The Aotea Tapestry


Robert Ellis



  • Textile Work


  • Wool


  • H11,600 x W6400mm

Robert Ellis, ‘The Aotea Tapestry’ (1989), Aotea Centre, CBD, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Image: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021


Information installed with the work reads:

“This significant tapestry took six hand weavers nearly two years to finish. Woven at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop in Melbourne, the scale of the work required a custom-made loom.

The design showcases the rich traditional culture of Tāmaki-makau-rau (the Auckland region). A volcanic landscape that lies beneath the Southern skies. The stars of Te Huihui O Matariki (Pleiades) signal annual replenishment of earthly resources.

Abundant sea life, fertile land and the open hand of friendship feature. The water fountain stands for life force; and alpha and omega bookmark beginning and end of all things.”

As Tara Werner explains, the "variety of star chart symbols, based on the southern skies, establishes geographic location and navigation reference points. The constellation Pleiades or Te Huihui o Matariki relates to the annual replenishment of earthly resources. Beneath this is a landscape formed by elemental natural forces... Cartographic symbols, surveyors' marks and weather chart signs also define the physical nature of the landscape.

Auckland is situated on an isthmus, and the fish symbolises the abundance and diversity of marine life. John Dory in particular has long-established spiritual connotations; it is poised over an open hand of friendship and good fortune. Astronomical, astrological and botanical characters, signifying riches and prosperity, embellish the hand.

In the lower left a fountain of pure water acts as a sustaining life force, and as a cleansing agent removing the Tapu (sacred nature) of the work. In the corners, the ancient signs of Alpha and Omega relate to the beginning and ending of all things and the perpetual life cycle."

‘The Aotea Tapestry’ hangs in pride of place between the doors to the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre in Aotea Centre, hanging from level 4 to level 2. The tapestry can be viewed from the McConnell Dowell Balcony between doors D and E on level 4, from the BNZ foyer also on level 4, and between doors A and B on the Owens Foyer on level 2.

Aotea Centre opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
  • Saturday, Sunday & Public holidays: Open when scheduled events are taking place in the Aotea Centre. The venue opens 90 minutes before an event/show.

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