Kotahi te aho ka whati; ki te kāpuia e kore e whati.
One strand of flax is easy to break, but many strands together will stand strong.
單絲不綫 A single thread can’t make a cord.
Employing a language of threads and knots, Kāpuia ngā aho 單絲不綫 is a
collaborative exhibition that explores ancient Chinese narratives in connection with
people, materials, and relationships in Aotearoa.
According to some Chinese origin narratives, the world began in a murky dark void,
from which the dual forces of yin and yang and heaven and earth emerged and
intermingled, giving birth to the myriad life forms in the ecosystem. Due to a period
of crisis, a great deluge occurred, after which the goddess Nǚwā 女媧 patched up
the heavens and cut off the legs of a giant turtle to use as pillars to prop up the sky.
Nǚwā 女媧 went on to form humanity from soil and rope. Thus, humanity was created
to care for their ancestral heritage, in harmony with the natural environment.
In this exhibition, Wai Ching Chan and Tessa Ma’auga remake the four pillars of
heaven using harakeke, silk, manila rope, wool, mop string, mulberry paper and
pearls. Made from natural materials that speak to seafaring and migration, these
pillars seek to reconnect and hold cultural and historical links between China
and Aotearoa using traditional Chinese knots, paper cutting, and other weaving
techniques. The installation also incorporates the voices of people with Chinese
whakapapa across Aotearoa, who were asked to contribute an object and a statement
that expresses the diversity and breadth of their experiences.
Built with friendship and love, the ropes in this exhibition seeks to repair the
relationships between tauiwi and tangata whenua, and gather the voices of those with
Chinese whakapapa in their threads. Every knot has a meaning and together they hold
a message of whanaungatanga, kotahitanga, kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, and aroha.
Wai Ching Chan is a Hong Kong born artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. In her fibre-based installations she uses Chinese knots as her language to reconstruct and reinforce the connections and unity that exists between tauiwi and tangata whenua in Aotearoa. Wai’s recent exhibitions include Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making, The Dowse Art Museum, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2020; Wishing Well, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2020; and Hold, Window, University of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2019.
Tessa Ma'auga is currently completing her PhD in creative arts at Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa in Te Papaioea. Her artistic research employs a language of knots and fibre-based art to explore the nature of essential relationships within the universe, focusing on the connections between Aotearoa and Southern China. Her main occupation and passion is as a mother and educator in her neighbourhood. Recent exhibitions include Waitangi, Whytangi, Whywetangi, Square Edge Arts Centre, Te Papaioea, 2022; National Contemporary Art Award, Waikato Museum, Kirikiriroa, 2018; and Fibres of our Ropes, Massey University, Te Papaioea, 2018.