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From the Rivers to the Shore and the accompanying exhibition, The Flyway Print Exchange, are art projects that explore the connectivity of place through migratory birds. The shorebirds that nest on the South Island’s braided river beds and seek northern warmer waters over winter, and those others that move annually from New Zealand estuaries to breed in the distant reaches of Alaska, reflect our own migratory traditions.
The shifting stones of the braided river network form a breeding environment for a wealth of unique birds, such as the endemic wrybill, with the curious sideways kink to its bill, the critically endangered black stilt as well as its cousin the pied stilt, also flocks of terns and the black-billed gull. The shell banks and tidal reaches of northern harbours play host to many of these species over winter, causing a constant fluctuations in populations and feeding areas. Flocks of wrybill have been observed at Little Shoal Bay, within a stone’s throw of the Harbour Bridge, long way geographically and metaphorically from their nesting grounds in Canterbury high country. All of these birds face multiple threats in both their breeding grounds and overwintering locations, it is hoped that this exhibition will increase awareness and highlight local opportunities to help keep these birds safe.
The Flyway Print Exchange is an international project that echoed the flight of birds through the artworks produced. This project saw 20 printmakers from across the East-Asian Australasian Flyway for migratory birds produce an edition of prints to raise funds for shorebird research. A print by each artist was posted unpackaged along the migration routes of the birds, from Australia and New Zealand through Asia to Alaska and back, and are exhibited showing all the stamps and marks of their journeys, alongside a pristine set of the 20 artworks.
The artists involved in these two projects range from Aboriginal printmakers from remote communities, to urban city dwellers of Melbourne and Auckland, local Oxford and Canterbury artists, and others from more distant parts of New Zealand. This exhibition is a chance to bring these works together to show our different responses to the surrounding environment, reflecting on why these birds make these places home.