63 Māui Dolphins installation at the Whaingaroa Environment Centre. Raglan (New Zealand) May 2019
This installation of drawings depicts the entire population of Māui Dolphins. According to a recent population survey there are approximately 63 individuals over 1 year of age. This endemic species lives solely along the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. I made these drawings using simple tools: black ink, seawater and a dip pen made from recycled materials. As the salt water interacted with the drawing it caused the ink to separate — creating a rust-like appearance and colour variations of blue and orange. The seawater worked deep into the fibre of the paper, embedding into the drawing tiny fragments of plants, microorganisms and salt from the dolphins’ natural environment. The drawings are pinned through to the wall, similar to how butterflies are mounted in a collector’s study. This installation revolves around the theme of scientific specimens. It echoes the fragility of a delicate species.
I created this work as a counterpart to an installation about a species in a similar situation off the coast of Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada). The southern resident killer whales also live in a small geographic area. The artwork, Southern Resident Killer Whales 3.0, contains the total number of orca in this population. It has been exhibited 3 times to date, each time the population number has changed: 2017 – 78, 2018 – 76 and 2019 – 74 but increasing to 75 individuals. Both of these artworks are created to mimic the fluctuations of each population.
Most of my work revolves around cetaceans from the North Pacific. It has been an interesting journey coming to New Zealand to learn about the cetaceans, research and conservation work that is happening in the South Pacific. When I heard about the Māui Dolphins I felt an immediate connection with this species because they reminded me of the seventy-five remaining individuals of the southern resident killer whales from my local area in Canada. Spending time drawing and cutting out each member of the Māui Dolphin population has given me a greater sense connection towards a species I only recently learned about.