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Last modified: 01 Mar 2022 11:11am

a sculpture of two eels in front of Te Ara Ātea A significant new artwork for the district has been unveiled outside Te Ara Ātea.

Te Hekenga, a bronze sculpture celebrating mahika kai (food resources or natural resources), has been unveiled in the western courtyard of Te Ara Ātea in Rolleston.

The sculpture expresses the mauri or life essence of tuna, symbolically representing a poutuna, parent and a punua tuna
(freshwater eels), a young child. It was originally sculpted in clay by Kāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu artist Piri Cowie. A water pool and flowing curtain was designed in collaboration with water specialist, Wai Design.

Inspired by the narratives of the kaitiaki guardian Tūterakiwhanoa, Te Hekenga recognises the significance of water and the abundance of mahika kai, found in this region. The name refers to the annual eel migration from our southern shores to the sub-tropic waters near Tonga, to spawn. Once hatched, the larvae float back on the sea currents to Aotearoa.

Having the opportunity to bring her passion for tuna to life in this work, has been an honour for artist Piri Cowie.
“The central theme for Te Hekenga is mahika kai. Tuna or hao are a taoka species, a delicacy highly valued within Ngāi Tahu. Our
traditions speaks of tuna originating from the realms of the atua gods. There are a multitude of names recorded that describe and
define tuna. This demonstrates how precious these taoka are to us. Te Hekenga brings with it layers of meaning and symbolism.
It celebrates the guardians of waterways and the source of our sustenance. He koha tēnei, he taoka tuku iho nō mua rā anō, hei
paika mō te iwi – a gift passed down through the generations for the wellbeing of our people.”

The unveiling is a special next step for the Rolleston Town Centre, Council Group Manager Community Services and Facilities Denise Kidd says.
“When we had the vision for this space, we wanted it to be somewhere that celebrated Selwyn, including through taoka that reflected our unique story as Waikirikiri Selwyn. We’re very grateful to Piri Cowie for her the hardwork and care she has put into capturing all that in a beautiful piece of art.