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Kāpiti’s Tohorā Art Project unites arts and science communities

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Artist Hamish Macaulay and Creative Manaaki founding director Jenna-Lea Philpott with the Tohora Art Project. Photo / Rosalie Willis

An art installation commemorating the Kāpiti Marine Reserve’s 30-year anniversary has brought artists together with scientists, climate warriors and marine enthusiasts.

The large-scale project fills the walls of Kiwibank in Paraparaumu with three whales made from plastic bottle tops and an assortment of other plastics drawing attention to the number of single-use plastics that reach our beaches.

The Tohorā Art Project is a 10m x 3m large-scale installation made from recycled waste materials donated by Waste Free Kāpiti and members of the public.

Artist Hamish Macaulay and Creative Manaaki founding director Jenna-Lea Philpott with the Tohora Art Project.  Photo / Rosalie Willis
Artist Hamish Macaulay and Creative Manaaki founding director Jenna-Lea Philpott with the Tohora Art Project. Photo / Rosalie Willis

The project was conceived when Creative Manaaki founding director Jenna-Lea Philpott was handed a piece of plastic at the beach by one of her children.

“It was a beautiful sunny day at Paraparaumu Beach a year ago with not a human being in sight, and it felt so out of place to be handed plastic from my four-year-old — I knew we had to do something about it. “

Jenna approached local artist Hamish Macaulay who was immediately on board and the Guardians of the Kāpiti Marine Reserve, who liked the idea because of the marriage between science, art and telling a waste minimization story.

“As creative director for the Creative Manaaki Tohorā community art project, I’m thrilled to be utilizing my skills as an artist who works with found materials,” Hamish said.

Tohora Art Project and Kiwibank, Paraparaumu.  Photo / Rosalie Willis
Tohora Art Project and Kiwibank, Paraparaumu. Photo / Rosalie Willis

“This allows us to work with diverse groups from our community, coming together to create, educate and motivate through a series of workshops, culminating in the creation and exhibition of Tohorā.

“I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for waste minimization with others who are also committed to protecting our fragile marine environment.”

Jenna said, “We’re really lucky to be able to have this taonga [the Kāpiti Marine Reserve] on our back step but we do have to look after it.

“For the project to have an impact, we knew it needed to have a large scale and we wanted it to involve both the young and the old.”

The project kicked off in November last year with two of 10 workshops attended by junior students from Paraparaumu School.

With the Covid-19 alert levels and traffic light system constantly changing, the project has now taken 10 months and will be on display at Kiwibank in Paraparaumu until November 5.

“I’m proud this project brings together science, volunteers and the art community, bringing together people from outside of the arts sector which is really important for us at Creative Manaaki.

“We started with school children, had the Kāpiti Art Studio come in for workshops and also had six public workshops.”

Hamish even got his neighbors involved in a workshop.

Guardians chairman Ben Knight said, “Kāpiti Marine Reserve is one of our largest and oldest coastal marine reserves and supports a unique and diverse range of habitats and marine life which our community takes great pride in protecting.

“The Tohorā community art project is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together as a community to showcase and celebrate Kāpiti marine reserve and the surrounding coastline and marine environment and the Guardians are delighted to support this local initiative.”

This is a Public Interest Journalism funded role through NZ On Air

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