate the launch of Native Habitats – Waikanae Children’s Creations, Mahara Gallery’s first picture book, featuring art and poetry from the two schools.

The book is the result of six months’ work that began at the gallery in February, with whole syndicates of 8-10 year-olds taking inspiration from conservation-themed exhibitions by local artists Jil Hemming, Morgan Rothwell and Barbara Strathdee. They then responded to the topic ‘Native Habitats’ through verse and artworks.

Since early May, all of the children’s work – 221 artworks and 43 poems – has been exhibited, impressing around 3,000 visitors with their qualities of joy and originality. Mahara Director, Janet Bayly, says “These children are some of our artists, poets and creative thinkers of the future, and their families, teachers and the whole community have celebrated the children’s pride in making and seeing their work presented.”

The book features the best eight artworks and eight poems, selected by local judges: Irene Mackle, trustee of the Philipp Family Foundation, which supported the project with a grant, and Nga Manu Trust Chairman, Tony Ward (for the art), as well as local poets, Glenn Colquhoun and Nicola Easthope.

In her launch speech, Irene Mackle congratulated the children, commenting that the book will “bring people’s thoughts to conservation and our endangered species”.

Robin Philipp, of the Philipp Family Foundation, plans to distribute the book in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. The Foundation supports research which fosters the interconnectedness between the environment, health and the arts for greater community well-being.

Ten-year old Kyra Murdie, from Kapanui School, was thrilled to have her pukeko painting included. “It feels good to be published!” Liam MacPherson, 9, agreed. “It is completely exciting, and I feel really good it’s going around the world”. “It would be great if our Prime Minister reads it!” added Kapanui School poet, Caelen Trupp.

Lachlan Callaghan, 10, from Waikanae School, was keen to describe the creative process he went through during the project. “I’ve got a poem in the book, The wind, the forest and the sea. I quite like nature – it’s beautiful – and I was thinking of New Zealand when I wrote it. And I thought I would need to choose words that are nice and smooth”.

The book is available for purchase at Mahara Gallery for $15, and copies of it, along with the award-winning original artworks in specially made frames, will be donated to Nga Manu Nature Reserve.
Creative Communities Kapiti was also acknowledged for its support of the project.