Maevi Fleming
“Maevi looked at whakapapa, and how handing the mantel of guardianship onto future generations is the way forward, caring for the planet,” says judge Fifi Colston, of Intermediate winner Maevi Fleming.

An incredible cohort of rangatahi (young people) have pulled together to create a series of artworks under the banner of ‘The Great Kiwi Poster Competition’, the third organised by the accoladed Ōtepoti artist Bruce Mahalski.

Early in April the competition winners were announced, including a popular vote winner, tellingly chosen from the junior category.

Popular vote winner Ada Zamorkina submitted a “magical” entry according to the judging panel.

“It was a delight to come across […] because of its originality, charm and the clear delivery of its message,” said judge, Fifi Colston.

Ada’s multimedia work depicts a scene just beneath the surface of the ocean. At first, schools of familiar characters (or species!) seem to emerge from the sunlight-dabbled waters described in blue acrylics: pūkarukaru/jellyfish, a parāoa/sperm whale, fishes like the rātāhuihui/mola mola. The heading “Kia pai ake tātou”/“We can do better” (which all entrants were asked to respond to in their works) prompts the observer to consider the scene again, and another aspect of Ada’s work emerges: every underwater creature is in fact crafted from various plastic rubbish, littering the not-so-idyllic-after-all oceanic scene.  

Ada Zamorkina’s poster – winner of the popular vote category.

Ada’s creative intelligence speaks to the calibre of the young artists who submitted their work for this competition. Many of the works managed to interweave an array of thought-provoking visual elements, all coming together to convey the project’s call to action: “Kia pai ake tātou”/ “We can do better”.

The works incorporate fantastical beings, endemic flora and fauna, themes of life and death, of whanaungatanga, and of legacy. This collection is a great reminder that it’s not always necessary to visit our national galleries to witness thoughtful and heartfelt creative messaging: we can start in our schools and art rooms.

Bruce Mahalski, a multimedia artist known for his fascination with the natural world (he founded the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery in 2018), organised this year’s competition, as well as instigating the previous year’s anti-racist theme.

“Young people are the group who will be most affected by climate change and many are frightened for the future and feel powerless,” said Bruce, commenting on the response to this year’s theme. “Like the school strike movement, this competition was designed to try to give them a platform to voice their concerns and their hopes for the future.”

Having spoken to a number of the entrants, Bruce was impressed that many were already involved in environmental action. “Hopefully one or two of them will go on to become the next generation of conservation leaders and ecological advocates that we so desperately need.”

Bruce, along with the judges panel – Michel Tuffery, Fi Colston and Nicola Jackson – awarded $1000 prizes across the four categories. The competition was made possible through sponsorship from Boosted, Phantom Bill Stickers, Hell Pizza and BioHeritage.

You can view all finalists on the Great Kiwi Poster Competition Website. An exhibition of the posters opened at Otago Museum on Saturday April 16th and runs to the end of May. Phantom Bill Stickers are displaying the winning posters on walls between Whangārei and Invercargill.

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