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Kāpuia ngā aho 單絲不綫 by Wai Ching Chan and Tessa Ma’auga

Taonga from collaborative installation
12 Mar 2022 to 24 Apr 2022
Tues – Fri 11am – 5pm Sat & Sun 11am – 4pm
Employing a language of threads and knots, this collaborative exhibition explores ancient Chinese narratives in connection with people, materials, and relationships in Aotearoa
Event type: 
Art, Exhibition
The Physics Room Contemporary Art Space
301 Montreal Street The Arts Centre Registry Additions Building (access from The Arts Centre Market Square) Christchurch 8013
National, Canterbury


Kāpuia ngā aho 單絲不綫
Wai Ching Chan and Tessa Ma’auga

Exhibition runs: 12 March – 24 April 2022
Artist talk: Saturday 12 March, 11am

Please note that we will not be hosting an opening event due to the Omicron outbreak

Employing a language of threads and knots, Kāpuia ngā aho 單絲不綫 is a collaborative exhibition that explores ancient Chinese narratives in connection with people, materials, and relationships in Aotearoa.

According to some Chinese origin narratives, the world began in a murky dark void, from which the dual forces of yin and yang and heaven and earth emerged and intermingled, giving birth to the myriad life forms in the ecosystem. Due to a period of crisis, a great deluge occurred, after which the goddess Nǚwā 女媧 patched up the heavens and cut off the legs of a giant turtle to use as pillars to prop up the sky. Nǚwā 女媧 went on to form humanity from soil and rope. Thus, humanity was created to care for their ancestral heritage, in harmony with the natural environment.

In this exhibition, Wai Ching Chan and Tessa Ma’auga remake the four pillars of heaven using harakeke, silk, manila rope, wool, mop string, mulberry paper and pearls. Made from natural materials that speak to seafaring and migration, these pillars seek to reconnect and hold cultural and historical links between China and Aotearoa using traditional Chinese knots, paper cutting, and other weaving techniques. The installation also incorporates the voices of people with Chinese whakapapa across Aotearoa, who were asked to contribute an object and a statement that expresses the diversity and breadth of their experiences.

Built with friendship and love, the ropes in this exhibition seeks to repair the relationships between tauiwi and tangata whenua, and gather the voices of those with Chinese whakapapa in their threads. Every knot has a meaning and together they hold a message of whanaungatanga, kotahitanga, kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, and aroha.


Wai Ching Chan is a Hong Kong born artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. In her fibre-based installations she uses Chinese knots as her language to reconstruct and reinforce the connections and unity that exists between tauiwi and tangata whenua in Aotearoa. Wai’s recent exhibitions include Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making, The Dowse Art Museum, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2020; Wishing Well, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2020; and Hold, Window, University of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2019.

Tessa Ma'auga is currently completing her PhD in creative arts at Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa in Te Papaioea. Her artistic research employs a language of knots and fibre-based art to explore the nature of essential relationships within the universe, focusing on the connections between Aotearoa and Southern China. Her main occupation and passion is as a mother and educator in her neighbourhood. Recent exhibitions include Waitangi, Whytangi, Whywetangi, Square Edge Arts Centre, Te Papaioea, 2022; National Contemporary Art Award, Waikato Museum, Kirikiriroa, 2018; and Fibres of our Ropes, Massey University, Te Papaioea, 2018.

Written by

The Physics Room

2 Mar 2022

Interests The Physics Room is a contemporary art space dedicated to developing and promoting contemporary art and critical discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand.