Rona Ngahuia Osborne's Wahine

Rona Ngahuia Osborne
25 March - 12 April, 2008

From our first breath to our last, we are wrapped in cloth. When we are at our most vulnerable, alone
with our dreams, cloth embraces us. It takes on our emotions, memories, hopes and pain. Imbued with
the wairua of the past the blanket forms intimate associations.

Often these are feminine associations, that of Motherly love, childbirth or illness. Women are the keepers of knowledge, passed from mother to child. This work celebrates the women in my life who have taught me, inspired me, scolded me, loved me, and made me who I am.

Dedicated to the memory of Kate Harbutt – Weaver, teacher, mother, friend.
Whilst we mourn your loss, you live on in your teaching and the stories you have left behind.
Haere atu ra, Haere atu ra.

— Rona Ngahuia Osborne

NZ Herald Review 03/04/08

Surfaces can be something to paint on or paint about. Rona Ngahuia Osborne, whose Wahine exhibition is at the Lane Gallery until April 12, uses special surfaces. Her work is appliqué collage and the surfaces on which she applies her images are recycled woollen blankets with pale faded stripes. She is aware that at birth, in sickness and in death we are often embraced by blankets.

She adds to the blankets cut-out, stylised, Maori-inspired motifs of hearts, tongues, mouths and appealing hands and, above all, tears. Areas of light and dark also play a part in the quiet drama of the work.
The effect is touching and the careful hand stitching that joins the images in these works makes them intimate. Not too long ago, hand stitching was thought to be particularly appropriate to women's art but here the handiwork is an integral part of the work.

A typical piece is the one that gives its name to the show, Wahine, with a stylised head flanked by tears of pain in red and tears of joy in white. There is a similar construction in Salve, a work of greeting and love where a red heart indicates emotions and a pale cross indicates faith. In this work, as elsewhere, the pale, worn surface of the blanket reflects experience but is intruded upon by a dark, melancholy corner.

All of this symbolism comes together at its best in Storytalker with a mouth stitched in red thread, a strong, dark arm with the traditional three fingers supporting the central part and a pale hand signalling against a dark background.

This unusual show has moments of considerable power firmly linked to the circumstances and style of this country.

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