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'Whanaungatanga: Relationships' (pronounced, far-no-nga-tar-nga)is a specially commissioned wall hanging for stair 7, at Parliament House, Wellington, New Zealand. The concept, design and artwork were all by Malcolm Harrison, a New Zealand artist.

I first saw this art work in 1996, soon after it was hung at Parliament. I was blown away - not only by the scale of the piece, but the combination of Maori weaving and Pakeha wool embroidery and the the story of us as a people.

The hanging is 6 metres high, and 2 metres wide. It uses wool embroidery, thread, harakeke weaving, wood and paper, backed with wool and cotton fabrics. It involved over 717 people working on it, on both the embroidery and the weaving. Work commenced in May 1994, and was completed in January 1996. It features borders of red rata flowers, a rata forest, Chatham Island forget-me-nots, a Maori kite, four carved stars and seventeen stories of everyday New Zealanders.

According to Malcolm Harrison, whom I rang up and talked to about the hanging, the artwork started as a few scribbles and a philosophical statement, to portray the people of New Zealand, and have a close link of Maori and European, each standing on their own merits.
Some of the stories included in the work are: "Ladies a Plate" - the contribution of food that women traditionally made to take to social functions; an incident where a whitebaiter took his trousers off and knotted the legs to harvest a particularly good run of whitebait; and a child asleep during the 1942 earthquake in Martinborough - an alarm clock fell off the mantlepiece and onto the boy's head, and it never even woke him.

An artwork to celebrate.

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