Exhibition at Pick NZ artbroker, 241 Moorhouse Ave, Christchurch, 10-28th July 2018. For more information visit picknzartbroker.com.
Artifact ~ object ~ jewel ~ rose ~ hair ~ adornment ~ protection ~ harakeke ~ cloak ~ blanket ~ bone ~ metal ~ paper ~ possession ~ place ~ antique ~ colonial ~ relic
The hair comb for me has become a symbol of protection and celebration for one of Aotearoa’s pioneering women. The life of Elizabeth Guard.
Her hair comb - held in a collection in Te Papa - saved her life when she was shipwrecked of the shore of Taranaki in the 1830s. The comb deflected blows of a tomahawk. The teeth of which remained embedded in her head.
I became fascinated in her life through reading historical books of my mothers and needed to express this story in order to draw attention to her life, to make her story more widely known. Her hair for me has been this beautiful mass of femininity and protection. I have intended to interpret her image ambiguously drawing reference to the silhouette portrait, the original comb and of descriptions of her physicality, her place, time and ancestry.
Creation of the hair comb for Betty Guard revives a colonial relic. This piece shaped from copper is an object of adornment and protection worn to embellish the hair of Betty. It was perhaps a way to bring control into a life of uncertainty and chaos, the ritual of doing up ones hair. Betty Guard sat in her shipwreck camp on the Taranaki coastline and did her hair the morning a battle was to take place. The comb in her hair shielded her from death that day. Motifs from her English heritage marry with the flora and fauna of New Zealand intertwining culture.
Rose ~ thorn ~ kowhai ~ fern
Tui ~ tomahawk ~gunfire
Objects of adornment of the 1830s hair pins were worn to give height to the hair and decorate the elaborate plaiting and folding of the style. These jewels for Betty are fashioned from materials then easily sourced, but now antiquated. Whalebone with its many uses in the 1800s, here I craft semi precious ornaments for her with materials that could be found at her settler’s cottage and create a connection to the fashions of Europe and Betty’s past. The Jewelry such as earrings, a trivial decadence perhaps. The making of these is to adorn Betty with indulgence. Her adornment carrying a heavy burden.
Possession ~ place ~ antiquated
The Kapeu was worn by Maori of status. The Kapeu form was also worn by women, the ponamu neck pendant was used as a soother for teething babies and as a support while breastfeeding. This whalebone Kapeu I have invented as a gift to Betty Guard by the Chief Oaoiti of Ngati Ruanui during her time living as his wife in the Te Namu Pa 1834. An artificial artifact, a symbol of their union and parting.
Harekeke ~ cloak ~ blanket ~ protector
These portraits are made in bringing recognition to the first European woman to live in the South Island. The curiosity I have about the life of Betty Guard fueled me to make these portraits in effort to share her story. How did she look? What kind of person was she? How was her life as a woman, wife and mother? I have used her hair and the jewelry to embellish, adorn and celebrate her. I see Betty’s hair as an embodiment of composure, status, position and condition. Clothing~corset~dress. Her home made of thatch supple-jack and clay. A pride in appearance and efforts of the day, 1830’s fashions, dresses sewn or bought in Sydney. A blanket, a cloak - a saving grace. It is said that a Maori woman threw a blanket over Betty so she would not see her death. It helped save her. She was finely dressed in a cloak wearing her hair out when she left the tribe in Taranaki. She was a mother of nine children. Her descendants still live where she settled in Kakapo Bay, Marlborough Sounds.
Cloak ~ place ~ belonging
A plate crafted as a one off object, rare, singular, unique. The South Island Kokako whom Betty would have witnessed and the Tui who may have been her daily songbird. An ornate emblem of unity between past and present. Dark and the light. Courage and the vulnerability. The chorus of Bettys heart song.
Rare ~ songbird ~ unity