Sculpture could boost 'bland' Hamilton

21:26, Aug 20 2014
Mesh sculpture
CAN'T MISS IT: The design for the three-storey high sculpture The Tongue of the Dog

Hamilton's days of being described as a bland, featureless city could soon be a thing of the past, with the addition of a colourful, three storey-high sculpture in one of its most prominent locations.

At an identity-rich event at Waikato Museum last night, the community arts group Mesh launched a fundraising drive for their most ambitious project yet - The Tongue of the Dog, created by world-renowned New Zealand sculptor Michael Parekowhai.

The dramatic piece - which tells the Maori legend of the creation of the Waikato River - will be situated in a prominent site on Victoria Street and will act as a marker and gateway to the city's museum and art gallery.

 Michael Parekowhai
IN THE FRAME: Artist Michael Parekowhai speaking at last night’s launch at Waikato Museum.

Construction of the $700,000 piece still depends on Mesh raising the final funds required for the piece but they hope to start construction late this year, with completion in mid-2015.

No ratepayer or taxpayer funds have gone toward the artwork.

The work will be eight metres high and 3.5 metres wide, and will be set in a shallow pool of water. It will appear to be constructed out of giant-sized versions of the Cuisenaire rods that were once a staple of primary school mathematics classes and are still used to teach te reo Maori.


A "tongue" of flowing water will protrude from the artwork at a height of 4.5m.

The sculpture will be the third facilitated by the Hamilton-based Mesh group, following Te Pumanawa o te Whenua - Beat Connection, the "soundwave"

sculpture outside Claudelands Arena by Seung Yul Oh and installed in November 2012; and Lonnie Hutchinson's Te Waharoa ki te Ao Maarama - The Entranceway to the World of Enlightenment, which was installed in April last year.

Potential funders and supporters gathered at the museum to meet Parekowhai, hear the story of the sculpture, the legend behind its creation and the significance of the piece to Hamilton. The unveiling of images of the design received gasps of admiration and applause from gathered philanthropists.

"I hope the work will be significant and make sense," Parekowhai told the crowd, adding that he used the rods during maths lessons in his schooldays, not to complete calculations, but to make towers out of.

"I'm hoping this tower puts a mark in the ground for all of us."

Mesh chairwoman Nancy Caiger was enthusiastic about the piece and its impact on the city.

"We believe The Tongue of the Dog will immediately be an iconic public artwork for Hamilton, receiving national and international recognition.

"The positioning of the sculpture in our arts precinct and close to the Waikato River makes it ideally placed to reintroduce people to the treasures of the museum and the beauty of our river including other art works along the river walk, such as the Neil Dawson's Ripples".

Mesh treasurer Stuart Anderson said he was buoyed by the level of community support received so far.

"This project is the largest-ever gift of artwork to our city in financial terms. In order for us to be able to push the button on its construction, we really need the people of Hamilton that want to see this happen get behind us financially - we've already raised 75 per cent of the funds - we're on the home straight, we just need help in getting across the finish line".

He was also very excited about collaborating with new donors on the piece.

"The support of our family of donors has been outstanding, but this new project has generated a lot of new interest in supporting Mesh, which is great."

Community groups and businesses had also been quick to show their support. The Brian Perry Charitable Trust, Trust Waikato, Donny Trust and Prolife Foods had all become donors to the new artwork and Caiger said she and her fellow Mesh members were hopeful many more would back them in their third project.

"We've now proven to the city with our two previous pieces at Claudelands and at the lake that Mesh can deliver nationally significant public artworks to the people of Hamilton.

"These pieces are giving current and ex-Hamiltonians a way to reconnect with their city and help leave a legacy for future generations - it's so heart-warming to see people wanting to help us celebrate Hamilton's 150th anniversary in such a unique way."

Waikato Times