Thanks Roxburgh and the broader Teviot community for bringing myself and TrustMe (Cut Collective Ltd.) down to create such a pertinent piece in town for all to embrace and enjoy. The Teviot Valley is home to many different people and cultures due to its rich history and thriving fruit industry.
Read on to see our inspiration for the piece!
Interested in a commission? Get in touch.
One of the Teviot Valley’s defining characteristics has been an enduring amalgamation of different people and different cultures. It has always attracted and drawn people to it for a variety of reasons. Māori traversed the Pacific and used the Central Otago area as a travel route and seasonal food source. Miners came from Asia, Australia and Europe based on the speculative promise of gold. Settlers built a platform for the development of significant horticultural and agricultural industries.
And more recently the fruit industry has been supported by a workforce who come from a range of countries including Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Malaysia.
Underpinning the mural is a creative response to the statement “We all came here from somewhere else and this is what shapes the Teviot now”. Within this statement exists two key elements, People (we) and Place (here). The artists believe the relationship that exists between these two things is critical in terms of addressing cultural identity. They also believe that a primary role of murals is to acknowledge, celebrate and contribute to the identity of where they are created, in this case Roxburgh and the Teviot Valley.
With a focus on People and Place, the artists drew together a collection of references that talk about the people of the Teviot and nature of the environment. This project employed art as a transformational tool on a practical and social level. It has transformed the building and the wider street scape that hosts it. And it contributes to the growing recognition of the role seasonal workers play within the Teviot community.
It is the artists hope that the mural helps foster greater cohesion between residents and seasonal workers through recognising the contribution of migrants and seasonal workers to the character of the Teviot Valley area (past, present and future). The artists also intend to celebrate the histories of the people of the valley, helping cultivate collective pride and a shared sense of belonging.
Central Otago and Teviot Valley area provided Māori with hunting grounds for Moa while travelling inland from coastal settlements to collect tuna/eel, weka, kereru, cabbage tree and pounamu. The Roxburgh area is believed to have been a camping place for travelling parties.
The legend of Kopuwai is present through the strip that runs along the bottom of the mural. The nearby obelisk that is the embodiment of Kopuwai sits amongst a series of hue, or gourds. These traditional Māori water flasks refer directly to the role of water in the legend and sit beneath a harakeke rope pattern.
The history of Chinese presence in the Teviot is addressed through an idiom regarding the ability to overcome adversity and hardship through hard work and perseverance.
kè kǔ nài láo
It seems an appropriate phrase to use for the experience of the Chinese miners whose lives were extremely difficult. Facing discrimination, isolation and varying returns on their efforts, the ability to bear hardship and work hard to overcome this adversity is a cultural hallmark familiar in many places where Chinese have emigrated.
Also present in the mural is the shape of a Chinese gold ingot called a sycee (boat) and a mountain shape which represents the naming of the Otago region as Xīn jīnshān or “new gold mountain”. This name was used all around the world where gold was being mined (including Melbourne) with San Francisco being the original gold mountain.
The Hibiscus has become part of the vernacular within NZ as a reference to the Pacific region and Pacific identity. However it is the national flower for Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Malaysia – the 3 largest contributors to the seasonal worker work force. It is featured in a repeat pattern used at the top of the artwork and is incorporated with sprouting coconuts, the coconut crab and geometric pattern elements found in traditional Solomon Island and Vanuatu art forms.
There is a long history of Scottish presence in Dunedin, Otago and the Teviot. The influence is clear in the names given to towns, mountains and even the Clutha river which takes its European name from Cluaidh, the Scots Gaelic
name for the River Clyde
which runs through Glasgow
Roxburgh itself takes its name from a Scottish border town, its streets also named for other border localities – it is said to have been laid out in 1866 by a surveyor named Johnston who is credited with calling it Roxburgh after an ancient ruined town on the Teviot River in Scotland.
Explorers, miners, farmers, the Scotts have been present in all activity through the colonial and post colonial period. Their presence and contribution within the region is recognised through the inclusion of a repeating thistle pattern that occupies the lower section of the mural. A large thistle also straddles the front corner of the building, overlaid with cherry leaves.
The murals compositional structure is based on the Scottish flag, two diagonal lines intersect in the middle of the wall breaking the surface into 4 triangle sections. These sections host the content exploring the relationship between Maori, Pakeha, Melanesian and Asian people. Between primary industry and the environment, between the areas history and its future.
The fruit doves represent the seasonal workers who come to the Teviot each year to harvest the fruit grown in the region. Common to New Zealand (Kereru), Solomon Islands (Red Bellied), Vanuatu (Tanna) and Malaysia (Jambu), the fruit dove symbolises the relationship that exists between the seasonal workers and the fruit industry in the Teviot. The doves feature stylised plumage derived from traditional pattern found in both Solomon Island and Vanuatu sources.
The original name for the river Mata-au refers to the river’s characteristic whirlpools, caused by layered currents flowing at different speeds, which is said to resemble the wake of a giant waka.
The river takes its European name from Cluaidh, the Scots Gaelic
name for the River Clyde
which runs through Glasgow
. During New Zealand’s early colonial history it was known as the Molyneaux, that name given to it by Captain Cook
for the Master onboard the Endeavour, Robert Molyneaux.
The river cuts across the artwork, moving left to right and flowing through each section of the mural demonstrating its unavoidable presence in the experience of all those that have lived in the Teviot Valley.
The presence of Cherry and Apricot simply represents what the Teviot is famous for today.
Symbolically, economically and socially, the fruit industry is what drives the area forward. It is a major contributor to its well-being financially but also culturally for it is the fruit that brings such a diverse mix of people to the Teviot. All of them contributing to the areas rich history of human industriousness and experiencing their own version of kè kǔ nài láo. For indeed we have all come here from somewhere else and the history of the Teviot is shaped across generations through the shared experience of working hard to make our way forward.