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Unveiling the Maungakawa Village sign

Maungakawa Village, Narelle Huggins 2017

Living in a most picturesque area of the north island of New Zealand not only provides constant inspiration for painting the landscape but has also offered a very proud community in which to live. My home is situated in a semi-rural area just outside the town of Cambridge. My family and our neighbours enjoy ‘the good life’, many being semi-self sustaining; growing substantial vegetable gardens, orchards and livestock. Upon moving here in 2015 we had assumed at first that the collection of ‘lifestyle’ property homes were part of an actual settlement as a sign stands to the southern end of the road displaying the name ‘Maungakawa Village’. The sign back then was quite faded and depicted the ‘village’ in a distant photo.

A year later and ‘the village’ were getting together for their annual street party. This year a small donation by the collective families was to go towards the updating of the village sign. I discovered at this point that the sign was not a local government installation, but had always been a community project. Rather than a new estate which developers badge with a name from the outset, the ‘Maungakawa Village’ had come to be because a group of neighbours saw that they had an identity they wished to acknowledge.

By now I had ample time to imagine what I might paint in way of a sign to reflect what it is like to live in this idyllic location. So through neighbour encouragement and consent, I was endorsed as the local artist to artistically depict the identity of this organically formed community.

Official opening speech.
In true “Lifestyler” form our “velvet” curtain was a blue farm tarp!

The painting of the village depicts many of the houses that can be seen driving along the main road. It is in a naïve style, my preferred way of depicting townscapes, and I also felt too, reflective of the picturesque nature of this area. The colours are luminous and exaggerated but reflect the great detail that exists within this landscape. Mount Maungakawa from which the village gets its name dominates the background, just as she does as a backdrop and view from most of our houses.  We can gauge the type of day it will be from the amount of cloud drifting over, and sometimes obscuring the top of the mountain. Sunsets are enjoyed not just in the western sky, but also from the pink hues that reflect on the mountain to our east. Maungakawa is a sacred Māori place and so I hope to have given her the dominance and presence that is owed her.

It is a great privilege that I have had to produce the artwork for the village sign, not just for the personal enjoyment of driving past the sign each time I come home, but also for the pleasure shared with the community. The readiness with which this unique community has embraced the artwork, and the fact that a group of people were so committed to their own sense of identity that they did not need a developer or government to provide them with a badge, but they embraced the concept themselves and committed to providing a piece of public artwork, not just for the residents of Maungakawa Road, but for every passerby and recreational user who comes this way.

November 2, 2014

Postcards from the Mallee

October 12, 2017

Artist at Work, Cambridge Library