Kazu Nakagawa

Carving Water Painting Voice

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Carving Water, Painting Voice is an installation artwork themed around human migrations - the journeys undertaken by those seeking a new homeland. Artist Kazu Nakagawa has been developing this theme and initial mock-ups for over two years, culminating in the development of a sculptural/sonic work to be exhibited at headland Sculpture On The Gulf, 2017. The project centres on a traditional Niuean canoe - an evocation of journeying - that rests on a bed of carved paddles, and on a sonic bed, created by composer Helen Bowater. This project, which has been self-funded since its inception, needs financial support to complete.

Join us on our journey to make this work a reality for the 2017 headland Sculpture on the Gulf exhibition.

A Pacific pre-modern canoe and a number of paddles are to be installed on the hill above Matiatia Bay, Waiheke Island. The piece is assembled from recorded voices: people talking and singing about their personal journeys in their native languages, minlged together into a fabric, beyond languages and cultures. By syncronising these elements, 'CARVING WATER' and 'PAINTING VOICE' a specturm of cultures become unified. 

'CARVING WATER': water is motion, an inverted landscape beneath the boats of our migrations, a physical and virtual architecture. Oceanic rhythms and cycles never stay the same.We carve trails through water with our journeys. 

'PAINTING VOICE': presents a  sonic intepretation of human migration as a flow and interplay of voices emanating from the canoe - the stories of people recounted and sung in their native languages. 

The canoe - Toa Moana, made from material salvaged in Niue after Cyclone Heta (2004) was built by Niue's last vaka master carver, Tamafai Fihiniu, as a gift of gratitude in response to New Zealand's substantial relief effort. The canoe fared badly in transit to Waiheke and deteriorated further over time. The canoe's custodians, the Waiheke Waka Ama club, offered it Kazu in 2016 to rebuild into an artwork.

Due to the cultural significance of the canoe, this work, Carving Water Painting Voice won't be for sale. Kazu is seeking sponsorship to donate it on to an appropriate institution for a public space. 

Aside from an extensive renovation of the vessel, a set of paddles is being carved by Kazu and a sonic composition (to emanate from the bow and stern of the canoe) will be created by Helen. The paddles and the canoe restoration have taken six months to date and has required a personal contribution of $20,000 by Kazu. The work needs a further $8,000 (at least) to bring to completion, final preparation and running the project during the three-week event.

Your support to make this work a reality would be greatly appreciated. 

Kazu, Helen and the project team.

Our website adds another dimension to this project with stories of emigres who have lent their voices to the artwork. 





  • Installation Day Five


    Our campaign is coming to its end in 3 days time, already exceeding my most hope. This is my return to everyone who supported and sent wishes for the project Carving Water Painting Voice.
    ('String' sung by Kazu Nakagawa)

  • Installation Day One


    It's the day one, and the canoe was carried out from the studio to the headland site, and installing the work has began.
    ('Longing Home' sung by Mika Iwashita)


  • Sonic Ocean


    Helen speaks about composing for Carving Water Painting Voice.


  • The dynamics of the project contributions


    The project artist, Kazu Nakagawa talks about dynamics of the project contributions from all over the world.

  • Wave-like nature of migration and sound


    This is the article about the project, written by Geoff Cumming, in the Gulf News, latest issue.

    Read, Wave-like nature of migration and sound

    Wave-like nature of migration and sound
  • Talk by Kazu Nakagawa