Creativity and community

Family, learning, community and creativity are cornerstones for Waimate sculptor and photographer Michael Bajko.

Michael and his partner Sue moved to Waimate in 2012 after living for many years in West Auckland where they cared for boys with autism.

Michael also worked as an actor, and taught at AUT.  

Proximity to family in Oamaru was the main drawcard, ‘though we were drawn to the landscape of Waimate'.

Michael’s learning project this year is 3D computer modelling. The study dovetails with his current art project - a limestone sculpture of moa bones. He plans to exhibit the installation in one of Waimate’s historic buildings.

‘When I came to Waimate I thought “what’s this district about?” and so I did a bit of research and history reading, and looked at the moa site at Kapua, and the Maori rock art at Moa Valley and Frenchman's Gully.’

His sculpture tells the story of the big archeological dig of moa bones at Kapua by the Canterbury Museum, and the dispersal of many of the bones to museums around the world.

‘The 3D interactive model will allow people to view the installation on the internet. I like to learn something new.  My Nana, a nuclear physicist,  said to me when I was young “You know Michael, the more I get to know, I realise the more I’ve got to learn”.’

Michael established the Storyteller Stonecarvers of Waimate group, which meets twice a week to work on their individual sculptures. They have participated in two Oamaru Stone Symposia. Their sculpture at the last symposium, in October 2017, was a memorial plinth commissioned for 'the rainbow garden', which is the newborn and infants' section of the Oamaru Cemetery. 

‘We work as a collective at the symposium. Our first one was a griffin reading the book commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publication of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and is on display at Enkledoovery Korna.’

Michael says that Waimate, like many small rural towns, is facing the challenges of de-population. Yet there’s huge potential as well - he says the architecture of the town is a national treasure that’s admired by many locals and visitors alike. 

‘I hope that local government will wake up to this potential, and support and promote it.’

Favourite thing to do:

‘Being part of the community. You have an instant connection with the people and the scenery here.’

Favourite bite to eat:

‘The boysenberries from our garden. They’re just amazing - very tasty and sweet. They ripen in the first couple of weeks of January.’

Favourite place in the district:

'The coast at the Waihao Box. Nothing could be further from Piha and Karekare, it's mesmerising.'

Find out more about the Storyteller Stone Carvers here and Michael Bajko’s photography here.

You can view and buy Michael’s photographs at Waimate eatery Cafe on Queen. 



Kate O'Connell