Nicholas’ cloak of peace
Women are often the forgotten victims of conflict, says artist Darcy Nicholas, the former director of Pataka.
His sculpture, Hinerangi – Woman of the Heavens, wears the cloak of peace and directly faces the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.
The Stokes Valley artist oversaw the creation of Pataka in 1998 and was its director until the end of 2012.
He said he wanted to make a statement about the violence that occurs in war.
‘‘ So many memorials commemorate the men who died, but few remember the women who not only died, but quite often were defiled before they died,’’ Nicholas said.
‘‘It’s important to remember them.’’
Nicholas consulted Waiwhetu weaver Verenoa Hetet for his piece and they talked about what the kakahu, or cloak, was all about – a symbol of peace when conflict ended.
‘‘A women would put her cloak on a soldier – that meant peace – no-one was to touch him.’’
Other nations also wanted to place their own memorials in the park and Nicholas realised the cloak would also symbolise welcome.
Hutt craftsman Brett Rangitaawa cast the bronze and also provided technical advice on its design.
The motif of cloaked women has been a recurring theme throughout the Nicholas’ work.
It was inspired by his childhood memories of his mother in the Waitara Marae, where he was raised.
‘‘Because I was the youngest, I would sit with my brother behind my mother.
‘‘She would always give the kairangi.
‘‘I was always sitting behind her, so that was how she always appeared to me.’’
The top of the kakahu represented the land, he said. The tassels were the tears for those lost in the tribal, colonial and wars around the world.
The poutama designs on the cloak represented pathways soldiers took in their journey to the spirit world.
Some of the pathways were deliberately broken to represent the harshness of war.
Nicholas also had a hand in the selection, commissioning and placement of the other artworks that make up the park.
Rocks represent the mountains from which they were taken.
Ruapehu (the parent mountain), Tongariro ( the warrior mountain, inscribed with depictions of seven warriors, representing the seven canoes and associated tribes) and Taranaki.
The park stands on the site of the prison where the Parihaka leaders were held for two years, labouring to make bricks. Some of those bricks are embedded in a wall bearing the inscription ‘‘Maungarongo kei runga ki te whenua’’ – peace across the land.
Darcy Nicholas with his bronze sculpture Hinerangi – Woman of the Heavens at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.
Hinerangi – Woman of the Heavens represents all the women killed in tribal conflicts, colonial wars and world wars.