Therapeutic Glimmer

Twenty years after her whanau’s first shop in Coromandel Town, Harataunga’s Kelly Harrison has taken the bold move to revive and renew her parents’ legacy with the opening of a new gallery featuring the stunning works of multiple generations of this exceptionally talented family and other Hauraki artists.


Daughter of renowned master carver Pakariki Harrison (Ngati Porou) and weaver Hinemoa Harrison (Ngapuhi), for Kelly, learning these traditional arts and the values that inspire them was akin to breathing air and drinking water. From a young age she accompanied her parents around New Zealand, contributing to the tukutuku panels that grace countless of meeting houses, eventually graduating to leading her own projects.


“I remember my dad telling me, always finish what you start. I went to Paeroa which was the first job I took on by myself and he just said you don’t come back until you're done. It took me eighteen months but I did it, it was an amazing time, the people really looked after me there. I felt very cared for and I learned a lot,” she recalls.

Now having returned home to Kennedy Bay, smiling in her gallery, surrounded by the creations of her parents, brothers, cousins, friends and other artists she deeply respects, Kelly, is tentative but determined that her ambitious goal of returning authentic, locally created toi Maori to the heart of Coromandel Town is the right call at the right time. 


“It feels like an awakening. It’s as though we have been asleep for the past twelve years since dad died, now we are all coming back to life creatively,” she describes. Adorning the gallery walls and displays are the unique handcrafted works of up to a dozen accomplished artists. The carvings and crystals of Kelly’s brother, Fred Harrison, sit comfortably alongside pottery crafted from the clays of Harataunga by Mike O'Donnell, triumphs of colour and creativity from weaver Briar van Dort and the pasifika flavour of Dessa Bluu’s magnificent mosaics.

Paintings by Kennedy Bay’s Tiana Dobbs overlook the lovingly created natural oils and medicinal remedies of Naomi Pond, while jewellery, sculptures  and ceramics also feature in the collection. A special corner of the gallery has been dedicated to the female spirit. “I believe very strongly in the power of women and this place will always feature a work that represents and celebrates that,” says Kelly. 


It has been a challenging few months as Kelly with her partner Jack prepared and launched the new enterprise. “It has been completely self funded and we have put everything we have into it. I absolutely believe this is what I am meant to be doing. I want to be a vehicle that allows our wonderful art and skills to be appreciated and valued in a way that will support our people both creatively and economically. It has been a very tough thing to try and value these precious taonga because to us they are priceless, but the response we have had from the community has been amazing and I am so grateful to everyone who has shown their support for what they are doing.”


With the majestic Harataunga korowai, patiently and expertly created by her mother and one of the final carvings from the hand of her father in pride of place to watch over and inspire the growth of this new project, Kelly reveals even the name of the gallery has been borne from the relationship between art and creativity and wellbeing. “It’s called Therapeutic Glimmer. Therapeutic relating to the healing journey that we are all on, and glimmer taken from a karakia that refers to the glimmer of light from the heavens and the earth being the source of all creativity.”


With her Harataunga/Kennedy Bay whanau and community behind her, Kelly is already planning the next step towards her goal of showcasing and promoting the traditional skills that have been so important to her family. “We cannot lose these gifts, we need to encourage our youth to embrace these skills so we can pass them on for the future.” 


To this end, Harataunga Marae will be hosting three days of workshops from 6 to 8 March with a range of demonstrations and or/classes across a variety of artforms for anyone who would like to learn more. “The first day will also be an open day with a traditional powhiri and a tour of our marae which is something many people may not have had the chance to experience. We will have lectures happening in the evening time on various aspects of our culture including Maori symbolism.” Visit the website listing for  more information on the programme and costs.


Regular music nights are also planned at the gallery on Kapanga Road featuring young local performers. “We have already held one and it went really well. Lots of visitors popped in as well as locals and it is a great way for our young people to introduce themselves to the wider community and show what they are capable of. The next one will be on Saturday, 7 March, to coincide with our wananga weekend.”


A portion of all profits made at Therapeutic Glimmer go towards the restoration of the Harataunga Marae. “Look after your marae and your marae will look after you,” says Kelly. In between the demands of running the gallery and planning events, Kelly acknowledges one more thing she must dedicate time to. Despite all the glorious offerings at her shop, there is one notable absence. “All of my pieces sold, which I guess is good,” she reveals. The weaver who specialises in tukutuku panels is determined to rectify the situation.


“I should have something ready by early March I hope. But I feel so incredibly lucky and honoured to have so many amazing artists allowing me to share their work and being surrounded each day by such positive, creative energy.”

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