Sunday, December 3, 2023

Dairy owners sharing their stories through art

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Artists Juliana Duran, left, and Catherine Guevara are behind a unique new project. Photo supplied

Two Colombian artists are helping a group of east Auckland dairy owners find creative ways to share their personal stories.

Catherine Guevara and Juliana Duran are the creators of an art project entitled A place worth visiting, an Arts Out East initiative supported by the Te Tuhi gallery in Pakuranga and the Howick Local Board.

Guevara and Duran have interviewed local dairy owners to learn their individual stories.

They’ve used those stories as inspiration to create ceramic artworks that are being publicly displayed in an exhibition at Uxbridge Arts and Culture in Howick.

The dairy owners involved are Amita and Lalit at Juliet Avenue Superette, Mandeep and Narender at Four Square Cockle Bay, Ken and Mandy at Pakuranga Heights Four Square, Daxa at Vincent Street Superette, and Rachna and Ankur at Farm Cove Superette.

The exhibition of ceramic works is intended to honour the “past decisions and appreciate the present placement of the families and their stories”.

The works will eventually be gifted back to the dairy owners and shared within their stores to generate discussions with their customers.

Guevara and Duran say back in their native Colombia, the dairy, or ‘la tienda’ in Spanish, symbolises the “familiarity of permanence”.

They’re spaces of exchange where oral interaction is short but meaningful.

The artists say they want to rescue the nostalgia of the space and the recognition of its main characters.

They told the Times the ‘dairy experience’ is something they, as migrants to New Zealand, can relate to.

“There is a sense of familiarity in entering these spaces which are often owned by fellow migrants.

“It’s not uncommon to see two or more family members arranging the shelves or working behind the counter.

“When we recognize their migration story, an immediate bond is formed.”

Guevara and Duran say their goal is to acknowledge the important role dairies play in the community.

From behind the counter, dairy owners witness the space changing and children growing up, they say.

“They become storytellers of their own experiences and the connections they create with the community they serve.

“Back home, la tienda symbolises a sense of permanence and familiarity.

“It’s also an exchange space where oral interactions are brief but meaningful.

“In dairies, we find a nostalgic connection that reminds us of home while also helping us appreciate where we are now.”

They hope the project will honour the nostalgia of the spaces the dairies inhabit and their occupants.

“It’s important to commemorate the resilience and perseverance of the dairy owners’ journey not only as migrants but also as business owners.

“We can still feel the impact of the [Covid-19] pandemic, and in these uncertain times, we believe appreciation and support are essential to navigate the current challenges.

“We simply want to remind the participants of how amazing they are and to remind the general public of how lucky they are to have them in their community.”

A place worth visiting is at Uxbridge Arts and Culture at 35 Uxbridge Road, Howick, from May 13-26. Entry is free.

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