Dalmatian Pou - Hands Across the Water


Carver: David Sarich

During my research for this project I came upon this quote in the archives of the Far North Regional Museum. It was published in a letter to the Northland Age in the early 1900s by a British storekeeper on the Waiharara Gum fields.

“He never stops. He seems to be made up of steel springs and divining rods. He has an inherent instinct for gum. He drops off a ship, direct or otherwise from his own country, makes for the gum field (without a compass) and flops on to a ton patch (of gum)”.

It was not the storekeeper's intention, but I took this as a compliment. I remember my own Grandpa still working at 95.

The starting point for the work is a small gum carving that belonged to my Grandpa Jack Sarich. He came from Makarska (which is situated on the Dalmatian Coast) in 1906 at the age of 16 and later settled in Tikinui south of Dargaville.

This carving is called 'Hands Across the Water' and represents the connection to family and friends in the old country. Two hands clasp in front of a heart.

The concept of the sculpture evolves from this small gum carving. Many of the original Dalmatians came to the north to dig gum. They were known as hard workers. Many stayed in New Zealand and later created farms, vineyards and other businesses.

Initially the men crossed the oceans to find new opportunities and the women stayed behind in the old country. When the men had saved up a bit of money they often wrote for brides from home.  Women were also busy exchanging letters with relations and asking them to find them husbands in the new land.

The male figure: has his feet firmly on the ground here in New Zealand, his gum spear is piercing the ground (planting his stake in the new land). 

The upside down female figure: suggests distance. She is still in the Northern Hemisphere, but also part of the male’s hopes and aspirations. On her feet is the town and the mountains where she comes from.

Gum: the knots in the log have been removed and filled with resin. 

Hands and hearts: hard work, fire in the belly, distance, love for the land and caring for family, team, support.  

Grapes and chalice: wine was an important part of Dalmatian culture. The chalice also relates to the importance of the Catholic Church.

Unveiling ceremony

The pou was revealed at an unveiling and blessing ceremony on Saturday 8 September 2007.