Archive for the 'Announcements and invitations' Category

Mining history in music

Mining and music do not often go together, but on Saturday 10 May the Orpheus Choir of Wellington presents a concert paying tribute to mining communities worldwide and to events that have irrevocably changed their lives. Premiere performances will be given of three new works related to mining in New Zealand and overseas. The 150-strong Orpheus Choir will be joined by the award-winning Wellington Brass Band and Wellington Young Voices.

The concert features a new work by legendary New Zealand singer-songwriter Dave Dobbyn, who has been commissioned to write a tribute to the 29 West Coast miners who died in the Pike River mine disaster in 2010.

The second work is ‘If blood be the price,’ composed by Ross Harris to words by poet Vincent O’Sullivan commemorating the death of Fred Evans, a miner who was killed during the Waihī miner’s strike in 1912. This work was specially commissioned by the Wellington Brass Band Association.

The major work in the concert is the New Zealand premiere of ‘17 days’ by British composer James McCarthy, inspired by the dramatic rescue in 2012 of 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days. This work has been widely acclaimed in Britain, and the chorus ‘Do dreams lie deeper‘ is now sung as a standalone concert piece.

The concert is in the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday 10 May. For those outside Wellington, it is also being broadcast on the same day, starting at 8 p.m., on Radio New Zealand Concert.

A glam bunch of entries

Viewing art, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui, 1958 (click for image credit)

Viewing art, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui, 1958 (click for image credit)

GLAMs – galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Without their support and the expertise of their staff, the Te Ara Resource Team would not be able to bring you the wide range of images, film and sound files that we do.

This April Te Ara is launching three entries that are very dear to our hearts:

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten Museums – that entry will be launched later in the year.

Since the beginning of the Te Ara project, we’ve had the support of museums, galleries, libraries and archives throughout New Zealand and all over the world. We would like to acknowledge their support and highlight a few things you might not have known about them.

  • Before the establishment of National Archives (now Archives New Zealand), government archives were stored all over Wellington city. When fire broke out in the Hope Gibbons building in 1952, numerous public records were destroyed or damaged.
  • Auckland City Libraries are home to the Sir George Grey special collections. Ranging in scope from illuminated medieval manuscripts to photographs, the initial collection was acquired by Sir George Grey, governor of New Zealand, and gifted to the country in 1887.
  • The National Art Gallery building in Wellington was requisitioned by the air force during the Second World War. The paintings were stored in Hastings for the duration of the war. They were returned to the gallery in 1949.

We would also like to acknowledge just some of the repositories that we work with every day. There are too many to list them all, but here are just a few:

Archives New Zealand, which supplies us with newsreels like this; Radio New Zealand Sound Archives, who are keepers of songs like this, the New Zealand Film Archive, which has supplied us with many films for the upcoming entries in our Creative and Intellectual Life theme, and of course TVNZ Television Archive.

We also source material from specialist archives, like the Christchurch Anglican Diocesan Archives, the Society of Mary Archives and the Presbyterian Archive. Banks like BNZ and Westpac have their own archives and museums. Crown research institutes like GNS Science and Landcare Research also have libraries and archives.

Regional libraries and archives have always shown us a great deal of support, especially when we were working on our Places entries. We would particularly like to thank the Wairarapa Archive, Palmerston North Library, Hastings Library and Tauranga Library.

Te Ara’s resource researchers and writers regularly visit the Alexander Turnbull Library and use the collections of research libraries like the Hocken Library and Macmillan Brown Library.

We also source artworks and archives from galleries in the four main centres, as well as regional galleries like Timaru’s Aigantighe Art Gallery.

It is always a pleasure to showcase the collections of New Zealand galleries, libraries and archives on Te Ara. We hope that you enjoy the images, films and sound files in these new entries and join us in thanking all the librarians, archivists, curators, technicians and collection managers who make these resources available.

Les Cleveland: a genuinely good bloke, and historian too

Christmas Eve 1959, photograph by the multi-talented Les Cleveland

Christmas Eve 1959, photograph by the multi-talented Les Cleveland

‘Journalist, editor, photographer, mountaineer, music historian, and academic’ – so reads the description of Les Cleveland on the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection website. To this we might add ‘musician, author, war veteran and genuinely good Kiwi bloke’. Les was one of those New Zealanders who was an impressively multi-faceted versatile person. In a small society we need talented people who can fill many roles, and Les did so with aplomb.

He was also extraordinarily modest, which is perhaps why, although he died at the end of January this year, the media, from newspapers to blogs, have allowed his passing to happen with barely a mention that I can find. Characteristically, he wanted no funeral and no fuss. But we can’t let the old bastard slip away without a brief tribute.

I can’t pretend to have known Les well; but, as I suspect did many others, I discovered the range of his talents by degrees. I first came across him when I was researching the culture of New Zealand soldiers at war. I wanted to get behind the fine rhetoric and the smug claims about our wonderful gentlemen diggers to try to uncover the attitudes of the men themselves. Someone put me onto a book, The songs we sang, a collection of war songs from New Zealand soldiers in the Second World War. They were earthy and direct, at times smutty, and I felt I was getting closer to the men. I also discovered an LP (there were in fact two) on which the author of the book, one Les Cleveland, had recorded some of these ditties.

To my joy, I then discovered that the very same author and songster was a lecturer in the Political Science department of Victoria University of Wellington, where I too was teaching. This was a piece of luck, because at the time I was teaching a university extension course on Kiwi men. I was always keen to have visiting speakers on the course who could speak from personal experience. Ken Gray used to come along and tell us what it was like in the All Black scrum and on the back seat of their bus. So, I invited Les to come along and talk about the ‘real’ attitudes Kiwi soldiers held towards the war. He was riveting and he showed, often with fruity examples, how soldiers found an outlet for their anti-authoritarian attitudes in the songs they sang and the poetry they recited. He spoke with a down-to-earth directness and an honesty that was instantly appealing.

Intrigued by his ideas, I did some more digging and discovered that he had actually written up these ideas in an internationally published article, and that, in addition to his collection of war songs, he had compiled an anthology of Second World War poetry. Nor was this all. I found that this academic work included pieces about pressure groups and newspapers in New Zealand (which was hardly surprising given as I have subsequently discovered that he was once a reporter for Truth). He had also extended his interest in folk songs by putting out another collection, the Great New Zealand songbook, and had even devised an opera based on gold miners’ songs.

Then I discovered another aspect of Les Cleveland’s creative output. I came across a new book edited by Athol McCredie and Janet Bayly called Witness to change. It focused on the work of three documentary photographers of the 1940s and 1950s: John Pascoe, Ans Westra (both of whom I knew about) and Les Cleveland. I had no idea that he belonged in such august company, but he certainly did. His photographs documented both the passing world of the West Coast – publicans, sawmillers, bushmen, the Kumara races – and also some of the old wooden buildings of the coast and of Wellington. They were an invaluable record of a fading past. I managed to track down his book of images from the West Coast, Silent land.

Witness to change provided some recognition of his contribution as a photographer, and later he had a solo exhibition at the City Gallery Wellington. But it is interesting that even now the web database of New Zealand artists has a page on Les Cleveland, but the only content is his date of birth – 1921 – not even his place of birth, which I think, despite his fierce Kiwi nationalism, was Australia.

So, this multi-talented modest man and good bloke needs remembering. Thank you, Les, for recording with such love the tough hard-bitten world of ordinary New Zealanders. Despite your best endeavours to slip off this earth without notice, your contribution to preserving our history will not be forgotten.

Graphically speaking: cartoons, comics and graphic novels

An image from the graphic novel, Maui: legends of the outcast (click for image credit)

An image from the graphic novel, Maui: legends of the outcast (click for image credit)

We’ve just published two interesting and related entries: Cartooning and Comics and graphic novels.

While researching using historical newspapers I have often come across cartoons that portray negative stereotypes of Māori. Trevor Lloyd is one example of how the lens through which Māori are seen in cartooning can be problematic. While Māori have often been the subject of cartoonists, it hasn’t been common for them to be involved in cartooning. Harry Dansey of Ngāti Tūwharetoa was a regular cartoonist for the Taranaki Daily News in the 1950s, but a fellow journalist noted that he lacked the ‘cruel sense’ needed by a great cartoonist.

From personal experience, I have grown up with Tom Scott’s cartoons and more recently have become a fan of Mike Moreu, particularly because I enjoy his more detailed (and artistic) drawings.

In New Zealand the fear of comic books and their effect on children has been around for a long time. In the late 1930s, while British-style comics, with more explanatory text, were considered superior, American-style comic books with speech balloons were referred to as ‘alien’ or ‘yellow’. In the 1954 Mazengarb report on teen delinquency, comics were seen as potentially harmful. There was even a comics advisory committee set-up in 1956, which banned hundreds of comics from being imported.

I’m not sure any of the comics I read had a particularly corrupting influence. As a kid I read a number of New Zealand comics. I enjoyed Bogor, a comic strip about a woodsman and his hedgehog mate. I also loved the Footrot Flats series about Wal Footrot and his trusty dog, Dog. I also remember reading about Terry Teo in Terry and the Gunrunners. My favourite comic, though, was from overseas. It was 2000 AD, particularly the stories featuring Judge Dredd.

Later I came to read various graphic novels from overseas. One that has won critical acclaim is Watchmen, written by Alan Moore. It presents a dystopian alternate reality that questions whether a society with superheroes would be better or not. I was put onto Art Spiegelman’s Maus by a friend. It is a powerful graphic novel, based on the author’s parents’ experience of the holocaust. Unusually, characters are depicted as a type of animal based on their race, for example Jews are depicted as mice – maus being the German word for mouse.

A number of graphic novels have been produced in New Zealand, but my favourite is Maui: legends of the outcast. Illustrator Chris Slane teamed up with Ngāpuhi poet and academic Robert Sullivan. Chris Slane’s visual interpretation of the demigod Māui and his stories is dark and visceral. Slane is supported by the extraordinary interpretative text supplied by Sullivan, which moves the Māui stories from their standard children’s fairytale narrative to a rendition that gives a deeper cultural insight into the stories.

Take a look at both these newly published entries to see New Zealand’s stories told visually, whether it be in the form of a long graphic novel, or a snappy one-panel cartoon.

Why is looking good so important?

This month we focus on three recently launched stories which look at the ways people change their appearance for social and cultural reasons. In Personal grooming Bronwyn Dalley explores the changing fashions of hair and beard styles; in Tā moko – Māori tattooing Rawinia Higgins shows the importance of facial tattoos to Māori identity; and in Body shape and dieting Caroline Daley shows that the ideal body shape among New Zealanders has been affected by cultural as well as physical factors. In this blog post Megan Cook reflects on these three fascinating stories.

Our Movember portrait gallery features some of the fine moustaches you'll find on our biography subjects

Our Movember portrait gallery features some of the fine moustaches you'll find on our biography subjects

Movember – the 11th month of the year, previously known as November – begins like any other, goes through a messy, semi-groomed phase, then – appearing on the face of a man near you – blossoms into glorious moustaches, often with outrageous sideburns. Grown to raise funds to support men’s health, it’s hair we don’t see much of the rest of the year. It used to be commonplace – a man without a beard was a rarity in the 19th century. With the introduction of first safety razors and then electric razors in the 20th century, facial hair was cut back and a clean-shaven face became the norm.

It wasn’t the first time new technology had changed the face of New Zealanders. Māori, who traditionally made their unique scarred and coloured moko (tattoo) with bone chisels, shifted first to metal chisels and then to needles. The moko that resulted were more defined and detailed, and prompted a resurgence of interest in moko. It wasn’t the last – in the late 20th century and early 21st century, ta moko became an assertion of Māori identity and strength and were no longer a rare sight.

There are many reasons why we might change our appearance: to support a cause, because technology lets us, to proclaim our identity, to look good and because it’s fun. When Prussian bodybuilder Eugen Sandow visited New Zealand in 1902–3 he inspired a generation of body shapers, who used his exercise and diet regimes to develop the perfect body (or as near as they could get to it). Perhaps, while they lifted weights and stretched, they gazed at a photograph of Sandow, who favoured Grecian poses, columns, and leopard-skin loincloths. Those without the patience or inclination to lift weights or diet could make do with a corset.

Corsets, like make-up, were generally worn by women, whose ideal appearance was more mobile than that of men. Over the 20th century hair was long and up, short and sculpted, long and down, curly, straight, and in between. The ideal woman’s body went from curvy to flat chested to buxom to slender, getting taller all the time. Achieving the ideal wasn’t always possible, and in the early 21st century cosmetic surgery was increasingly common – breasts, upper arms, bellies and thighs were the body parts most frequently altered.

Most alterations people make to their appearances are not as permanent as cosmetic surgery. And, to return to the men with moustaches, a great many who grow them for Movember whip them off quick smart come December.