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Kumutoto Stream

Kedron Parker and Celia Wade-Brown, Photo by Denise Batchelor
Kedron Parker and Celia Wade-Brown, Photo by Denise Batchelor

Sound Art is, quite probably, the most misunderstood branch of the arts, so it’s great to see Wellington City Council’s Public Art Fund supporting the city’s first permanent sound installation – ‘Kumutoto Stream’ by local artist Kedron Parker. An official Rededication Ceremony took place on Feb 16th at Woodward St pedestrian tunnel which was attended by Celia Wade-Brown, Liz Mellish, Mark Amery and Rob Thorne.

Rob Thorne and June Jackson at the Rededication of Kumutoto Stream, photo by Denise Batchelor
Rob Thorne and June Jackson at the Rededication of Kumutoto Stream, photo by Denise Batchelor

‘Kumutoto Stream’, the art installation, features a series of speakers mounted in the pedestrian tunnel running under The Terrace from Woodward Street broadcasting the sound of running water, enabling pedestrians to imagine the experience of walking along the stream before cement took over the Terrace. The actual Kumutoto Stream, tucked under the campus of Victoria University, flows in its natural state before it hits the Terrace Tunnel culvert.

Photo by Kedron Parker
Photo by Kedron Parker

Victoria University conservation biology students are restoring a hillside known as Kumutoto Forest, where the source of the stream remains beautiful and wild for a short stretch just before it enters a stormwater culvert. The original stream is adjacent to the original site of Te Atiawa’s Kumutoto Pa and is considered a Maori taonga, so the installation was very well received by the local Iwi, represented at the opening by Liz Mellish who explained the Māori history of the area and the significance of Kumutoto Stream.

At the art opening / hui whakawatea, Iwi Leader Liz Mellish (Photo by Grant Maiden).
At the art opening / hui whakawatea, Iwi Leader Liz Mellish (Photo by Grant Maiden).

This was Kedron’s plan prior to receiving Council funding for the project: “I have created a site-specific sound installation at the top of Woodward Street in Wellington, on a popular walking route used by workers to access office buildings on the Terrace. The tunnel itself is tiled, bleak and bunker-like, and runs underground, directly beneath the Terrace. The soundscape in the tunnel imagines the area in its natural state, before development – just over 150 years ago – to evoke the experience of walking along the former Kumutoto Stream. Although it is not well known, Kumutoto Stream was an important feature of the area’s natural and social history. Today, it is buried under cement, but still flows to Wellington Harbour and supports fish in its pipes. I myself used to commute along the route of the stream, and I’ve found the tunnel to be a point of transition. Emerging onto the Terrace, I find myself entering a cement world that feels disconnected from its past, disconnected from nature, and makes me feel disconnected too. By creating a soundscape in the tunnel, it is my hope to awaken passers-by to the contrast between then and now, and the danger of how our built environments can rob us of our own vitality.”

Kedron standing directly over the piped stream, and beneath one of the installation speakers (Photo by Elske Parker).
Kedron standing directly over the piped stream, and beneath one of the installation speakers (Photo by Elske Parker).
The opening was followed by a ritual procession (Photo by Bridget Zimmerman).
The opening was followed by a ritual procession (Photo by Bridget Zimmerman).

You can hear Kedron interviewed by Lynda Chanwai-Earle from Radio New Zealand’s ‘NZ Society’ in “Bringing Back the Birds – Kumutoto Stream”

For a good overview of why sound art is generally overlooked, while visual art is celebrated, David Stubbs’ book ‘Fear of Music : Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen’ is highly recommended.

Photos/Text used with permission of Kedron Parker.


One Reply to “Kumutoto Stream”

  1. Heather

    Thanks for featuring this lost and refound stream. I absolutely love the sound of the stream in that tunnel, and now the Kumutoto stream acknowledgement where it enters the sea. Also love the stream art with pounamu dot trail in Bowen St.

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