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Personal, powerful Anthems of Belonging ring out at Christchurch Art Gallery

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Get a glimpse into what five New Zealand families with a wide range of cultural and ancestral connections feel about place and belonging in Aotearoa.

Artist Olivia Webb worked with five families - who have ties to Kiribati, Zambia, Samoa, the Philippines, England and the Netherlands - to create their own songs about living in Aotearoa for her exhibition Anthems of Belonging.

In life-sized video projections, each family is seen performing their anthem from their own lounge room, emphasising both the personal and political qualities of using one’s voice. While they are not professional singers, music is an important part of each family’s culture.

Gallery Lead Curator Felicity Milburn says the exhibition illustrates the diversity of contemporary New Zealand culture, and shows how varied cultural backgrounds and traditions can shape the experience of living and belonging here.

"The face of Aotearoa is constantly changing - for the benefit of us all, I think - and this exhibition is a perfect illustration of that."

Olivia Webb Anthems of Belonging - The Vissers Webb family 2019. Five-channel 4K/HD digital video (still). Courtesy of the artist.

Webb, whose own Christchurch-based family is part of the exhibition, says the anthems reflect the personal values, concerns and aspirations of all involved.

"These songs have different vocal qualities, musical structures and lyrics, often including ideas that do not feature in New Zealand’s current national anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’ - a musical setting of a poem written by Irish-born Thomas Bracken in the 1870s."

Webb is currently working to develop two new anthems with Christchurch families, and these will be added to the exhibition as they are completed.

There are several public programmes associated with this exhibition:

- Floortalk: Saturday 13 March, 1pm. Join Olivia Webb and curator Felicity Milburn to hear about the exhibition, and learn about the songs and families that inspired it. Meet in the exhibition.

- Workshop - Listening: The Body. Wednesday 21 April, 7pm. Experience a workshop like never before! Join dance artist Julia Harvie (Movement Art Practice) in collaboration with artist Olivia Webb. Bookings essential. Meet in the Bayleys Knight Frank Foyer.

- Workshop - Listening: Young Minds. Thursday 22 April, 11am. Bring along a special young person in your life to learn basic listening techniques together, create soundscapes and delve into making music. Bookings essential. Meet at the front desk.

- Workshop - Listening: A Cultural Perspective. Saturday 29 May, 1pm. Come and learn about different cultural practices of listening and music making, and take the opportunity to sing a song in another language, while reflecting on the themes of Olivia Webb’s exhibition. Bookings essential.

Anthems of Belonging will be at the Christchurch Art Gallery from 13 March until 11 July 2021.

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