Tag Archives: Wellington New Zealand

Pukeahu. National War Memorial Park

On a Sunday afternoon in late August that hinted at the beginning of a warm spring ( that hasn’t really happened sadly) we journeyed into Wellington to visit Pukeahu ( Puke Ahu, meaning “sacred hill”)  National War Memorial Park.  This project was completed in time for commemorations of World War 1 and required a good deal of altered roading and central city reconfiguration.

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According to the background printed material “It is a place for all New Zealanders and visitors to reflect on and remember the contribution of the many New Zealanders who lost their lives and served in our external military conflicts over the years.  It is also a place to consider how the experience of war, military conflict and peacekeeping has shaped our ideals and sense of national identity.”

Nearby the old Mt Cook ( the old European name for this area) Police Barracks building has been restored and links to another violent event in New Zealand, dating back to 1881 when Government forces invaded Parihaka and Maori prisoners were held in a prison on Mt Cook.  There is a memorial to these prisoners adjacent to the old Dominion Museum building but which I missed seeing on this visit.

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The pedestrian only park area is large and open to the elements.  On the day we visited the elements were relatively calm and warm.  In Wellington’s windy climate it will be a very exposed and cold spot despite the plantings of native trees.

These tall, red stone columns dominate the northern section of the park area and represent links between Australia and New Zealand and the history of shared service.  Unfortunately a very disturbed young man was behaving very erratically towards us and other visitors so we moved away quickly.  We missed reading the various panels and viewing the artworks from the Balarinji Studio in Sydney and the those made by Jacob Manu Scott acknowledging tikanga Maori.

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This statue drew my attention.  She is Hinerangi, a kuia in bronze standing ready to karanga.  The area on which she stands was the garden that local Maori cultivated before the European settlers arrived.

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Overlooking the park area is the Carillon, which opened in 1932 and is 50 metres tall.  74 bells are regularly rung and I have happy memories of listening to the Carillon play as we visited the old Dominion Museum with our parents on a weekend or holiday.  The bells have names linking to WW1 and WW11 and four of the large bells bear the names: Grace, Hope, Remembrance and Peace.  A Lamp of Remembrance burns constantly on top of the tower.

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Near the doorway to the beautiful, sombre, Hall of Memories is this bronze sculpture of “The Man with the Donkey” which was inspired by the actions of NZ stretcher bearer Richard Henderson and his donkey “Murphy” at Gallipoli in 1915.  Paul Walshe’s sculpture pays tribute to all medical personnel, stretcher bearers and ambulance drivers who served in wartimes.  My paternal Grandfather was in the medical corps in Egypt in WW1 so this sculpture touches my family.

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We visited the Hall of Memories, built in 1964 and stood quietly with other visitors in this respectful and reflective space that was lit by afternoon sun through the beautiful west facing stained glass windows. Each person with their own memories, thoughts and feelings.
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The current New Zealand flag is draped over the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the sanctuary here and reminds us poignantly that a flag requires dignity and solemnity in such circumstances.

The map is not the territory

On Monday I visited a photographic exhibition “All Woman – a modern Portrait of New Zealand Women” by photographer Bev Short.

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The portraits are of New Zealand women ranging in age from teen to 90 years old and who have achieved in disparate activities and often against the odds.

I loved this exhibition. Alongside each portrait was a “story” or short biography about the woman pictured. I adore people’s stories. So I read eagerly.

Within many of the stories were little connections that matched my experiences as a female born in the 1950’s being buffeted by gender discrimination; growing in awareness in the 60’s and 70’s; volunteering in both Parents Centre and Playcentre where empowerment underpinned the work; working in community education; facilitating women’s self awareness and personal growth and development; observing others compassion and strong sense of social justice.

So as I read my feelings swung from sad recognition, to feelings of affirmation and strength, to acknowledgement and wisdom, to bewilderment over how much work is still required to gain equity and to wonder over so many startling achievements by women despite the odds and the tug of biology.

And, of course, there were photos to soak up. Some were vivid and colourful, others darker featuring light in a different way. Some were active shots, others with a stillness. All reflecting, in some way, the woman portrayed.

Several struck me deeply: the powerfully warm, deep connection between a woman and her horse; the serene, confident stillness of a teenage mother who has blossomed in her academic studies; the soft beauty and colour of a nurse who had worked in war ravaged countries; the deeply powerful image of a woman who had escaped a violent relationship, but who had behind her all the women who had died in a domestic violence situation since she had escaped.

I could go on……The exhibition has been extended until 22nd July 2012 and it is free. If you read along in Wellington, make time to go.

If you live elsewhere the links to the Gallery and to Bev Short’s website will offer you more information and a glimpse of the richness.

And since viewing the exhibition I have thought a lot about judgement and how “the map is not the territory”……Alfred Korzybski