Heitiki Gallery – Brian Potiki

Heitiki Gallery – Brian Potiki

Stepping inside, the black large table was what you saw first: uncluttered, just a large appointments book, some stationery and owner Ngawara Gordon already rising to offer you coffee.

Outside was the bridge to Whakarewarewa and the excitement of steam and sulphur, inside there was music playing, some dub perhaps (her son still is keyboard player in the band Fat Freddy’s Drop) and free-standing sculptures.

A wide room – with storage out the back – for art-making holiday programmes and staging plays.

Upstairs there was art on all the walls from constantly-changing exhibitions.

Starting in 1990 this contemporary arts space often showcased the work of emerging Maori artists.

When it closed Ngawara gave me the table saying “so many conversations held around it, if only it could talk!”

It sits on our deck in all weathers, a scrap of paper stapled underneath.

In 2007 I premiered my play Motupohue in the gallery and the table was the main prop serving as a military prison cell for my Bluff ancestor (one of five shot for desertion in World War One).

At the play’s end I lay under the table reading his words to the audience:

My hands shook and I had this buzzing in my head. First the trenches then military prison.

It was his second court-martial for deserting his post. He was twenty years old. Canon Parata wrote that being with him on his last night was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do.

Looking ahead to the Armistice Centennial this November they still seem appropriate.