• Hana Pera Aoake

Parenting is tiring work. That is a cliché most people will recognise, and one that every parent would identify with. The work – and for mothers especially, parenting is work – of providing the love, care, and resources that your child needs is hardly easy. To cope parents both new and old tend to turn to other clichés: “it gets easier after the first year”; “you’ll miss it when they’re older”; and “cherish the time before they can answer back”. This is all true enough, but it portrays parenthood as a kind of burden. Tākaro, Hana Pera Aoake’s exhibition, approaches parenthood from the other direction. Aoake, who is the mother of an 11-month-old, portrays parenthood for what it mostly is: fun.

Aoake is perhaps best known as a writer. Her book of non-fiction, A bathful of kawakawa and hot water, is equal parts intellectual, ironic, sarcastic, and cheeky (Aoake’s daughter’s nickname is “Cheeky”). In her essay “I’m not single or taken – I’m at the gym” Aoake satirises wellness culture, social media narcissism, and post-art school anxieties. In “The Only Way Out Is Through” Aoake explores whakapapa, mātauranga, continental philosophy, epistemology, and how they weave themselves throughout our personal lives. The fabric of our lives - and the threads between ideas, experience, and history - is the focus of much of Aoake’s work both literary and artistic. But Tākaro is different because it takes these ideas – whakapapa or the relationship between a mother, her child, and their past and future – and treats it no more seriously than “Cheeky” does. With a smirk and a giggle.

In Tākaro Aoake is working with ceramics. Children make for talented amateur ceramicists because they are not afraid of uncertainty. As Aoake explains, with ceramics you never quite know how they are going to fire. How will the glaze turn out? Will it keep its shape? The ceramics in Tākaro play with this uncertainty, taking shape in unique ways. The exhibition also contains works on paper. These, quite literally, emerge out of playtime with “Cheeky”. Aoake teaches “Cheeky” about the world through colour – waterways and their different shades of blue and green, sandy beaches and their spectrum of colours from black to white. The works on paper takes these shades and spectrums and apply them in play using everything from oil stick, oil pastel, crayons, and pencil.

The last set of works are mixed media sculptures using paints, polystyrene, found materials, and more. Children are sometimes like kea – they love to collect titbits, trophies, and the detritus of everyday life. Curious adults never quite grow out of this habit. Aoake’s mixed media sculptures collect the detritus of everyday life (like an Apple laptop charger) as well as discarded trophies (like fake jewellery). These works invite people to consider the relationship between themselves, their nuclear family units, and the wider world. In sum, this is an exhibition that aims not to take itself too seriously. And this is often the best advice for new parents. Sure, parenting is mostly very serious, but try to have fun with it.

NB: “Tākaro” is a Māori word meaning “play”.

-Morgan Godfery (November, 2022)

Opening Hours

  • Monday to Friday, 11am - 4pm
  • Or by appointment


  • Ground Floor, 36 Grant Road
  • Five Mile Centre
  • Frankton
  • Queenstown