Basia Smolnicki: Treasure in the Wilderness

There’s a bay located in the Marlborough Sounds, Totaranui, where Basia’s family and friends gather in the summer holidays and spend lazy days camping. It was originally named by Māori as ata pō meaning ‘early dawn’.

The area was a favourite place for Captain Cook to replenish his ships and recover from his long voyages. Cook named the bay, Shag Cove, but later explorers gave it the present name Resolution Bay to honour Cook’s second vessel.

Like its Māori name implies, the morning sun rises over Arapawa Island and reflects off the beautiful, still, blue waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. On the sandy beach shards of argillite in the shapes of small tools can be found amongst the rocks and sand, evidence of historical food gathering and trade. The native bush is regenerating and the place is now alive with birdsong and ground dwelling weka.

Threading through this special place across Cook Strait is Wellington and Basia’s family history. Having survived Siberian internment camps, and an epic overland journey to Uzbekistan, Basia’s mother boarded a troop ship bringing weary soldiers home and arrived in Wellington in 1944. She was one of 730 Polish refugee children welcomed to this beautiful land.

Her Mother’s story of survival and the special place Basia has made in ata pō to share with her family and friends informs this exhibition of her work.

There will be an opening event for this exhibition on 12 February 5.30pm-7pm