In late 2021, when she was commissioned to make a large installation for Tauranga Art Gallery’s cavernous atrium, Darcell Apelu presented A Death of Prosperity, a towering structure formed of shiny gold panels that resembled a champagne tower, the coupes replaced by clear Perspex chairs, facing outward to the viewer as thin streams of water trickled down its edifice. The work was an imposing presence. With the text You will never possess the soil / You will never be secure wrapping around its foundations, it foregrounded the relationship between wealth and land, and served an unwavering critique to trickle-down economic credos that too often conceal regimes of continued accumulation for the few.
In October, Apelu will present a new large-scale installation as the recipient of the Auckland Art Gallery annual North Terrace Commission, a programme launched in 2011. Carry Me with You will centre concepts of intergenerational knowledge transmission within te ao Māori, using the form of poutama, a pattern common in weaving and plaiting practices that is often used to symbolise the stairway to knowledge, or the journey of Tanemāhuta to retrieve the three baskets of knowledge from Te Toi-o-ngā-rangi, the highest of the twelve heavens. This pūrākau is a foundational one within Māori educational and spiritual practices, with each of the kete representing a core pillar of knowledge: te kete-tuatea, the basket of light; te kete-tuauri, the basket of darkness; and te kete-aronui, the basket of pursuit. The poutama itself being a channel, or passage, between the spirit and living worlds, it embodies the processes of transfer and exchange between tuakana and teina subjects, which Apelu’s work will highlight for the year in which it occupies the gallery’s courtyard.