Kokowai Pen

With the Waitangi Day approaching I have a new piece of work on exhibition at The Academy Gallery in Wellington N.Z.

Titled 'THE SIGNING - BELONGING' it has the following brief.
"An exhibition on themes of ownership and belonging in AOTEAROA referencing aspects of multiculturalism, colonisation and transition."
For this piece I spent some time at Te Papa in Wellington.  Here I was intrigued by a display of  small ornate carvings from the late 1800's which were ceremonial in use with a strong symbolism implied in the materials and form of the objects.

Some background. I have since my student days been a supporter of Moari land rights in relation to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi. I have lived rurally in the bush on a piece of land for close on 30 years. This combination helped me feel a sense of relevency with my ideas sketched out on my return ferry trip across cook strait.
My thoughts  were around our concept of ownership and are we really the owners of our piece of dirt or is ownership just a mental construct that we all like to buy into. It gives us a sense of security and place and value but really how real is this. Are we really just custodians or guardians or in reality just fleeting organisims dwelling in a particular time and space. Anyway it was thoughts like this that took my attention. Coupled with local history , where here in Nelson the local tribes ended up with 10% of their allocated 10% land . This equals 1% of the original and this is irrespective of the treaty entitlements. Some chiefs refused to sign the Treaty and so the local court enforced their signature with an 'X'.

I have long wanted to use the ochre found locally. Used and prized by the early Maori, Kokowai is a red ochre paste which is a combination of the burnt ochre mixed with oils like shark liver oil. For the fountain pen I used a pen from the 1800's to make my mould from which the final piece was made.

The tag is in the ' Aotearoa' series I make and features topography engraved into the sterling silver. The reverse features gps coordinates for Waitangi, Aoraki & Mt Rinopai.

Big thanks to Linda Lee for inviting me to participate in the show.


As pictured in the exhibition
Artists Statement:
This piece is about Kokowai, the preperation made with the Parapara ochre. Symbollically, the blood of the earth, of Papatuanuku,it conveys protection.
Locally, discenting tribes to the Treaty of Waitangi had their names forcebly signed with an 'X'. When we sign and trade ownership do we forcebly sign 'X' with the blood of Papatuanuku?

Kokowai Pen, by Martyn Milligan, exhibited at Signing , NZAFA Wellington. Parapara ochre , Beeswax, stg. Rinopai Jewellery, Parapara, Golden Bay.


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