Slow Art in the Maniototo

A conversation with Grahame Sydney about his involvement with the Maniototo.

How did your involvement with the Maniototo begin?

When I was 13 or 14 my parents built a little crib in Arrowtown, where we went for holidays. Getting there from Dunedin usually meant going the fast way through Lawrence and Roxburgh into the only landscape that was considered worth seeing – the Lakes district. But sometimes Dad would get it into his head – against an overall protest from the family – to go the boring way through the Pigroot. Those journeys were my first exposure to the Maniototo. Through them I became aware of the magnificent vast empty interior of Otago.

And the Maniototo suits slow art? Very much so, and slow people. In places like this, where there is so little going on, you feel very much more acutely your own insignificance. And that’s essential for me. I love the fact that in places like this Nature keeps winning. Whereas in places like Queenstown and Wanaka commerce pretends to have the upper hand. Indeed, is ruinously demonstrating it. The beauty of the Maniototo is elusive, and it’s that elusiveness that I love the idea of trying to find. My role in life, I think, has become one of trying to find beauty where others don’t find it. By turning common things into art your add beauty to the world. Elevate the ordinary, I heard someone call it. Those two elements, the inward journey of what I do and the looking for beauty in unexpected places – making beautiful what nature hasn’t necessarily made beautiful – I think that’s me in a