Niaval Ngaro: This Woman's Work

15 February - 25 March 2017 Bergman Gallery, Rarotonga


His Excellency, The Queens Representative, Hon. Tom Marsters
NiaVal Ngaro, Artist
Blondie Short, Bergman Gallery


13 years ago, NiaVal Ngaro thought of creating glass sculptures inspired by a root crop that defines Polynesians and her very own people -Cook Islanders. Born in New Zealand to Cook Islands parents, the Auckland artist finally managed to realise her dream in 2016 when she started working on the glass taro sculptures.


For over a month starting on Wednesday next week, she will be putting her 'harvest' - a new series of glass taro sculptures - into an installation at Bergman Gallery. The exhibition, This Woman's Work is a Woman's Worth  will run through to March 25.


Of both northern and southern Cook Islands heritage, Ngaro connects strongly with a cultural idiosyncrasy specific to the Island of Pukapuka, where only woman cultivate this essential Polynesian dietary staple. The glass sculptures themselves are shaped for the plant that they represent, showing specific stages of growth, characterised by colour and form. Publicity accompanying the announcement of the exhibition says the installation and accompanying soundtrack earth the artistic premise, the taro and its female cultivators forming a symbiotic partnership that nurtures an entire culture.


A Bergman Gallery spokesman said in a statement that through Ngaro's use of glass, the artist captured the raw form and unusual beauty of this natural Polynesian food staple, while also recognising the taro's paradisiacal surroundings that were saturated in colour and light. An Eden-like purity radiates from the sculpture. The taro is a food source, a cultural metaphor, a symbol of what has come before and a vessel for what has yet to come. The taro is an anchor stone, omnipresent in the artist's Avaiki.

In an interview with CI News, Ngaro said she initially created 15 sculptures and after seeing how much interest they generated from the art lovers here and abroad, she was inspired to do more. She said making glass sculptures is no easy feat, let alone those inspired by taro - a unique concept in the glass sculpting industry. "The research takes about nine months. I have to do my homework and then take the concept to the studio for production."

"We are dealing with glass; it's a very delicate material. You have to be very precise when doing it because the glass is very, very hot. It's very temperamental too. Sometimes the blues doesn't like the brown, it fuses and changes." You don't know what colour is going to come out. You don't know whether it will survive. So it's kind of like a cake, it can go flat or you wait for the right timing to pull it out and its perfect." Ngaro said while glass sculpting was rare in New Zealand, glass taro sculpture was one of its kind."New Zealand is very different. They make vases, bowls, cups but not glass taro sculptures. It's something that I was inspired to do and I hope to build on this dream."


"Taro is about survival. It is about our ancestors' connection to their land, the cultural heritage and the natural elements surrounding us. Technology and the world is going so fast and we are losing this connection with our heritage. We just need to stop and learn from the generation that has been there for so long. They will be soon gone and we will have no idea about our heritage. If you get so caught up with this technology and today's world, you will be disconnected from your cultural heritage and eventually your family."

"My sculptures are a tribute to breaching that gap that today's generation have with their ancestors. It's about who we are." Ngaro plans to assemble a series of documents on taro and its relevance to the people which she wants to showcase together with her art."This will help people understand better what my sculptures mean and what taro means to us Cook Islanders."


Rashneel Kumar | Cook Islands News.