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Eels will tell the story of new library’s watery world

26 May 2005

Imagine sitting on the banks of a local river, book in hand, as shoals of eels swim past your feet. It’s a vision that Christchurch artist Bing Dawe is bringing to reality as the new Parklands Library takes shape on Queenspark Drive.

The unique artworks being created for Christchurch City Libraries will give the building a strong local identity, as they tell the story of its land before European settlement. The Parklands neighbourhood was originally covered by wetlands which sustained a host of native birds, fish and eels, and became a source of food for local Maori tribes. Nearby Travis Wetland is one of the few remnants of a landscape which once extended across the whole area, including the library site.

It’s this distinctive story which Bing Dawe is weaving and shaping into a huge river of eels, which will run as carpet through the library from its main street entrance, connecting to a sculpture outside the library in the form of a large hoop with 3 eels on its top edge. As well as linking to the past, the artworks will remind us that what goes into our waterways today affects our environment, including the birds and fish which use our rivers and wetlands. 

Parklands’ art and design consultant, Mark McEntyre, says the artworks will help to make the library an exciting space: “They’re real, they’re accessible, people will be able to touch them and walk on them. As children play on the library floor, they’ll be playing in the river. While they’re reading their stories, we’ll also be sharing the story of the area with them through Bing’s work.”

The river carpet has been specially produced to cope with the tough demands of the library, where furniture will be constantly on the move to create different layouts at different parts of the day. Christchurch company Dilana Rugs have masterminded the project, including tracking down a special type of hard-wearing carpet able to be printed with Bing’s design.

Final touches are now being made to the eel sculpture and carpet, ready for installation before the library opens in late July.

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