On Waitangi Day, we had the privilege of attending local artist Andrea Hopkins’ floor talk as she guided us around her exhibition at the Whangarei Art Museum.

Taunted in primary school for being a “half-caste”, Andrea’s painting is politically and socially perceptive. It is a celebration of her cultural identity and indomitable creative spirit, expressed through her prodigious talent. I say prodigious advisedly — I taught Andrea in Standard Four.

Back then, Art Adviser Roger Hardy recognised her gift though the young artist herself was oblivious to having anything special. In her words, “Art was all I had.”

She is now aged 44, and Andrealand is an apt title for her retrospective and new works. With humour and self-deprecation, she talked openly about the journey she’s taken through her art. She made light of the struggle to survive, the brokendown cars, getting towed away and the need to sell the painting in the back seat to get the car back.

Without being on the Treaty Grounds, this was as authentic a Waitangi Day experience as I could have. Andrealand is an exhibition well worth seeing and a story that needs to be told.

– Patricia Fenton.