21 Jun The Kiwi Boy Experience
The shortest day of 2018 is officially behind us – it’s a wonderful thought that we’re over the mid-winter hump and waltzing into summer again.
Possibly wishful thinking with a couple of chilly months still to come, but knowing the days are now getting longer somehow cushions whatever polar blast may head our way.
This time of year, tramping and camping is not as accessible- still do-able of course, but a day walk gets more of a tick, and there are a lot of options locally.
Last weekend we thought we’d check on our coastal neighbours so we ambled along Whakatane’s riverside walkway. Behold a morning filled with locals on bikes, kids from the street below with grandparents in tow – and everybody says a friendly hello. This well-trodden 2m wide pathway gives a pleasant and leisurely town-ward stroll.
The Whakatane river is a unique environment. Moving with the tides, the water here hosts birdlife with a quite different chatter. We moseyed along in the promising winter sun, soaking the sights and sounds of the sea surrounds. Birds ruffle the mirrored river surface; a microlight hangs lazily in the sky.
Every walk has its highlights and memories, and for us, aside from the natural environment, we enjoyed the creative enhancements and public art which punctuated the experience.
The walkway itself has inherent subtle design elements – cleverly created with varying shell and pebble aggregates. This gives the impression of care and creativity, and you find yourself more engaged, anticipating further capricious delights as the journey unfolds.
There’s a number of carved and painted pou to remind the visitor of the historical and cultural linkages of this area, as well as more contemporary art pieces to appear.
Then, as we got closer to town we encountered ‘Kiwi Boy’ – an intriguing figurative sculpture by Rotorua artist Jamie Pickernell.
Perched on the side of the pathway, the poise of this poignant piece really has you pushing the pause button.
Aesthetically and technically masterful, Jamie’s life-sized ‘Kiwi Boy’ really captures the imagination of families and kids who frequent or visit this part of the world. Here’s a piece with real presence.
I checked in with the artist to learn more, and Jamie confirms that this sculpture gives a whimsical nod to earlier times when the river was the road.
“Kiwi Boy’s job is to look out from his scow and search for sandbanks and rogue logs” he explains.
Turns out our little metal-forged friend has been keeping a diligent, tireless and unflinching eye on things around here for about four years now. All in all, he’s an impressive chap – and very dedicated indeed.
Back home later that day I reflected on the ‘Kiwi Boy’ experience, and on the greater ability of public art to reach out, engage and be an essential vehicle for sharing our history, stories, and aspirations.
For Rotorua, Kuirau Park certainly comes to mind right here. Recently remodelled and crafted with flair, its environment and enhancements are something we can be proud to share.
Offering a leisurely boulevard through unique steam, bubbling mud, foot-pools and a number of sculptural narratives – I wonder that many of our visitors must simply recoil and would surely recall their experience here forever.