Archive for the 'Mark Derby' Category

Dandelions, doors, ducks: Peter Campbell, 1937–2011

A fox walks past the South London house of Peter Campbell, in his last cover illustration for the London Review of Books. Image: London Review of Books

A fox walks past the South London house of Peter Campbell, in his last cover illustration for the London Review of Books. Image: London Review of Books

The 1997 New Zealand historical atlas is much like a pre-internet version of Te Ara, with its swarm of little graphics and sidebars expanding on the subject of each of its large-format double-page maps. From the perspective of how specific places have altered over time, the Atlas deals with many of the subjects covered in Te Ara – earliest Polynesian settlement, glaciers, the Waikato wars of the early 1860s, Presbyterians and the ‘demon drink’, and mid-20th-century life in small-town New Zealand.

Here at Te Ara we refer to the Atlas all the time, and some of us have worked on both projects, including Malcolm McKinnon, who was general editor of the Historical atlas and has overseen Te Ara’s Places theme, the section that covers every geographical region in New Zealand, and urban historian Ben Schrader, responsible for Te Ara’s city entries.

But many talented individuals contributed to the success of the Atlas and it is sad to have to record the passing of one of them. Peter Campbell was a New Zealand artist best known for his airy, elegant cover illustrations for the London Review of Books (LRB), the erudite fortnightly which provides authoritative commentary on history, politics and literary criticism. He worked on the LRB since its first issue in 1979, and the cover of the current issue bears his drawing of a fox walking past the South London house where he and his wife Winifred, also New Zealand-born, had lived since 1963.

In a tribute to Peter Campbell in the current issue its editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, says that he graduated from Victoria University in 1958 with a philosophy degree and an extra-curricular enthusiasm for book design, developed while working with the pyrotechnic poet, publisher, typographer and boxer Denis Glover. ‘Tramping trips at Christmas settled the New Zealand landscape in my mind,’ he wrote, and his homeland’s mountains, trees, architecture and fauna recurred in his writings and artwork throughout a life spent mainly in London. There he began working for the BBC on the richly illustrated books that accompanied major series such as Civilisation, The ascent of man and Life on earth. Once he began producing the covers for the LRB, his witty, meticulous style came to define the review. Mary-Kay Wilmers says, ‘More adjusted than most to his own wants and necessities, and so better able to accommodate other people’s, he was an exemplary person to work with.’ Campbell also wrote articles for the LRB on a bewildering variety of subjects – architecture and art history, dandelions, cycling, doors, ducks and his favourite places in the British Isles.

He played a critical part in the early development of the Historical atlas. ‘We called for design proposals in 1990–91,’ recalls Malcolm McKinnon. ‘Peter Campbell and Margaret Cochrane – a very accomplished typographer and graphic designer in her own right – submitted a proposal. Theirs was by far the best and we adopted it as our template. We made some changes, however, so they are not specifically credited with the design. But they are thanked in the preface to the Atlas, and that thanks was very heartfelt.’ It is gratifying to learn that an exhibition of Peter Campbell’s superb artwork will open in Wellington next year.

Te Ara salutes and farewells this panoptically curious, polymathic son of Aotearoa. E te tohunga mahi toi no ngā mea katoa – hoki atu ki a rātou kua whetūrangihia, moe mai ra, takoto mai ra, okioki e.

‘For Spain and humanity’

More than 50 countries have erected monuments to their citizens who chose to take part in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). This powerfully symbolic yet bitter conflict erupted after a military coup overthrew the elected government of Spain. The rebels, under General Franco, received military support from the governments of Germany and Italy. Volunteers from dozens of countries, including New Zealand, also arrived in Spain to defend its Republican government.

The handful of New Zealanders included the renowned journalist Geoffrey Cox, a surgeon from Cromwell named Doug Jolly, several nurses including René Shadbolt, a fighter pilot from Wellington named Eric Griffiths, and Griff Mclaurin, a young mathematician from Auckland.

Plaque to New Zealanders who served in the Spanish Civil War

Plaque to New Zealanders who served in the Spanish Civil War

At a ceremony in Wellington this week a memorial was unveiled to the New Zealanders who took part in the civil war. It is a bronze plaque bearing the words ‘For Spain and Humanity’ in Spanish and English. This was the motto of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, the main relief organisation for victims of the civil war.

The plaque was provided by the Spanish Embassy in New Zealand. At the unveiling ceremony the ambassador, Marcos Gomez, said that until he came to New Zealand he didn’t know that this country had sent volunteers to his homeland during its civil war. The memorial, he said, was to commemorate and thank them for defending democracy in Spain.

Mayor of Wellington Celia Wade-Brown, holding the book 'Kiwi Companeros – New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War' and Spanish Ambassador Marcos Gomez, with a 1939 poster for a public meeting commemorating the New Zealanders who died in Spain

Mayor of Wellington Celia Wade-Brown, holding the book 'Kiwi Companeros – New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War,' and Spanish Ambassador Marcos Gomez, with a 1939 poster for a public meeting commemorating the New Zealanders who died in Spain

Wellington’s mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, also spoke at the ceremony. She said this plaque would be placed on the seaward wall of Frank Kitts Park, on the Wellington waterfront. This wall already displays plaques recording other significant arrivals and departures, such as Edmund Hillary‘s 1956–58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the young Polish refugees who landed here in 1944, and survivors of the shipwrecked inter-island ferry Wahine in 1968.

Among the guests at the unveiling ceremony were the surviving family of Jim Hoy, who fought with the British Battalion of the International Brigades in the civil war, and later spent many years working on the Wellington wharves. It is satisfying to think that he, and the other New Zealanders who travelled to the far side of the world to support another country’s defence of democracy, will finally have a permanent memorial.

Greetings from Belarus

Te Ara is widely read within New Zealand, but evidently there is also growing interest from people elsewhere.

Last month about one in three visits to our site were from offshore. Almost every country in the world seems to have dropped by, including Puerto Rico (on 103 occasions), the Isle of Man (54), Botswana (23), Libya (3) and a much appreciated single visit each from the likes of Cuba, Mali, Cape Verde and the Wallis and Futuna islands.

Despite this exciting internationalism, more than half our overseas hits came from just four countries – the US, Australia, the UK and Canada. What they have in common, of course, is the English language, and they remind us of our global limitations as a resource that is primarily in English (along with many entries translated into the Māori language).

So it was a pleasant surprise for Jock Phillips, our general editor, to receive an email from Martha Ruszkowski, a professional translator from Belarus, which she described as ‘a small country which is somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Europe’.

Belarus, formerly part of the Soviet Union

Belarus, formerly part of the Soviet Union

Martha came to know Te Ara when she made a trip to Auckland last autumn (‘it was amazing!’). She asked to translate the section of Te Ara on gambling (which you’ll find in the Sports and leisure entry in New Zealand in Brief) into Belarusian, her native tongue. It would then be available to the around nine million speakers of this language, which Martha says is from the same Indo-European roots as English and French.

‘Why the gambling entry?’, we wondered. Martha cheerfully explained that she’s a keen gambler in her spare time, although it’s not a popular activity in her country since most forms of gambling are illegal there.

‘Go for it’, Jock told her, and so Belarusian speakers can now read about pakapoo, pokies and the Golden Kiwi at this site:

Martha thinks this isn’t the only Te Ara entry that her fellow Belarusians will find interesting, and she plans to add further translations in due course.

Kia ora, Martha, and happy punting!

New Zealand film history

A poster from a past film festival

A poster from a past film festival

The New Zealand International Film Festival is the only thing about Wellington’s winter to look forward to, even though the soundtracks are frequently drowned out by audience coughing. It’s just finished its annual run in Wellington, though continues in other parts of the country.

This year’s programme was outstanding and Te Ara staff exchanged tips and personal favourites. A few of us have also been recalling the odd and colourful origins of New Zealand’s own film-making industry.

Some of the first moving images in Australasia were shot by the unlikely figure of Joe Perry, a New Zealand Salvation Army officer and keen photographer. From 1890 he raised funds for the Salvation Army by giving shows in Australia and New Zealand on a ‘magic lantern’ – an early type of slide projector. A fire in Marton in 1896 destroyed his equipment, but Perry replaced it with the latest movie camera and projector. He could shoot, process and screen film in the same day and began making films on contract, as well as for the Sallies. In 1901 the New Zealand government commissioned him to record the state visit of the future King George V and Queen Mary. Perry also shot and toured footage of the Christchurch Exhibition and the US Navy’s visiting ‘Great White Fleet’ in 1908. In 1910, after almost 300 productions, his operation was shut down by a Salvation Army leader who thought his films ‘had led to weakness and a lightness incompatible with true Salvationism’.

Two years later a dapper French director named Gaston Méliès arrived in Wellington as part of a world tour to shoot films in exotic locations. The government sent him to Whakarewarewa, the model Māori village in Rotorua, where he met Reverend Frederick Bennett, the superintendent of the local Māori mission. Bennett led a fundraising concert party whose members were all expert at interpreting Māori cultural customs for an international audience. Although Méliès had brought his own professional actors to New Zealand, he used members of Bennett’s group for all three of the features he shot in Rotorua. One of his American cast later told a reporter that, ‘The Maoris are born actors. In this respect they knock all the other natives we ever came across endways.’

Méliès’ three New Zealand movies were the first feature films made in this country. They screened in the US during 1913 but apparently nowhere else, and later disappeared altogether. However, it is not impossible that they may someday reappear. In recent years parts of a film shot by Méliès at Angkor Wat, in present-day Cambodia, were rediscovered. Future film festival audiences may yet see his pioneering Rotorua productions showing what one US reviewer called, ‘the customs and character of a people so wholly and strangely different from ourselves.’

Kapiti, island of birds

Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island

School holidays can be trying for a large, extended and complicated family like mine, since there aren’t many activities that appeal to all members. A trip to the offshore bird sanctuary of Kapiti Island seemed like the best bet on one recent sunny day. The teenager was persuaded to give it a go by stories of the island’s past as a fortress and whaling station. The short boat trip from Paraparaumu was a promising start, and on arrival at the island we were greeted by a line-up of hospitable kererū, kākā and weka.

After an excellent introductory talk by a Department of Conservation worker named Rochelle, our large party set off for the summit, stopping part-way to admire a flock of hihi at a feeding station set up for them in the bush. Their peculiar call, which gives them their English name of stitchbird, sounded to me more like a series of squeaky hinges. When we reached the trig station at the highest point of the island and looked down at the almost sheer seaward side, there was an unexpected bonus in the form of a school of dolphins, hurdling southwards in a series of lighthearted leaps.

Not all the island’s promised attractions revealed themselves on this visit. No one heard or saw the elusive kōkako, and although we were told that a population of 14 takahē lived on the swampy flats near the shore, we saw no sign of these miraculous creatures. But one very flamboyant kākā did its best to make up for this with a bravura performance of lunch stealing just before we left.

It was an oddly humbling experience to know that we were the interlopers on this expedition. The island belonged to the birds and we were permitted to briefly intrude on them as a special concession. Even the teenager could admit that this beat going on Facebook.