• Darcell Apelu,

Darcell Apelu’s A Death of Prosperity is a feature visual arts project for the 2021 Tauranga Arts Festival. Co- commissioned by Tauranga Art Gallery and Sonya Korohina, Director of Supercut Projects, this artwork builds on a previous version inaugurally presented earlier this year at Te Tuhi (Auckland). This new sculpture has being redesigned and refabricated from the ground up, resulting in an edifice over double its original size.

With its towering scale, pristine gold surfaces and ceaseless dripping water, Apelu’s functioning fountain has many signifiers of civic prosperity. But the work is also a trojan horse with a confronting and unmistakeable message. The bold text its base reads: ‘You will never | possess the soil | you will never | be secure’, Apelu’s reversal of 19th Century British colonist Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s directive: ‘Possess yourselves of the soil and you are secure’. Turning Wakefield’s phrase on its head, Apelu scrutinises the promise of prosperity which drew her ancestors andmany other migrants to Aotearoa. In this way, at a time when land ‘ownership’ for many is unattainable, the artwork invites us to reconsider our perceptions of security, value and kaitiakitanga (guardianship).

While the contemporary fountain is typically deployed as civic decoration they were once functional aspects of a city, extending the reach of aqueducts to provide vital sources of water for citizens. Only in the mid-late 19th century, a period that coincides with the colonisation of Aotearoa, did outdoor fountains became public displays of artistry. Aware of this history, Apelu toys with the historical and contemporary aspirations of fountains. The life-giving aspects of the fountain are clearly constrained, her application of the trickling fountain both playful and decidedly unmonumental, resulting in a sculpture which is full of pathos.

Yet while the sculpture represents a departure for Apelu, it also draws from aspects of her earlier performance and moving image works, for which she is typically known. Her work reads like a displaced public sculpture and we can’t help but be aware of the inherent risk of siting this large-scale water feature indoors. In this way Apelu weds the inherent spectacle associated with ambitious public fountains with her long-standing interest in live performance. Her kinetic sculpture is time-based, an object ‘performing’ over several months.

Darcell Apelu is an artist of Niuean and pākeha descent based in Mount Maunganui. Apelu completed a Masters in Art and Design at Auckland University of Technology in 2013 and a diploma of teaching in 2014. She has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions throughout New Zealand including: lai-pa, ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland, 2017; Make Me, Tauranga Art Gallery, 2015; Such a damn Jam, The Engine Room, Massey University Wellington, 2014; To and Fro, Artspace, Auckland, 2014; NZ Film Archive Presents Siapo Cinema, 2014; and Ocean Memories, Kunsthalle Faust, Hannover, Germany 2021. She was the recipient of the YSP Residency, London in 2019. Apelu teaches at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Tauranga.

Tauranga Art Gallery acknowledges generous supporters and funding partners: Supercut Projects, Tauranga City Council, TECT, Creative New Zealand, The 500-Club, Tauranga Arts Festival, and Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

Opening Hours

  • Open Daily, 10am-4pm


  • Corner of Wharf and Willow Streets
  • Tauranga, 3141