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Aotea Cartouche

Taken from ‘Aotea Centre Works of Art’, edited by Tara Werner, written by Karen Scherer and Katherine Findlay.

Sculpted by Denis O'Connor from Eritrea marble and Mt Somers limestone from Canterbury, the ‘Aotea Cartouche’ is a commemorative stone that records the names of those involved with the building of Aotea Centre. However, like cartouches of the Baroque and Renaissance periods, it is also rich in imagery and symbolism.

The bell in the centre panel refers to the function of the building as a forum, the calling together of people to congregate, celebrate and speak. There is a landscape of scoria balanced on the peninsula of an outstretched arm, as well as a matuku (white-faced heron) in full flight consumed by a saw-handled mask face. This is a complex image containing suggestions of inspiration, determination and belonging. The artist sees these as a new set of icons for a newly emerging South Pacific culture.

The jug and bowl in the left side panel were chosen for their significance as ritual domestic objects. They symbolise containing, pouring, cleansing, replenishing, purifying, nurturing, sharing, and assuaging. The jug is pouring an upright image of Rangitoto Island, Auckland's youngest and most identifiable volcano.

In the right side panel, manawa (mangrove) leaves fall, each with its own cargo of scoria. This refers to the Auckland region's coastal environment of mangrove-rich estuaries, volcanic hill-forms and headlands.

Denis O'Connor:

All the images relate to the geological nature of the Auckland isthmus and our relationship to this. As well as this strong identification with locale and environmental processes, the images used evoke the function and purpose that a performance and theatrical centre ritually involves.