Monday, August 29, 2011

Vandalised sculptures at Mangere Bridge

Mangere Bridge township is a pleasant single-level shopping strip, once accessed directly by through-traffic from off the second (old) Mangere Bridge from Onehunga, but in the past few years, with traffic diverted via State Highway 20 and the two newer bridges, it is now a place to get slightly off the beaten track, stop, and relax for a bit over a coffee.

Seeing a bit of street art there on Saturday, and this being Timespanner, I decided to take a closer look.

Above is a piece by artist Gordon Toi Hadfield, installed February 2009. According to the interpretive plaque below it:

"The waka form of the carving symbolises the carrier in which people are transported and moved. This symbol embraces all the different people who settle in this place, Mangere Bridge.

"The tapatoru, the triangles, present a tanika / weaving design on the back of the carving representing the mountain of Te Pane O Mataho.

"The puhoro, surface design on the belly of the waka represent "nga hau o wha -- the four trade winds and the different cultures of Mangere Bridge.

"The pakati design, also on the belly, signifies the planting of crops, gardens and plantations that remain in this area to date.

"The carving on the top of the waka symbolises 'nga tangata whenua', the original occupants of this area, Whakatauki."

A pity, then, that this sculpture has been through the wars -- and not those of time. Some locals apparently don't like the top part of the carving -- and as can be seen in my photos, it's already seen more than a reasonable amount of necessary repair. It seems that some artwork in Mangere Bridge is not treated kindly at all.

Across the road, a serene patch of green, with gardens, trees, seats -- and another sculpture.

According to Val Payne in her book Celebrating Mangere Bridge (2005), local-born Bill Kirk worked at NAC (National Airways Corporation) when he met his wife Naomi, an air hostess with TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited, later Air New Zealand). They both became involved in local politics, and campaigned to have Mangere Bridge town centre returned to being a safe and pleasant place. Trees were planted on the roadside, ornamental lamps installed, and the area generally beautified. This park was named in their honour.

In 2008, local artist George Nuku prepared this sculpture, symbolising the birdlife of the Manukau Harbour. However -- the image above is the end result of vandalism over the past three years.

Vandals who hacked a new public sculpture have got right up the noses of Mangere Bridge residents and businesses. The stone piece in Naomi and Bill Kirk Park has been attacked with what appears to be a hacksaw. Sculpted by local artist George Nuku to represent the birdlife of Manukau Harbour, the piece has a New Zealand falcon at its top. But the bird likenesses below it are no longer identifiable now their beaks and heads have been sawn off. 

Mangere Bridge village manager Carol-Anne Armitage is "absolutely hopping mad" about the vandalism.
"It’s such disrespect for a local Maori artist’s work. It’s a real concern."

...Ms Armitage says the damage must have been done early in the week of November 19."Someone brought it up at the residents and ratepayers meeting last Wednesday and everybody’s furious. By far the majority of people really like it." She had heard criticisms from one or two people about the form of the sculpture but there had been no warning of vandalism. 

Kids enjoy the stone feel of the sculpture, particularly the beaks that have been cut off, Ms Armitage says.
The sculpture is carved from Oamaru stone and is of sentimental rather than material value. It is the first of three to be installed in the village surroundings.
 Manukau Courier, 2009

Now, only the falcon is identifiable, watching Ihumatao (correctly, Te Pane a Mataaho), Mangere Mountain, its companions now stone stumps around it. [Update 7 September 2011 -- I need to get this right. Mangere Mountain is the one in the photo. Ihumatao is, as Claire  corrected in the comments, further off. Something I've learned.]

Back in May 2008, George Toi Hadfield had some reservations about installing his work here at Mangere Bridge. In the end, as we see now, he was right. This from Waatea News Update blog, May 2008:

A leading Maori sculptor is wary of installing his work in Mangere Bridge after the destruction of a colleague's works.

Gordon Toi Hadfield and George Nuku were commissioned by the Mangere Bridge Business Association and Manukau City Council to produce works for their south Auckland suburb.

Mr Hadfield says Mr Nuku's two works have already been smashed.

He says it appears there are people who don't want the pieces with strong Maori themes on display.

“It really is just a small ngangara that’s chewing away at the core there so I think once these people can grow some nuts so we can talk to them and try and discuss some sort of outcome the better but as far as I know they’re quite happy to stay inside and voice their opinions in the darkness rather than come out in the light,” Mr Hadfield says.

His work is still sitting in his driveway ready for installation, and is attracting favourable interest from many non-Maori residents.
 Sadly, just a few vandals are spoiling things for the rest of those living at Mangere Bridge.


  1. This vandalism is indeed very sad. Mangere is a fascinating and much bigger place than I realised, and a new book, Volcanoes of Auckland, gives some background to the geological features of the area as well as human use of them. It claims that Ihumatao is what most people know as Elletts Mountain, a few km from Mangere Mountain, but that another name for Mangere Mountain is Te Pane a Mataaho, referring to the same volcanic deity as in the Ihumatao name. (It's incredible that it's taken me 46 years of living in Auckland to find out that we have a volcano god in our midst.)

  2. Thanks very, very much for that, Claire. I've added the real name to the post. Now, from your info, I see that the George Toi sculpture reflects back on the mountain -- I'm doubly sad that someone tried to wreck it.

  3. Pity. The sculpture with the falcon head is brilliant.