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Year 3 Trip to Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland Art Gallery

October 20, 2022 at 8:01 AM

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon” – Brandon Sanderson.

In an exciting start to a new topic for the term, ‘Me and My Brain,’ our Year 3 classes embarked on a morning trip to Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland Art Gallery. The boys were challenged to immerse themselves in the beauty found in artwork representing kōrero from Aotearoa’s rich history. They also had the opportunity to portray stories of their own and of times past through art using various mediums.

The trip was split into two learning opportunities, with one class touring ‘Lindauer’s Māori Portraits’ and ‘Romancing the Collection’ exhibitions and the other making art in the Taupuni Mahi Studio. The boys shared a short kai break between the two halves before continuing with their next activity.

The hour spent in the Gallery’s exhibition spaces first explored a range of artworks from Gottfried Lindauer, as a part of Seeing Sovereignty, Tino Rangatiratanga. Though Czech born, he migrated to New Zealand in 1874, wishing to escape the mandatory military obligations of his home country, as well as the decline in portrait commissions. He soon fell in love with painting Māori portraits, telling the stories of chiefs and laypersons in a 62-piece collection now available for all to enjoy.

The Art Guide encouraged interaction with these paintings with the task of identifying key features hinting at who the portraits depicted. The boys looked for Rākau (weaponry), Pounamu (greenstone), Moko kauae (face carvings), huia feathers, and Kākahu (cloak). Through these clues, the boys were shown how to infer the portraited people's socio-economic positions, their jobs, and whether they had a leadership role in their community.

The second half of the exhibition tour continued through the Romancing the Collection exhibit, including more of Lindauer’s portraits and work from Charles F Goldie, Allan Ramsay, Joshua Reynolds, and Henry Raeburn. A strong storytelling theme was woven throughout this part of the trip, and the boys learned that story can be told in more ways than by putting pen to paper. The end of the exhibition tour was a resounding highlight of the day. The boys were given a chance to become artists themselves, tasked with creating art with their bodies as sculptures, given prompts like Aotearoa, animals, or the ocean.

The groups' creativity was really pushed in the second half of the trip as they enjoyed creating a piece of art as a class in the Taupuni Mahi Studio. To begin, the story of Sophia Hinerangi (Guide Sophia) was told. She was the principal tourist guide of the famous Pink and White Terraces before the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886. Eleven days before the disaster, she experienced an eerie phenomenon. Paddling out in her usual route, she saw a ‘ghost waka’ with a crew of dog-headed human bodies. Hindsight tells that it was a warning of the destruction to come, and miraculously Sophia survived along with 60 people sheltering her home.

After hearing the incredible story of Sophia, the boys were split into five groups, each with a significant part of the story to depict, before collectively creating a mural. Some had to draw the ghost waka, others the wooden waka, while several other groups were given the volcano, Pink and White Terraces, and Sophia’s house. Together with the help of some oil pastels and construction paper, each class created a mural of the story.

The art of creative storytelling requires diving into the mind to pull out the gold within. The Art Gallery trip encouraged our Year 3 students to begin this journey, reflecting upon their own stories and how they can be captured within art and writing. Thank you to the Auckland Art Gallery education team, Miss Jade Miles and Mr Geoff Brown for organising the experience, and to the parent helpers we could not do without. This trip has set an incredible benchmark for learning in this last term of the year.

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