Young artist secures $10k scholarship

Leroy Nukka with his winning painting.

A Rotorua high school student has defeated more than 80 competing entrants to win a $10,000 scholarship as Supreme Winner of Rotorua Museum’s The Art of Remembering - Te Pū o Mahara competition.

The winners were announced at a special opening of the exhibition at The Arts Village on Friday.

Leroy Nurkka, a year 13 student at Rotorua Lakes High School, was overwhelmed by his win which he says will be a huge help for his planned double major studies in theatre and art at Victoria University next year.

“It’s great to have the acknowledgement and that all the time and effort are worth it,” he says. “A huge thank you to Ngāti Whakaue Education Endowment Trust for their funding and for the competition in general.”

Rotorua Lakes High School art and photography teacher, Megan Malcom, says the award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving student.

“This young man deserves it. He has great integrity. He is determined and driven to produce his very best work and he will use this prize wisely,” she says. 

Rotorua Museum’s education team asked local high school students to create an artwork based on a Rotorua person who served in the Great War.

After selecting a person from a range of researched people the students then set about interpreting an aspect of their story through one of seven visual art mediums – painting, print making, sculpture, moving image, photography, digital or mixed media.

Leroy Nurkka selected Christabel McFarlane to showcase the importance of nurses who served in the war.

Christabel enlisted to serve in 1917 aged 30 years and was part of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service.

She embarked on the hospital ship called Maheno which played an important role during the Gallipoli campaign carrying thousands of wounded soliders from Anzac Cove to the nearby Greek Islands.

“I crafted a composition highlighting Christabel’s war involvement whilst subtly symbolising the war and her life. The sombre tonal portrait adds a dynamic; framed by poppies which symbolise remembrance,” says Leroy.

“The cross represents nursing, with a blood curtain alluding to war nurse horrors. The ship is the hospital ship Christabel worked on, also symbolising her family’s migration to New Zealand. The puhoro represents water, and the cutline of Mokoia Island represents Christabel’s Rotorua residence.” 

Three Excellence in Art Awards were also handed out during the ceremony to entries the judges felt were of exceptional standard. The first was awarded to year 13 student at Western Heights High School, Jared Lewis who used digital media to tell the story of Cecil Goodson, a driver for New Zealand Field Artillery.

Moving image entry by Marine Rose Anne Ocangas.

Work by Animata Te Runa Tukiwaho.

Digital entry by Jared Lewis

Two students from Rotorua Girls High School were also awarded Excellence in Art Awards. Year 10 photographer, Animata Te Runa Tukiwaho and year 12 digital media student Martine Rose Anne Ocangas who created artworks based on Eric Cobledick, a Private in the Wellington Infantry Regiment.

The 23 finalist entries for The Art of Remembering - Te Pū o Mahara were judged by Rotorua Museum operations manager Cat Jehly, Monty Morrison and Pita Anaru.

Cat Jehly says she is impressed by the quality of artwork and the range of techniques and mediums students used.

“All artworks show a depth of maturity and sensitivity that students expressed in capturing of these personal war stories,” says Cat.

Ngāti Whakaue Education Endowment Trust generously provided the scholarship prizes along with a trip for the Supreme Winner, Leroy Nurkka, to Wellington with his art teacher to visit The Scale of Our War exhibition at Te Papa and go on a tour of Weta Workshop.

Each of the six local high schools that participated which includes Western Heights High School, Rotorua Girls High School, Rotorua Boys High School, Te Kura Kaupapa o te Ruamata, Rotorua Lakes High School and Reporoa College will receive a $1,000 voucher from National Art Supplies.

The Art of Remembering - Te Pū o Mahara exhibition will be on display at The Arts Village from 20 April until 25 May 2018.


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