Tangata Taonga

Tangata Taonga by night 2016.


The ‘Taonga Post’ project was undertaken by local residents, with the support of Nelson City Council, to create a beacon connecting the CBD of Nelson city to Washington Valley. The work celebrates past, present and future generations.

The site marks three key features – the headland pa of Matangi Awhio (the place of ‘swirling sea breezes’); a once lapping tidal estuary known to the tangata whenua of Whakatu as Paruparu; and a European settler, hill route to Port Nelson.


Early map of Paruparu / The Tideway, showing the 1840 shoreline and the position of the sculpture.


The designs cut into the posts are land, people and sky. The work can be viewed as abstract shapes, especially when driving past, but if you stop to look, people are there, curving around the post. Near the top are the whirling sea breezes, spiraling into the sky.


Tangata Taonga by day 2016.


“I started by looking at contour mapping patterns of the hills; then at road maps. The combined patterns suggested movement, energy, the shapes of people living amongst the hills; walking, cycling, driving, dancing – the patterns of daily lives.”


Patterns within contour mapping and street maps suggested shapes of people living within the local community of Washington Valley.


“The size of my workroom floor was a perfect fit to lay down paper and draw a full-size template. Classic Gates Engineering in Blenheim hand-crafted the shapes into the pipe with plasma cutters.”


The cut out, full sized template. (Photo Martin De Ruyter)


Members of the Washington Valley Community Group, led by local resident Paul Harrington, undertook fundraising and project management. Nelson City Council, Rata Foundation, Nelson Creative Communities Scheme and the Nelson Civic Trust contributed funds. The Nelson Heritage Advisory Group, Downer and Independent Kerb and Concrete donated time, resources and expertise.



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