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Kapanui school children’s art and poetry make environmental statement

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

More than 150 children from Waikanae’s Kapanui Primary School made their own statements about protecting the environment at the launch the 2019 Nga Manu-Mahara Gallery Children’s Art and Environment Project.

The children, aged between nine and eleven years’ old, demonstrated their commitment with haka and waiata in front of parents, teachers and friends. Their work, based on the theme, He Whenua Ora, Living Land will be exhibited in Mahara Gallery until 27 October.

The project is an eight-year collaboration between Nga Manu Nature Reserve and Mahara Gallery, with the support of the Philipp Family Foundation. In that time, more than 1500 pupils from every primary school in Kapiti have taken part.

Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly praised the concern young people were showing for the environment.

"Primary and secondary school children just like you are feeling worried about climate change, and want to do their bit to tackle it," she said. "It is a new term called eco-anxiety which describes the fear of global warming, and that not enough is being done to stop it. "

Philipp Family Foundation Trustee Irene Mackle said New Zealanders don’t appreciate just what they have in the New Zealand environment.

"We all have a chance to join together to save it," she said.

As part of the project, the children spent time at Nga Manu and in the Gallery, learning about the natural world and recording their impressions in paintings and poetry.

The end result is an exhibition of the children’s work at the Gallery, which is both framed on the wall and also in the form of poetry and rap on film produced by Dean Hapeta. Both art works and poetry have been captured in the 90-page book that includes the children’s own comments on their work and their experience of the project.

"As in previous years, we have developed a theme with wide possibilities for both its environmental applications to be explored at Nga Manu and its creative possibilities to be considered in an arts context at Mahara," said Janet Bayly.

"This project puts learning more about the environment and art and poetry together, and we hope has given you some new ideas and creative ways of thinking about what you can do to look after the natural world better, reduce pollution and look after each other too."

Among those Janet Bayly thanked for their involvement were the Philipp Family Foundation, Nga Manu staff and Board, artists and poets in the project - Harriet Bright, Michelle Backhouse, Dean Hapeta and Mary-Jane Duffy - and book designer Amanda Smart.

While the echoes of their concern for the environment faded when the children left the Gallery, the effect of their enthusiasm may live on in the form of a proposed research project exploring the relationship between nature and art.

"We think the subject deserves looking at," said Philipp Family Foundation trustees in their foreword to a book that records the children’s art works and poetry.

"In our present day, fast-changing, digital and technological age, the issues surrounding ‘what it means to be human’ need attention," they said.

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