A ta­ble with a story to tell is out in all weath­ers

Rotorua Weekender - - News - Brian Potiki

Step­ping in­side, the large black ta­ble was what you saw first: un­clut­tered, just a large ap­point­ments book, some sta­tionery and owner Ngawara Gor­don al­ready ris­ing to of­fer you cof­fee.

Out­side was the bridge to Whakare­warewa and the ex­cite­ment of steam and sul­phur, in­side there was mu­sic play­ing, some dub per­haps (her son is key­board player in the band Fat Freddy’s Drop) and free-stand­ing sculp­tures.

A wide room — with stor­age out the back — for art-mak­ing hol­i­day pro­grammes and stag­ing plays.

Up­stairs there was art on all the walls from con­stantly-chang­ing ex­hi­bi­tions.

Start­ing in 1990 this con­tem­po­rary arts space of­ten show­cased the work of emerg­ing Ma¯ori artists.

When it closed Ngawara gave me the ta­ble say­ing, “so many con­ver­sa­tions held around it. If only it could talk!”

It sits on our deck in all weath­ers, a scrap of pa­per sta­pled un­der­neath.

In 2007 I pre­miered my play Mo­tupo­hue in the Hei Tiki Gallery and the ta­ble was the main prop, serv­ing as a mil­i­tary prison cell for my Bluff an­ces­tor (one of five shot for de­ser­tion in World War I ).

At the play’s end I lay un­der the ta­ble read­ing his words to the au­di­ence:

My hands shook and I had this buzzing in my head. First the trenches then mil­i­tary prison.

It was his sec­ond court-mar­tial for de­sert­ing his post. He was 20 years old.

Canon Parata wrote that be­ing with him on his last night was the hard­est thing he’d ever had to do.

Look­ing ahead to the Ar­mistice Cen­ten­nial this Novem­ber they still seem ap­pro­pri­ate.

Brian Potiki is a lo­cal poet.

Hei Tiki Gallery

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