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Where there are fires, there are people on the land. Fire brings warmth and illumination and is used for cooking and smoking food. Fire was also used in our early history for hunting and trapping prey. Fire is a powerful physical force as well as a symbol of danger and as such an exciting medium for art. Charcoal is a residue of fires and was used for rock art.

Three different artists work with fire in very different ways:

Ngái Tahu artist, Ross Hemera will put down a takuahi or hearth on the lake edge. Ross is an established artist, designer and arts educator and has built his creative practice on the artistic traditions of his Waitaha, Ngáti Mámoe and Ngái Tahu ancestors.
You can see his work in Queenstown’s Post Office Precinct. It includes a tribute to local tipuna, Hakitekura, who swam across the lake, carrying a bundle of firewood, which she then lit on the other side. Ross is creating work inspired by ancient rock drawings found in South Canterbury and North Otago. He has a special interest in the imagery of birds, humans, animal and marine creatures and the birdman figure.

Priscilla Cowie is Ngái Tahu ki Puketeraki, Ngápuhi, Ngáti Kahu. She too has undertaken a number of commissions, including the Christchurch Civic building – where you can see her seven bronze eels swimming through the water. She completed a billboard at the last festival, again featuring tuna / eels and the local proverb that eels are more plentiful than sandflies! Priscilla has exhibited widely throughout the country and in Spain and the UK and recently completed a residency in France.

Su Proebster is a German Kiwi. She was born and raised in Berlin and developed an early passion for sculpture and design. She joined a performance art group whose early work included ‘Burning Wall’ – setting fire to the Berlin wall. Her career subsequently
shifted into movie stunt work and then production design and managing large-scale red carpet shows. She now divides her time between Germany and New Zealand and is refocussing on her performance art.

Watch these artists at work from Friday 17 April and then come down to the lakeside opposite the skate-park at 7.30pm on Monday 20 April to see a fire event!