Archive for the 'Announcements and invitations' Category

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography rides again

Painting of two men and a lobster

Joseph Banks bartering with a Māori for a lobster. Watercolour and pencil by Tupaia, 1769. Source: British Library Reference: MS ADD 15508, folio 12

This week Te Ara marks an important milestone: the publication of the first new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entry since 2011. Joan Druett has written a new entry on the Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, the subject of her award-winning biography published in 2011. We’re delighted to announce that this marks the beginning of a new phase in the life of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

The Dictionary was originally published in five print volumes between 1990 and 2000, under the general editorship of W.H. Oliver and later Claudia Orange. It comprised biographies of more than 3000 people who had risen to prominence before 1960 and died before the publication cut-off date of 1998. No living person was eligible for inclusion. Separate volumes reprinted the biographies of the nearly 500 Maori subjects in te reo Maori, which together with the te reo sections of Te Ara constitutes the largest Maori-language publishing programme ever conducted.

In late 2001 all the biographies were made available online, with a team of researchers locating images and in some cases audio and video recordings to illustrate the essays. In 2010 the online biographies were relaunched as part of Te Ara, with the biographies and encyclopedia entries enriching and amplifying each other. Fifteen new biographies were added to Te Ara in 2010–11.

Happily the Dictionary’s time has come again, and from 2018 onwards we will release a small batch of new biographies annually. The first round will place the spotlight on a number of high-achieving women, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Subsequent rounds will illuminate the lives of significant and representative people from a cross-section of New Zealand society, with a focus on the decades after 1960. The new biographies will be released online only.

We’re still working through the details, but the new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography will honour the tradition of rigorous and broad-ranging scholarship established by the Dictionary’s original editors, staff, working groups and authors. They have left big shoes to fill.

We love Papers Past

Earlier this week a number of the Research and Publishing Group headed along to a crowded presentation at the National Library about the revamped Papers Past website.

Papers Past's new interface

Papers Past's new interface

We’ve long loved this marvellous resource. Even in its early days, when it only had a few titles like the Grey River Argus and the Ashburton Guardian, it saved us so many hours of research. No more was your only option to trek to the local library and trawl through microfilm in the faint hope of spotting something relevant. With Papers Past, you might find what you were looking for in under five minutes from the comfort of your home or office! And if not, a Papers Past search would inevitably offer up leads to help narrow a microfilm search from a decade, to a year, or even a month.

As time went on, new titles were added bringing with them new possibilities. From being able to select a local newspaper when looking for information from a particular region, to being able to look at periods as recent as the 1930s and 1940s.

We admit we were a little worried when we heard the website might change. Fortunately, the good people at the National Library understand this and listened to what its users wanted.

The revamped Papers Past seems better than ever. Not only are yet more titles coming, but they’ve made it so much easier to search newspapers by region, to search across a range of publications including newspapers, magazines, letters and diaries (instead of having to visit a bunch of separate websites), and it’s all mobile friendly. Oh and each page now has a print button!

Thanks Papers Past team.

Te Ara’s Creative and Intellectual Life launched

Sam Neill launching Creative and Intellectual Life

Sam Neill launching Creative and Intellectual Life

Last evening a sparkling celebratory event at The Paramount in Wellington saw Sam Neill launch the Creative and Intellectual Life theme of Te Ara.

The presentation interspersed highlights from Te Ara’s new theme, projected in mammoth size on the big screen, with living cultural performances. Along with Sam Neill’s droll humour, there was a powerful welcome in the form of a haka pōwhiri performed by Ngā Tai Hononga o Marutawhiti, two contrasting poems from Hinemoana Baker (one about death and the second a humorous comment on rugby), a gripping performance from the New Zealand School of Dance and music afterwards from Rio Hunuki-Hemopo with guest artists.

Ngā Tai Hononga o Marutawhiti performing a haka pōwhiri

Ngā Tai Hononga o Marutawhiti performing a haka pōwhiri

Creative and Intellectual Life comprises 103 stories organised into nine sections and about 3,000 resources in the form of images, sound files, graphs, maps, interactives and film and television clips. The best way to enjoy this feast of new content is to begin reading and browsing; and I fully expect (and hope) that you will find it hard to stop. But, just to whet your appetite, here are a few of the themes running through the stories that struck me and which I presented last night.

Multi-media creativity

Much of the creative art we included doesn’t fit into neat pigeonholes by genre – rather, it spans media. Albert Wendt, novelist, is also a painter; Douglas Wright, dancer, is also a marvellous writer. And artists in one medium interact with others. Last night, for example, we showed Colin McCahon’s wonderful ‘Walk (series C)‘, a painted tribute to his friend James K. Baxter which ‘walks’ along Muriwai Beach contemplating Baxter’s life and recent death.

Poet Hinemoana Baker performs

Poet Hinemoana Baker performs

Cultural diversity

New Zealand creativity has been enriched by the dialogue of Māori and Pakehā, with each drawing on the other – Māori used western traditions of literacy and music; Pakehā modernist such as Gordon Walters drew on the Māori koru. And the country has gained hugely from distinctive cultural traditions: English choral music, Scots pipe bands, and Pacific humour and music.

The importance of land and the natural world

The tapering cocoon of the case moth inspired the shape of the Pūtōrino, the Māori flute. European painters made the land their favourite subject – from William Hodges melodramatic take on Cook Strait on Cook’s second voyage, to Karl Maughan’s hyperrealism. Even in film, a young Brian Brake, better known now for his photography, first made his name with a lyrical documentary, ‘The Snows of Aorangi‘ (1955), the first New Zealand film nominated for an Academy Award.

Senior editor Jock Phillips takes us through some highlights of Creative and Intellectual Life

Senior editor Jock Phillips takes us through some highlights of Creative and Intellectual Life

The body

The body is a site for wearable art, whether a stunning kahu huruhuru or a 1980s fashion design. And the body is an instrument for creative culture – the vigorous pūkana in kapa haka or the voice of Malvina Major.

Institutional support

Creative culture rarely comes from the isolated tormented artist. It flourishes more when institutions encourage it and give it a home – in the form of galleries, museums, festivals, publishers and the award of prizes.

Some of the amazing dancers from the New Zealand School of Dance

Some of the amazing dancers from the New Zealand School of Dance

International recognition

Finally this theme provides many examples where New Zealand creativity has impacted on the world, and the world has stood and applauded. They include Te Māori at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Neil Dawson at Paris’s Pompidou Centre, the Flight of the Conchords on the Simpsons, Lorde at the Grammy’s, the Symphony Orchestra in Vienna, and New Zealand at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (second from left) with guest artists

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (second from left) with guest artists

This is just one journey through a wonderfully verdant forest – take a look and we hope you can follow your own pathway. Whichever route you take, we can promise plenty of glorious stops along the way. Enjoy Creative and intellectual Life!

Sam Neill chatting with launch attendees

Sam Neill chatting with launch attendees

The mighty pen

Poet and academic Bill Manhire (click for image credit)

Poet and academic Bill Manhire (click for image credit)

At a moment when we seem to be remembering the contribution that the sword of war made to our nation’s history, it is salutary to recall that the pen is even mightier. Today we highlight the release of five fascinating and beautifully written stories which tell the history of writing in this country and the contribution it has made to the sense of ourselves. They are Fiction, Non-fiction, Criticism and the arts, Intellectuals and Publishing.

Lydia Wevers, in a nicely measured survey of novels and short stories, suggests something of the range of approaches in our fiction writing. I was struck by the contrast in the styles and interests of the female authors from the male in early New Zealand fiction – women’s tended towards romance, while men wrote rollicking pioneering accounts. However, things are never that straightforward – several women confused the issue, such as Edith Lyttleton, who published about back-country men under the name G. B. Lancaster, and Iris Wilkinson, who wrote, among many other works, a novel about men at war, Passport to hell, under her pen name Robin Hyde. There is much to explore and recall in the fiction story, but I particularly invite you to look at two great film clips that focus on the literary beginnings of Katherine Mansfield and Ngaio Marsh, and a sound recording of Frank Sargeson talking about his realisation that he needed to write with a New Zealand voice.

Alex Calder begins his excellent study of New Zealand’s non-fiction with the problem that the genre has always had a negative identity – it is, as Calder writes, ‘everything published that happens not to be fiction, poetry or drama’. He prefers to use the term ‘creative non-fiction’ to emphasise that just because the subject is the empirical world, the act of writing about it is no less a creative exercise. The subject matter he canvasses ranges from studies of exploration, Māori life and pioneering, through to biographies, history and feminist critiques.

Some of Anne Salmond's history books

Some of Anne Salmond's history books

‘Creative’ writing, whether fictional or documentary, is greatly assisted by three factors – a community of writers, a culture of debate and criticism, and a publishing industry to print and distribute writing. The three remaining stories treat each of these in turn.

Chris Hilliard tackles the community issue in an original discussion of the existence, or non-existence, of ‘intellectuals‘ in New Zealand. He suggests that, by comparison with 19th-century Britain or Europe, colonial New Zealand lacked the supporting structures to allow intellectuals to flourish. But from the 1930s, as university colleges became established and the depression invited searching questions, communities of writers and artists emerged. Christchurch’s artistic and intellectual community, including the Caxton Press, The Group and Tomorrow magazine, looms large in the story.

The Christchurch intellectuals, and especially Allen Curnow, also have an important place in Rebecca Rice and Mark Williams’s elegant exploration of criticism of literature and the arts. They suggest that until the 20th century, apart from newspaper reviews, there was little sustained arts criticism in New Zealand. Crucial to its emergence was the appearance of serious magazines and journals – Phoenix, Tomorrow, Landfall and, from the 1970s on, And, Antic and Art New Zealand. Good writing feeds off dialogue and debate.

Lead type thought to have been used by William Colenso in the 1830s for printing some of the earliest New Zealand publications

Lead type thought to have been used by William Colenso in the 1830s for printing some of the earliest New Zealand publications (click for image credit)

Finally, New Zealand writing could never have flourished in the way that it has without the huge contribution of the publishing industry. In a fine, comprehensive overview Elizabeth Caffin shows how long it took before New Zealand-based publishers provided a welcome to local ‘creative’ authors. There was early publishing, but it tended to be missionary works for Māori, government gazettes or almanacs for settlers. Fiction writers and historians had to look overseas for an outlet. Local publishers Whitcombe and Tombs concentrated on educational works and A. H. & A. W. Reed on populist topics. It was not really until the later 20th century that Reeds took on more serious work, overseas presses set up local houses, and a host of smaller local publishers emerged to encourage creative writing in different genres. Not that the story of publishing in New Zealand is one of ‘onwards and upwards’ – Caffin ends this valuable survey with comments about the impact of e-publishing and the increasing concentration of multinational publishers, as they have merged with each other in recent years.

But, at a time when over 2,000 titles are published in New Zealand each year, when people flock to literary festivals such as last weekend’s WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, when last year one of our novelists won the Man Booker prize and two years ago the government invested much time and money promoting New Zealand at the Frankfurt Book Fair, surely we can claim that creative writing has become central to the country. Long live the New Zealand pen! Or, at least, the Kiwi keyboard.

Great War Stories

On this 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, we are delighted to have played a major role in a series of ‘Great War Stories’.  Each of the seven stories deals with a particular person (or in one case a horse!) and tells of how the war impacted on that individual. A different story will be played in the middle of TV3 News every night for the next seven days.

It has been a long and fascinating journey to this moment. It began about two years ago, when we were preparing Te Ara’s story on the First World War. That war was such a huge, cataclysmic event that affected everybody in this society, so we were looking for a way to make it real at a human level. We came up with the idea of telling the story through its effect upon one individual; so we prepared a short film on George Bollinger. Bollinger was a fairly typical Kiwi bloke in 1914 – a keen rugby player, a strong believer in the British Empire, a member of the local territorial force. When war broke out he volunteered quickly and, being strong (actually at 6 foot 4 inches (1.9 metres), he was the tallest man in the ‘main body’ of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force), he was accepted. He sailed off with the Expeditionary Force in October 1914, then on to Egypt and finally to Gallipoli.

So far so good, but he was different from his peers in one respect – his father was a German, who had migrated to Taranaki in the 1870s. Some people in New Zealand society had no time for people ‘of German birth’, so before long George Bollinger became the butt of rumours and letters to ministers and MPs. How this impacted on George was the essence of the film.

George Bollinger, 1916 (Ref: PAColl-0049-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

George Bollinger, 1916 (Ref: PAColl-0049-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

We prepared a script and put it together in-house, using images from the Alexander Turnbull Library. The formula seemed to work, so the idea emerged that perhaps we should do a series of these war stories for the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

I went and visited Chris Szekely, chief librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library, and asked if the Turnbull would like to join us in this project. He accepted with alacrity. So did Alan Ferris at Archives New Zealand when I asked him the same question. Before long we had an exciting cross-agency project underway. We (the Ministry for Culture and Heritage), Turnbull and Archives each brainstormed possible stories. Then we came together and chose the 25 best ones.

At that point a number of ministry historians – Gareth Phipps, Matthew Tonks, Martha van Drunen, Imelda Bargas and myself – prepared research files on each story. Then these were handed to the noted playwright Dave Armstrong, who had written short scripts for our ‘Roadside Stories‘, audio guides to places around New Zealand, that we made in 2011. He once again prepared scripts for these short films. Our intention at that point was to find actors and put together the stories ourselves for our websites.

Then I received a phone call one day from Anna Cottrell. She explained that she had been proposing to TV3 a series of short stories about different individuals involved in the Great War. She was about to seek support from NZ on Air, but had just found out that we had a similar idea. We met, and very quickly an obvious win-win solution surfaced: let’s work together! The ministry would do the research and checking, Turnbull and Archives would search out the relevant images, documents and film clips, and Anna Cottrell and her team would put together the short films to be shown on TV3. NZ on Air were impressed and so the venture took off.

It has been a wonderful ride. Together with Anna and her team, we chose the first seven stories to be produced and broadcast. We looked for a range that would tell of the experiences of men and women, Māori and Pākehā, battle heroes and opponents of the war, the home front and the muddy trenches. Then Anna, using the research and the scripts, set about filming the stories. She has done a magnificent job.

The first seven Great War Stories are:

  • Lady Liverpool – The men go forth to battle, the women wait – and knit: Monday 4 August
  • Keith Caldwell – Grid’s great escape: Tuesday 5 August
  • Rikihana Carkeek – A warrior of Tūmatauenga: Wednesday 6 August
  • Leonard Hart – New Zealand’s darkest day: Thursday 7 August
  • Henry Pickerill and Harold Gillies – The changing faces of war: Friday 8 August
  • Mark Briggs – The courage of conviction: Saturday 9 August
  • Bess – Lucky horse: Sunday 10 August.

After screening, the stories will also be available, with supporting information, on

We hope you take time to watch the stories and that you learn from them something about the extraordinary impact the Great War inflicted upon the peoples of this country.