Waikanae children get creative at Mahara Gallery

By Nicola Easthope
17th February 2012
Nicola Easthope, teacher, with Dean McIntosh, Darren Falaniko, Kaleb Carter & Ryan Darton

In one gallery, a boy gazes at a finely lined landscape and wonders how the artist did it; in another, two girls puzzle over five paintings of a yellow jersey, suddenly excited as they share a ‘eureka’ moment. In the corner of the gallery, a group of children huddle around a small table, swapping cards in an effort to prevent native birds from becoming extinct.

The creative juices are flowing for pupils of Kapanui and Waikanae schools, who have begun their school year engaged in a ‘Native Habitats’ project at Mahara Gallery. Using the gallery’s three current exhibitions and a unique card game as inspiration, the Year 5 and 6 students are writing poetry and creating artworks around local nature, extinction and conservation themes. One 9 year old boy thinks it’s so amazing, he brings his mother in the following day, pulling her around from painting to woodcut and back again. “Look Mum, here are the gods and goddesses!”

Ten-year old Callum Edwards, who likes drawing, chooses a painting from Barbara Strathdee’s Waikanae Stills:

L-R Jazmyn Ward, Ioana Mihaila & Callum Edwards

“It really interests me because of the shapes and colours. In the background, there is Kapiti Island; in front there is the dark water and then the sand.” After brainstorming five ideas, which together read like a poem in itself, ten-year old Isaac Kerschbaumer begins his piece, “The cycle of life goes quickly round…”

Janet Bayly, Mahara Gallery Director explains, “We aim to show all the artwork and poetry the children produce, and a small number will be given awards and published in a book. The Native Habitats: Waikanae Children’s Creations exhibition will run alongside our annual Mahara Arts Review. These works will then be gifted to Nga Manu Wildlife Centre for display in their new education suite”.


Jill Hemming and students playing `Cloak of Protection` card game.

Meanwhile, the children are quickly becoming adept at playing the ‘Cloak of Protection’ card game. Created by local artist Jil Hemming, and illustrated by Morgan Rothwell, the unique game, while competitive, requires cooperation between players to save New Zealand’s endangered birdlife. Nga Manu will host a game play-off between the two schools in a few weeks.

The Native Habitats schools programme is sponsored by the Philipp Family Foundation, which also funded the new education centre established at Nga Manu last year. Founder, Robin Philipp is in the gallery during one of the class workshops: “I am delighted to see children engaged actively in this project. Their enthusiasm is really palpable. We set up the fund to help foster greater awareness of the interaction between the external environment and the internal physiological environment within ourselves. My father always said “Everything in life is connected.” Bringing together the arts and conservation at Mahara and Nga Manu is an opportunity I feel privileged to support.”



Mahara Gallery exhibitions: Barbara Strathdee: Twelve Months of Summer, Morgan Rothwell: The Cloak of Protection and Roger Hart: Linear Progressions until 19 February.

Native Habitats: Waikanae Children’s Creations and The Mahara Arts Review – 6 May-1 July. The book of children’s work will be launched on 15 June.

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