In these post-earthquake Christchurch days, I spend a lot of time looking around and sometimes I’m more affected by the small things than I am the general destruction and emptiness that now pervades the inner city. I though that last weekend when I was wandering past the Christchurch City Council building and noticed that the eels were suddenly without water. The sculptural eels that is – the beautiful works crafted by artist, Priscilla Cowie (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti kahu, Ngāi Tahu), that ‘wriggle’ their way down the northern entrance to the building.
The Worcester Boulevard entrance to the building is dominated by the powhenua, Te Pou Herenga Waka, carved by Fayne Robinson (Kai Tahu, Ngati Apa Ki Te Ra To, Ngati Porou), which is beautifully offset by the gently cascading water feature. It’s there – among a series of decorative tiles representing seven of Canterbury’s important waterways, that you’ll find the bronze eels by Cowie.
Both water and eels were key determinants in the original settling of Canterbury land. The seven water tiles are mirrored by a further seven tiles on the rear of the powhenua that represent the site’s history. It’s good to see the powhenua and the water sculpture generally have withstood the rigours of the earthquakes but it would be nice to see the water trickling again. All eels need water. They look strange without it.