Our Favourite Vessels

What do kids, an asthma inhaler, mugs, uku tangi and a keepsake box have in common?

Posted on
21.11.21

This issue had us taking a moment to reflect on the vessels in our lives. A vessel is something that holds things – it can be a gourd, a mug, a taonga pūoro. A vessel can be tangible or intangible like the human body or the individual cells in the human body, the microcosm in the macrocosm. Vessels are all around us!

In an ode to vessels everywhere, Lana Lopesi, Sinead Overbye, Ana McAllister, Faith Wilson and Ataria Sharman share their favourites.

Kids

I’ve been walking around the house for half an hour trying to decide on my most important vessel. I haven’t been given any vases or vessels of significance from family members, and wonder if it could be something as simple as my latest Moleskine, holding all of my current thoughts. Then I realise I am my most important vessel; we all are. Our bodies are incredible vessels that grow our future ancestors, and mine held my most precious measina – my kids. At the risk of getting soppy, maybe I’ll stop there. LL

Image: Sinead Overbye

Inhaler and Spacer

A couple of months ago, I got really sick, and it lasted for weeks. I was waking each night unable to breathe and was coughing uncontrollably. I wasn’t sleeping properly, couldn’t take in enough air, and found my whole life was being disrupted. After a few negative Covid tests and multiple misdiagnoses, I was finally given an asthma inhaler and spacer. That first pump of the inhaler almost instantly healed me – and I was able to breathe deeply once more!

Being Māori during a global pandemic is pretty terrifying. We are already more at risk than others of developing a whole smorgasbord of diseases, from diabetes to rheumatic fever to cancer. So living with multiple symptoms for so long during Delta times really set my paranoia to high alert. In the end, I was grateful to have lucked out with such a great emergency doctor, who gave me the treatment I needed. So I reckon my inhaler is my most important vessel right now, for making it possible for me to keep breathing :) SO

Uku Tangi, Ana McAllister, 2021

Uku Tangi

My favourite vessels right now are my uku tangi. At the start of this lockdown, I bought some air-dry clay and started making taonga pūoro. I’m unable to access my studio at my whare, ‘cause I’m locking down with my partner, but needed a creative outlet of SOME description to balance out my other, less physical, mahi. Uku tangi are modelled off the shapes and forms of hue, a taonga pūoro under the realm of the atua Hine Pū te Hue, who took the anger of the other atua into herself and became the hue, bringing peace. Recreating her forms feels good during lockdown. The uku tangi started off as blobby forms, and not all of them sang. As they got better, I started to paint them with kōkōwai (earth pigment), and now, the uku is mixed with kōkōwai, the ikura of Papatūānuku, carved, and adorned with huru from native manu. So far I have made 106 in 82 days. AM

Image: Faith Wilson

Mugs

I just realised I don’t own many vessel-y things, but I’m a real mug person. I’m that biarch in the office who’s like “Don’t touch my mug”, and I even keep it on my desk so nobody else can use it. At home, I don’t have a personal favourite, but here are four that are special to me, a) because they’re beautiful, but b) more importantly because the people who gave them to me are special. And they hold the many cups of coffee and tea I drink per day, especially when writing. FW

The panels in the background are also Ataria's grandmas. Image: Te Piha Niha

Cloisonné Box

My grandma passed away earlier this year, and I was allowed to pick some keepsake items to remember her by. One of the pieces I received was a circular, golden box covered in delicate metal strips that create the forms of brightly coloured dragons – two on the box and one on the lid. Spaced outside of the dragon figures are coloured swirls and other shapes that could be flowers or clouds. In the box, I found a tiny, typed note that reads “tour a cloisonné factory”. I googled ‘cloisonné’ and found out that the box itself is made in this style, a technique for decorating metalwork objects with coloured material separated by metal strips or wire that is a well-known traditional art form in China.

I spoke to my mum, and she remembered Grandma visiting my uncle in Beijing a few years ago, where she could’ve gone to a cloisonné factory and bought this piece. I think I can quite safely assume Grandma put the note in there, as she would often leave little notes around her house. My guess is that she typed it in the hope that she would visit a cloisonné factory one day, and when she finally did, she put the note in this box. Of course, I will never know for sure, but regardless, it’s special to have something Grandma wrote when she was still alive – stored safely inside this beautiful vessel. – AS

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