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A Place at the Kauri Table


The kaupapa [theme] of a Place at the Kauri Table brings together 5 skilled immigrant women and one interviewer to gather and present their own migrant stories in context of women’s rights in New Zealand.


The impact of immigration to New Zealand is recorded to show their choice to become part of arts communities. The shift in cultural norms, language and social change within NZ society which is sometimes alienating. However, this shift has also helped each woman collective artist to establish their practice as support for resilience, well-being and achieving their renewal and identities as artists, teachers, mentors and professional creative makers. 

Our Roles

Deb Donnelly   

Helen Donnelly  

Birgit Moffatt 

Marie L. Enslin

​Lisa Silestean

Dr. Mei-Chueh Chao 

Curator / Co-producer / Placeholder

Co-producer / Audio & Lighting / Interviews / Video & Stills / Placeholder





The Table
Kauri Table vignette.jpg


WIA 2020's flagship project, A Place at the Kauri Table, a social practice arts installation for the ITP Research Symposium entitled 'Whanaungatanga' held at the Eastern Institute of Technology/Te Aho a Maui in Napier, New Zealand, on 15-16 April 2019. 

The installation focused on the stories of 6 women migrants, or NZers with migrant heritage or experience, with origins in war-torn countries. Five of the women were artists, the sixth a PhD linguist. The subject was their journey to adjust to living in New Zealand.

The Places














A metaphorical 'Kauri table' at which were 6 place settings, each place brought together personal artefacts either created or found by the participatory migrant artists. Some were brought from their country of origin and some were an expression of their experience of integrating into New Zealand society. These documented both the internal and external journey that each migrant has made to "be at the table". The idea is that we, as New Zealanders, would wish migrants to feel nourished and able to thrive in our beautiful country far from political instability and conflict. 

The collection of objects created a visible pathway and journey for the viewer to interpret and gather meaning from. Sometimes the journey represents alienation and struggle, sometimes growth and acceptance.

The Lighting





















Overhead spotlights highlighted each place in a timed sequence while playing an audio voiceover which related to each 'place'. The exhibition space was darkened with coloured mood lighting projected across the space. The lighting created drama and a sense of another world outside normal experience, and assisted the audience to focus on each individual place with its accompanying voiceover/story. 


(Lighting install & digital sequencing by Henry Norton @ Sight & Sound Services, 514 Queen St West, Hastings, H.B.,


The Voices

Each migrant/artist was given a series of interview questions from which to record individual audio voiceovers. The questions related to their arts practice, journey to integrate into New Zealand society, the importance of WIA 2020, and origins/significance of their supplied artefacts at the table. This audio was cued to begin when an overhead spotlight switched on to illuminate their place.

The Audience

Audience were invited to walk around the table, viewing the places and objects, while listening to the voiceovers. A visitor's book was provided for those who wished to respond to the exhibition.

Visitor Comments:

"I felt like I walked onto a film set. Felt warmth, family and belonging, knitting in my place? - I wouldn’t sit down as the places were taken. I don’t have to sit down."             

                                                                                                                - anonymous 


"Thank you so much. This was so profound for me. My utmost respect for your determination, grace and dignity. Do not stop!"                                                                         

                                                                                                                - Sean Thompson                                                                                     

"Capturing the journey of our diverse communities and how they form the fabric of our rich tapestry."                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               - Ashok


"Lisa’s place is graphic as a ‘broken plate’. Effective design."                        - Mandy

"Lovely to sit at the table of your journey and that of your family."                 - Marcus Williams


"Thank you for enriching Aotearoa.

We are so blessed to have you here:

'Where should I stand, sit?

Am I welcome to sit - should I move?

Do I belong? We belong together ...

Sitting at this Kauri table

Starting new conversations

Of understanding

Through love.



Arohanui"        - Jo

"Many thanks for the Symposium and this installation."                        - Alessandra

"Wonderful."           - Paul

The Film


A Place at the Kauri Table

Winner YICCA International Contest of Contemporary Art 2020

CMC Milano, Italy 


Official Selection - Salon des Refuses 29th Wallace Art Awards NZ


Official Selection - Wairoa Maori Film Festival 2020

2nd Place Claude & Sue Corty Award - SPLICE Film Fest 2021

Official Selection - FICSO International Festival of Social Cinema 2021

Semi-finalist - Film Fest 2021

Director, camera & editor: Helen Donnelly

Deb Donnelly
00:00 / 07:02
Helen Donnelly
00:00 / 05:16
Birgit Moffatt
00:00 / 05:12
Marie L. Enslin
00:00 / 06:04
Lisa Silestean
00:00 / 06:03
Dr. Mei-Chueh Chao
00:00 / 09:11
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