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He Korowai Mahana. To Be Cloaked In The Comfort Of Whakapapa.

Donna Dinsdale – Solo Exhibition. Retrospective and New Works.

13th July – 14th August 2023

Donna has described how this beautiful invitation was conceived and it’s connection to the exhibition.

The background letter is a transcripted letter of my Mum’s Uncle Dudley from WW2, he wrote to his mum every day and unfortunately never made it home as he was killed, my new work is based around him. I also put in the seven sisters stars of Matariki and the post stamps off the letters. The blanket frame was envisioning that the mum  was at home with a framed picture of her son hanging on the wall when she received the letters.


This exhibition includes a collection of retrospective works, including the work that was recently showcased at WOW The World Of Wearable Art but there is also a wonderful duo of new works created to celebrate Dudley. These works explore familiar lines and the communication between a son and his mother during the Second World War. There is a deep honouring of whakapapa, love and remembrance.

Every item on display tells a wonderful story with twists and turns to the plot and the character development with all the fine details and symbolic embellishments that enrich the garments. The foundational material for all the works is the quintessential NZ Pure Wool Blanket in all its various manifestations from the heavy grey of military blankets to the vibrant hot pinks and smouldering oranges of the domestic versions. There would be very few older New Zealanders who had not been embraced in the comfort of one of these blankets at some stage of their lives. They form an intrinsic part of our culture, resonating with overtones of our agricultural dependance, our need to be self sufficient as a manufacturing nation before globalisation and our volatile, often harsh, island environment.

The exhibition was reviewed for the press:


Stepping into the gallery the visitor is immediately ‘wrapped’ in a sense of warmth, comfort and beauty, as the eye dances across the colourful mannequins and stunning photo drops that fill the space. At first glance this exhibition appears to be an acknowledgement of a very skilful seamstress who has chosen to use our NZ Heritage Woollen Blankets as her preferred material. And while this first impression is totally true it is just a taster of the delights Donna has crafted into each of the complex conceptual works. This exhibition spans a five year period of Donna’s art practice. 
The main view window holds all the magic and delight of Wāhine Toa, a 2022 finalist at The World of Wearable Art Awards, Wellington. Wāhine Toa, in the shape of the Matariki Star, celebrates the spirit of hope, reflection and unity arising from the Covid pandemic period.and particularly poignant at this time of our year. There are parts of 55 different blankets in the gown while the head piece is crafted from more than 100 handmade plaits referencing the Māori Poi.
New work made for this exhibition acknowledges Donna’s ancestral roots in Taranaki, telling the story of Dudley Lewis Stagpoole – a Lance Corporal in the 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion in WW2. One of three children to Martin Dudley Stagpoole and Edith Blanche (nee Luxton) of New Plymouth Dudley signed up for the army and proudly went off by sea to the war. He wrote home daily to his Mother until being killed in action aged 32 years on 14th July 1942. The family holds this treasured archive and it is from here that Donna has drawn her inspiration and her content to create a two piece work that truely celebrates the deep bond between Mother and Son. Military issue vintage woollen blankets are overlaid with images of the people and the correspondence, embellished with family taonga, creating vessels of honour and reverence that all peoples can relate to and connect with.
The significance of Matariki and the rising of hope, dream for better things to come, recognition of sacrifices and mahi undertaken that we pause to consider at this time is running as a deep current through all the subtle and complex statements Donna has crafted into her works. Each one speaks of a dream for a better, richer, stronger world going forward while drawing deeply into our cultural roots to create the best of foundations to build on. 

For more information about Donna please check out this link https://fromoutofthebluestudiogallery.com/donna-dinsdale/

Donna collaborated with an Australian designer/consultant Greet Recoules to generate this announcement. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/greet-recoul%C3%A8s-15463331/)

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