Portraits come home

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2013
Mamas

PORTRAIT PAINTER: Delicia Sampero honours 10 women with the Mirror Mama Project.

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How do you capture joy, suffering, culture and wisdom all in one art form?

This was the prospect facing artist Delicia Sampero as she contemplated painting the portrait of 10 women from different cultural backgrounds.

The result was the Mirror Mama Project.

For Ms Sampero a mama is a respected member of the community who can teach something valuable.

Ms Sampero painted portraits of six Pacific Island and four refugee mamas from Africa and the Middle East many of whom had been in New Zealand just a matter of months.

Negotiating language barriers was one challenge but adequately telling the personal stories of each mama was also at the back of her mind.

Some had lost family in their home countries and had come to New Zealand with nothing, others were struggling to come to grips with their new home.

But embracing rather than forgetting the women's cultural backgrounds was important to Ms Sampero.

To add another dimension to the mamas' stories she juxtaposed the women's own art works into her exhibition.

Each of the mamas created a piece ranging from woven flaxworks to embroidered Arabic scripture with an accompanying statement under each portrait.

Each of the works are a combination of years of tradition and learned practice combined with the personal story of each.

It was a balance to preserve the integrity of their cultural tradition in the works as well as injecting their own stories and personality into each piece, Ms Sampero says.

The exhibition was first presented at Corban Estate Arts Centre five years ago but has toured the country appearing in arts and culture festivals since then.

Now it's come full circle and can be seen at the newly opened East West Organics in New Lynn.

The finishing result is one which Ms Sampero hopes engages audiences in a dialogue about culture and personal stories.

"I hope it can ignite conversation or people may find a part of their story is reflected," she says.

The mamas are having a celebration at East West Organics Gallery, 34D Portage Rd, New Lynn, demonstrating their craft and culture on November 28 from 6pm. Visit eastwestorganics.co.nz.

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- Western Leader

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