Sculpture a talking point

By Shontelle Campbell

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Waikato Museum director Cherie Meecham in front of The Tongue of the Dog sculpture on Victoria St. Photo / Shontelle Campbell
Waikato Museum director Cherie Meecham in front of The Tongue of the Dog sculpture on Victoria St. Photo / Shontelle Campbell

Hamilton city's latest street sculpture is proving a popular attraction and has contributed to the Waikato Museum's growing visitor numbers.

The Tongue of the Dog sculpture, created by world-renowned New Zealand sculptor Michael Parekowhai, was installed outside the Waikato Museum on Victoria Street earlier this year.

The 8m sculpture has had a positive impact on the city, igniting interest with its colour, vibrancy and story, Waikato Museum director Cherie Meecham said.

There was "no doubt" the sculpture attracted people and in-turn inspired more folk to visit the Waikato Museum and ArtsPost.

"Waikato Museum has been exceeding expected visitor number targets this year and I attribute this to a range of factors including the exhibitions and events on offer, although the sculpture has possibly raised our profile as an arts and culture venue," Meecham said.

She said the experience of the sculpture, its story and the link to the museum and the Waikato River, created an introduction to visitors and a promise of more to come.

The story behind The Tongue of the Dog design is a legend about the Waikato River and its people.

A tongue of water pours from the eastern (river) side of the artwork, recalling the tongue of the servant dog who brought healing waters from Tongariro to Taupiri and in doing so created the Waikato River.

The colourful cuisenaire rods used in the sculpture are a repeating motif in Parekowhai's work which he interprets as metaphors for biculturalism, communication and education. The rods were once used as an educational tool to teach maths. Nowadays these rods are used to teach languages, including Te Reo Maori, by a method known as Te Ataarangi.

"Our exhibitions, particularly the Te Winika gallery, connect beautifully with the story of The Tongue of the Dog, which has highlighted the little-known legend of the creation of our awa, the Waikato River," Meecham said.

Mesh Sculpture Hamilton gifted The Tongue of the Dog sculpture to Hamilton city, with the help of donations received from more than 70 donors.

The Tongue of the Dog has quickly become a popular photo destination, generating posts on social media of selfies in front of the towering sculpture.

Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams said she often sees people taking photographs and clustered around the sculpture as a meeting point.

"Artwork helps to bring vibrancy to the city and, being subjective, it opens up discussion between people and becomes a real talking point. It all adds to the Hamilton experience, providing a unique flavour to our city. These original artworks have a story to tell and provide each individual with their own interpretation to take away."

- Hamilton News

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