Elam student uses camouflage to break down boundaries

18 November 2015
Holly-Houtapa-LR
Holly Houpapa with her installation ‘Striped of Sight’

Moving from Wellington to Auckland to start University can be daunting. For Holly Houpapa, it also meant learning how to adjust to the changes in her life. With sports being a strong contender for her tertiary attentions, shifting north four years ago to begin her studies at Elam School of Fine Arts was a surprise to some back at home.

The twenty two year-old Mt Albert resident hails from a sports mad family and has been a dedicated touch rugby player since secondary school, competing at junior and youth representative levels including the 2014 Under-21 Wellington Mixed side. It wasn’t an easy decision to choose art ahead of sport.

Holly’s late maternal grandmother or ‘Nan,’ an incredibly resourceful woman, passed on her creative streak by always encouraging Holly to draw as a child; where her passion for the arts eventually won out.

Next week Holly’s years of hard work towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree comes to an end when her final submission goes on display at the Elam Grad Show. The annual exhibition held over two days attracts thousands of visitors to the University of Auckland’s city campus.

Her installation ‘Striped of Sight’ invites the audience to don a supplied, striped outfit and become camouflaged within the artwork. Despite the element of playfulness, Holly’s one-size-fits-all-garment is a direct allusion to the idea of breaking down boundaries.

Like all things in life, undertaking University studies can take its toll. But Holly acknowledges her positive journey through academic life with the support of mentors from the Tuākana programme at the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries.

The Tuākana programme offers support to Māori and Pacific Islander students and helps them settle into University life in order to succeed in their first and second years.

As Holly’s confidence grew, so did her involvement and by her third-year of study Holly became a Tuākana mentor herself, assisting new students adjust to academia.

“It was fantastic to be able to help other Māori and Pasifika students in the way I had been supported myself. It makes such a difference to have that tautoko (support) and whakawhanaungatanga (building relationships with others) around,” she says.

Holly plans to spend the summer in Wellington. Her only regret is that her Nan is not alive to see her creative achievements.

“Nan would have loved all this and I know that she would be delighted if she were here today.”

The 2015 Elam Graduate Show

10am-4pm,
Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November,
Elam School of Fine Arts: 20 Whitaker Place, 5 Symonds Street (Elam B) and 25a Princes Street (George Fraser Gallery), the University of Auckland.

For more information about the Elam Graduate Show visit www.creative.auckland.ac.nz

Media queries to m.playfair@auckland.ac.nz