Artist Chris Bailey’s artwork, Tauranga Waka – the resting place of canoes, has been installed on Beach Rd in downtown Auckland, along the city’s original shoreline.
The set of five bronze sculptures, positioned alongside the cycleway between Britomart Place and Tangihua St, were installed in late March 2018. Each waka emerges from the footpath as though pulled up on the beach edge.
Bailey says, “The waka prows depicted are not those of waka taua (war canoes), but rather those of the humble working waka used in fishing, collecting kai moana and moving produce.
“These are the waka that supported family life and kept the people fed.”
“The hulls in the installation were carved from totara first before being cast in bronze to ensure the longevity of the artwork’s life.”
The contemporary foreshore is now 200m away, since major land reclamation was carried out in the 1860s-1880s. The earth used for this reclamation came from the excavation of the headland, Tangihanga Pūkaea (Point Britomart) on which sat the pā, Te Reuroa, which was immediately above the Beach Road site.
“As a society, I like to hope that we have a higher consciousness now around the protection of significant landforms and cultural footprints in the landscape,” says Bailey.
“The positioning of these waka pushing up through the pavement reminds us both of the original foreshore lying under the pavement and of the rich Māori maritime history of the area.
“Māori from many different iwi came from all over Tīkapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf) including Waiheke with supplies to support the local population of Tamaki Makaurau. I hope this work reminds us of that coming together of Māori from all over Tamaki Makaurau in a constructive and peaceful way.”
Bailey was awarded the commission in 2016 after a detailed selection process with local iwi and Auckland Council that saw other artists invited to submit as well. The artwork was funded via the City Centre Targeted Rate.