I have always been considered the academic type. Although I do enjoy university life and learning new things through lectures and research, this year I wanted to reconnect with my artistic side. When I was a child, I used to take painting and sculpture classes. I remember feeling so happy having clay and watercolour in my hands. Those are memories that I will always cherish.
Now, many years later, I feel the need to explore different things and expand my knowledge. When I found out about the “50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic” exhibition at the Waikato Museum, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to restart my creative journey. Even though this was my second visit to the museum, I was excited to discover some of the most iconic images ever captured through the magic lens of a camera.
My adventure began early one Saturday morning. Because of the good weather, I decided to take a walk and enjoy the scenery that surrounded me as I approached my destination. After taking a few selfies at the entrance, I directed myself towards my desired objective: the exhibition. From photos related to the war in Iraq, to images portraying childhood rites of passage in Africa, I felt as if I was really part of those moments. Nostalgia, desperation, and compassion were some of the emotions that invaded my heart. Indeed, my favourite photos were the ones that brought out deep emotions within me. For instance, upon observing the image of a captured shark, I was overcome with feelings of sadness and regret over the degradation of our oceans. In addition, I felt helpless when observing the photo of a dead gorilla killed by hunters in the Congo.
Nevertheless, I also witnessed the uplifting side of our world, such as love and tenderness between humans and animals, for example, when seeing images like the one of the conservationist interacting with chimpanzees. I was also amazed by the ability of simple moments, like that captured in the photo of the children swimming in the Dead Sea or in the one of the Kalahari Desert lion that seems to roar with the wind, to inspire powerful works of art. Truly, I was allured by the different feelings that each photograph evinced.
Out of all of the photos, I was moved by one in particular. It depicts a Peruvian child mourning the loss of half of his family's sheep. After the photo was published, many people wanted to donate money to him and his family. In fact, everyone who donated money made an impact on the child, his family, and his community. It was incredible to know that a simple photograph of a grief-stricken child could have such a powerful impact.
In addition to the National Geographic exhibition, I also enjoyed viewing other pieces in the museum's collection, such as the paintings from the Kelliher Art Competition and some of the exquisite works by Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian Jesuit painter based in ancient China. The museum also presented me with many opportunities to experience the rich Māori history that contributes to the greatness of New Zealand.
Looking back on my visit to the museum, I can say that reconnecting with art through photography and painting was an eye-opening experience. As Jerzy Kosinski once said,
“The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”.
Not only did I discovered that art can be a compelling force to raise awareness about some of the issues facing nature and humanity, but I also discovered the beauty in capturing special moments. So, my advice to you, dear whānau is that you follow your instincts: take pictures whenever it strikes you and don't be afraid to show your emotions.
As this New Year begins, I invite you to create, paint, dance, act, write, dream, and appreciate the different forms of art that make our world a more beautiful place.
*The 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic Exhibition will be open to visitors at the Waikato Museum (free of charge) until March 31 2019.