The Last Kai (2022), tapa artwork by Tui Emma Gillies and Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows MNZMAll rights reserved. by Victoria Bell

The art of giving

A recent exhibition presented a series of artworks that relate to unique and personal stories of giving.

The exhibition gift was a group show at the Ashburton Art Gallery from 8 May to 19 June 2022. The artworks were all centred around the concept of gift-giving. Curated by Victoria Bell (Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic) and Dr Natalie Smith (University of Otago), the exhibition encompassed different cultures, conversations, and concepts.

Acts of giving are explored through the lens of eleven works of art by twelve artists: Rachel Hope Allan, Dr Margo Barton, Neil Emmerson, and Dr Stella Lange, all from Otago Polytechnic, with Tui Emma Gillies and Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows MNZM, Alice Jones, Madison Kelly (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe), Anna Muirhead, Louise Sutherland QSM, Metiria Turei (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi), and Georgina May Young (Te Upokorehe, Whakatōhea, Irish), some of whom are graduates of the Dunedin School of Art.

But it is a cold lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Gifts” (1844)

For some people, the gift of the homemade or handmade – a gift of their talents – is more precious than any store bought item. The works in this show therefore explore stories of gifting that go beyond the shiny wrapped offerings of consumer culture. The exhibition shared eleven gift narratives, stories which are as eclectic as gifting itself and include references to our natural environment, journeys, knowledge, labour, and love.