A salute to women

He Waka Tuia Art + Museum co-manager Sarah Brown alongside a photograph of nurse Alice Clara Searell taken in 1914 when she was a Carnival Queen as part of a fundraiser, and He Waka Tuia curator David Dudfield, who is holding paper poppies which visitors to the museum and art gallery can write on and attach to a giant poppy as part of Women 3 exhibitions, which is on show. As this year's Poppy Day collection's theme was Saluting Women and the Military, Searell was also a part of the Women during the Warsection of the exhibition as she served with the New Zealand Army Nursing Service on hospital ships and in field hospitals, and was awarded the Associate of the Royal Red Cross Medal. Photo: Jenet Gellatly

HE Waka Tuia, Invercargill’s combined art and museum exhibition space, is celebrating women this month with three different exhibitions opening at Kelvin St.

100 Women, 100 Words… Infinite Possibilities was a touring show from Otago Museum, part of a larger Full STE(a)M Ahead project designed to highlight the gender gap which persisted in many areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) study and careers.

He Waka Tuia co-manager Sarah Brown said hosting the show, which opened last Saturday, presented an opportunity to complement the exhibition with two co-exhibits of their own.

Women from our Collections, a separate show, was a collection of paintings and portraits either by, or of, women, harvested from the collections of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha, Southland Art Foundation and Invercargill Public Art Gallery.

The third exhibition, Women during the War, highlighted Southland women during World War 1.

Team leader curators David Dudfield said this exhibition flipped the script on traditional Anzac offerings.

“It’s focusing on what wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of soldiers were doing while their boys were at the front,” he said.

Continuing with an interactive theme, visitors to the museum and art gallery were welcome to collect a large or smaller poppy at reception and write a message on it, which would then be placed on a giant poppy on the wall in the Women in the War section, Dudfield said.

Keeping it fresh
The latest exhibitions were the third to be held at He Waka Tuia this year, in line with a commitment to keeping the space fresh and ever-changing.

He Waka Tuia was a flexible space which could be broken up into small shows, allowing staggered openings, Brown said.

“There will be times when people come in and a small part of the gallery will be closed while we are hanging a show.

“Some people have loved watching what we are doing, which is great, and it was also important to show the public that we can host touring exhibitions while still reconnecting the community with our collection.”

As well as more exhibitions, He Waka Tuia was also hosting more events.

A panel discussion of five women with strong links to Southland, facilitated by Otago Museum, was set for the first weekend in May, while Southland musicians and poets would perform the following weekend to dovetail with NZ Music Month.

“We’re ticking all the boxes,” Dudfield said.

  • Women 3 exhibitions, 100 Women, 100 Words… Infinite Possibilities until Friday, May 14; Women from our Collections until Friday, May 14, and Women during the War until Sunday, May 23, He Waka Tuia Art + Museum, cnr Kelvin and Don Sts.