People

Mothers: A Gaby Montejo performance

First Thursdays are like late night shopping, but good. Community-focussed arts events, they bring people to a neighbourhood or precinct to wander, absorb, participate, witness and feast until bedtime. First Thursdays have become calendar fixtures in many cities around the world.

On October Second, the first golden evening of spring 2014, hundreds of people came to Sydenham to take part in Christchurch’s first First Thursday. At 6:30, Gaby Montejo took the stage at the Honey Pot cafe ahead of the Lady Poets. The photograph beside his item in the First Thursdays publicity flyer had shown him re-imagined as Conchita Wurst. No one knew what he was going to do, but those present who knew Montejo and his art knew that it could be anything.

What he did was sit down and introduce himself.

‘But this is not about me,’ he said. ‘It’s about you. Especially you, Audrey Baldwin.’

A stunned Baldwin made her way to the stage and took her place beside Montejo. He shared his perceptions of her with the crowd – non-judgemental, gutsy and willing, collaborative, positive, a machine of excitement – and then bestowed upon her a magnificent, garish, one-metre-tall trophy. Baldwin looked delighted. The audience applauded, cheered and laughed.

Photo of Audrey Baldwin accepting her trophy.

‘I was no good at sports,’ Baldwin said. ‘I never thought I’d get a trophy like this.’ She spoke with eloquence and brevity, thanking those who have supported her, always and recently. She stroked her trophy. ‘I’ll find a space for this.’

What was Montejo up to here? He explained that his eight years in Christchurch had been a time of great change, and he meant the obvious, yes, the earthquakes and all that, but what he wanted us to notice that evening was the energy happening in the creative arts, and who had come forward to spearhead creative actions and events in post-quake Christchurch.

‘People like Audrey Baldwin,’ he said, ‘and also people like Jessica Halliday.’

Jessica Halliday – responsible, energetic, respectful, thoughtful, a gastronomist – claimed her trophy and said, Academy-Awards style, that she just wanted to thank God. And Gaby, for giving her not just a trophy but this platform to say she’s got one of the best jobs in Christchurch.

Montejo’s next trophy went to Melanie Oliver – playful, fair to diversity, honest, optimistic, participant and driver – who was not present to accept it. Hopefully, she has it by now.

Chloe Geoghegan – enthusiastic, caring, hardworking, tenacious, her humour enlightens – was down in Dunedin ‘busy mothering another city,’ Her trophy was accepted with feeling and just a touch of mystifying snark by a man who identified himself only as Ted.

Coralie Winn – energetic, professional, adventurous, empathetic, motherly – was also not present, but her partner Ryan shot a video of Montejo’s admiration and acknowledgement for her to watch later. Ryan accepted Winn’s trophy on her behalf, saying. ‘You have no idea how much she loves trophies.’ He declined to speak further because, ‘I speak for her way too often as it is.’

Towards the end of his performance, Montejo acknowledged these trophies were a bit cheesy and generic. ‘They were all I could afford,’ he said. ‘I swear if I could get you what you deserve it would be spectacular.’ He explained that he had grown tired of waiting for someone of higher authority than Gaby Montejo to honour these people and their accomplishments.

‘And so, by the power invested in me as an art consumer and art participant, I deem these excellent, high achieving people (who just happen to be women) The Founding Art Mothers of New Christchurch.’

Montejo’s piece was part ode to the exceptional strengths, talents and efforts of these five women, part plea that they be recognised, part challenge to the old boys to think what it means to be a mother and maybe decide that it’s time to move over and make way for the new girls. It was one citizen giving back some of the love five people had poured into his city.

‘All who live here should know these art drivers,’ he said, and no one who witnessed this performance that evening could disagree with him. If you don’t know the five Founding Art Mothers of New Christchurch, change that. Seek them out. Look them up. Each one has some kind of web presence. (Gaby Montejo does, too. But this is not about him.)

 

Coralie Winn
http://www.gapfiller.org.nz/about/

Melanie Oliver
http://physicsroom.org.nz/about/

Jessica Halliday
http://festa.org.nz/about/#the-people

Chloe Geoghegan
http://www.blueoyster.org.nz/about/

Audrey Baldwin
http://audreybaldwin.wix.com/audrey-baldwin#!about

 

First Thursdays

http://www.firstthursdayschch.co.nz/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rapaki – a hybrid couture

Long before we armed ourselves with phones featuring front-facing cameras and Instagram, the average New Zealander had to work much harder to produce a ‘selfie’. In 1860, Aotearoa’s unmatched king of the self portrait was one Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky. Without the aid of hashtags, Von cultivated his celebrity status via the favoured social media of the day – ‘carte-de-visits’. These were a sort of personal calling card featuring posed portraits, which became a collectable craze in the colony. Demand for images of the flamboyant Von outstripped photographers supply – and his carte-de-visits [Fig. 1] became highly sought after. Within these proto-Polaroids lies an illuminating story of Pākehā and Māori hybrid battle couture – the rāpaki.

"Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky - Carte-de-visite. Circa 1868." http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22308963
Fig. 1 “Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky – Carte-de-visite. Circa 1868.”
http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22308963

Gold-rush lured the Prussian born von Tempsky to these isles following adventures in Berlin, the Caribbean, California, Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Glasgow, Liverpool, Victoria and Melbourne. As war broke out across New Zealand the young von Tempsky traded the goldfields of the Coromandel for the battlefields of Taranaki. Despite one-fifth of the burgeoning colony’s population consisting of British soldiers, Māori allied to the Kīngitanga movement were proving a resilient, elusive foe to the Imperial Army. In response the Forest Rangers were formed to match Māori at their own guerilla game; it was within this elite irregular force that Von would make his name. The Forest Rangers were about as badass as their name suggests – today the SAS can trace their lineage to this group, and in the 1860s they became the heroes of the frontier. Abandoning redoubt building and marching for covert missions into the depths of enemy territory, they were rewarded with double rum rations, higher pay, and as Von’s carte-de-visits testify – fame.

Though his selfie output was decidedly less prolific than today’s teen, Von is captured in several carte-de-visits exhibiting his flair for fashion with Garibaldi shirts and out of the ordinary weaponry. His wife Amelia wrote to let him know “you are fast becoming the laughing stock of everyone with eccentricities of costume” (Von Tempsky’s Ghost, MP4). Other carte-de-visits and paintings capture him in full military costume, but none capture him in what he and his Forest Rangers became famed for fighting in – the rāpaki. Perhaps it was a vague wish to uphold some of the Victorian value placed on formality; whatever the reasons, Von’s calling cards did capture his outlandish appearance, but it was eyewitness recollections of his rāpaki battledress which cemented his reputation as an adaptive antipodean warrior.

Rāpaki is the noun which describes a Māori garment of woven harakeke worn from the waist to the knee. They were constructed from a woven base (kaupapa) which tags (hukahuka) were attached to [Fig. 2]. Māori had worn it for centuries, but the Forest Rangers were perhaps the first Pākehā to realise it was truly a garment honed for Aotearoa – and shed their trousers for what is effectively a skirt. An accurate point of adoption is untraceable, though eleven kūpapa (pro-government) Māori are recorded as serving in the Forest Rangers and could have instigated the move. Initially the Forest Rangers were issued with standard army uniforms, but in the wet bush they found their trousers quickly rotted and tore. So they improvised their own uniforms by wearing the rāpaki, subsequently enhancing their public image as that of a rough and ready band of adventurers.

"Traditional woven rāpaki from circa 1850. The archetypal rāpaki from which further types would evolve" http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/66505
Fig. 2 “Traditional woven rāpaki from circa 1850. The archetypal rāpaki from which further types would evolve”
http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/66505

Von Tempsky’s men succeeded where the British Army could not by adapting Māori methods of dress and warfare. Forest Ranger J.M. Roberts explained: “This [the tactics of the British commanders] was not the way of the colonial soldier who knew his business. We learned very early to look on a tree as a friend. If it could shelter a Māori it could also shelter us” (Cowan 25). British commanders dreaded the New Zealand bush, it was a terrain unfamiliar to them. Historian Danny Keenan explains: “The bush was just this great big primordial thing they were afraid of. It was so thick, so terrible” (Von Tempsky’s Ghost, MP4). They preferred to square up to their enemy on open ground where they were more comfortable in conflict. However for much of the New Zealand Wars the British were forced to toil over unmapped land in search of a flitting enemy, through unroaded swamps, bush, ranges, and unbridged rivers. Each man adorned with conspicuous red jackets, wrapped with radiant sashes and capped with shining regiment badge. Their army was slow to adapt and the British soldier stood out from the bush like a lighthouse in the dead of night.

The adoption of the rāpaki is a significant moment within the New Zealand Wars as it highlights a Pākehā concession to a Māori concept. Whilst the British were quick to recognize Māori chivalry and courage, they did not afford them recognition for military intelligence or technology. Within the New Zealand Wars the rāpaki can certainly be framed as technology: the science of the application of knowledge to practical purposes. Just as the pā was constructed in rapport with the land, so Māori had conceived the rāpaki to be in harmony with the bush environment. The lightweight garment allowed the wearer to move quickly through the bush with an ease of movement incomparable to trousers; perhaps why Māori named Von Tempsky ‘Manurau’ (one hundred birds) for his ability to move through the bush like a flock of birds, seemingly being in many places at once.

The rāpaki shed water naturally but dried easily over a fire when saturated. Army issue trousers rotted, ripped and were difficult to repair by comparison. Importantly rāpaki allowed rapid crossing of rivers, streams and movement through swamp [Fig. 3]. Whereas trousers had to be rolled up, removed or worn heavy and soaking until dried. As weaving skills waned Māori and Pākehā replaced harakeke for woven wool in the form of blankets. Wrapped around the waist the tartan pattern of most contributed to their similarity in appearance to the Scottish kilt, both variants can be seen in later images of the Armed Constabulary. The transfer of a Māori form re-imagined with a Pākehā material – constitutes perhaps one of the first hybrid forms used by both cultures.

"Armed Constabulary on the warpath with both harakeke & blanket rāpaki. 1868." http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23218703
Fig. 3 “Armed Constabulary on the warpath with both harakeke & blanket rāpaki. 1868.”
http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23218703

For most of New Zealand’s history the two primary cultures, Māori and Pākehā, have been separated in many ways. Conflict and confrontation has been more common than collaboration and reverence. Our relationship with the past has been an uneasy one, and the New Zealand Wars are remembered with less clarity and certainly less commemoration than wars fought elsewhere. Von and his Forest Rangers adaptation of the rāpaki, and its subsequent evolution of form is trivial within the wider context of the Wars. But it is one of many refutations to the belief that transfer of ideas and knowledge was a one way street – from Pākehā to Māori. Long held paradigms of materials, craft and conventions is upturned by an intimate understanding developed over decades, and acquired and tested within immediate environments.

The rāpaki is a salient sign of the true blurred nature of the New Zealand Wars. Neither side truly won or lost, and the sides themselves were often a tangle of Pākehā, Māori, Pākehā-Māori and kūpapa Māori [Fig 4]. At a singular time Māori and Pākehā alike utilised this bush fashion – woven from flax or wool, and paired with pounamu mere or Bowie knife. Conflict forced an eschewing of status quo for the best possible tools, forms and fashions taken and transformed from both cultures. Today, in a relative world of peace, this collaborative approach is surely a valuable weapon in forging a new New Zealand.

 

Fig. 4 "Tom Adamson (a Pākehā–Māori) and Wiremu Mutu (kūpapa Māori both wearing the r?paki. Circa 1865." http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/26792/tom-adamson-kupapa-pakeha-maori
Fig. 4 “Tom Adamson (a Pākehā–Māori) and Wiremu Mutu (kūpapa Māori both wearing the rāpaki. Circa 1865.”
http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/26792/tom-adamson-kupapa-pakeha-maori

 

Cowan, James. “Famous New Zealanders: No. 11: Colonel J. M. Roberts, N.Z.C: The Story of the Forest Rangers,” The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 10. Feb. 1, 1934.

Von Tempsky’s Ghost. Dir., Writ. John Milligan. 2002. NZ On Screen, 2011. MP4 File.

Gardening With Soul

Gardening With Soul is an award-winning New Zealand documentary from filmmaker Jess Feast, and it has just opened nationally in New Zealand and selected cinemas across Australia. I can’t wait to check it out, it looks like a beautiful story, made even more incredible for capturing the magical day it snowed in Wellington.

Gardening with Soul premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July 2013, 

Sister Loyola is one of the liveliest nonagenarians you could ever meet.

As the main gardener at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington, her daily tasks include heavy lifting alongside vigorous spade and wheelbarrow work, which she sometimes performs on crutches. Loyola and the other Sisters of Compassion follow the vision of Mother Aubert to ‘meet the needs of the oppressed and powerless in their communities’. 

The lively, beautifully shot documentary (edited by Annie Collins. written & directed by Jess Feast) is filmed almost entirely in this small community on the southern coast of Wellington. With music by local musician David Long, and full of the sea- and garden-scapes that have informed Loyola’s life, Gardening with Soul uncovers a local legend and her community for the wider world. It is a conceptual triumph for Feast. Any belief we might harbour that becoming a nun is avoiding the real world is turned firmly on its head as we witness this extraordinary soul steer a sharp course through all weathers, trying to shine love on everything she sees. 

-Jo Randerson, International Film Festival

If you like to read up before seeing a film, I’d recommend this insightful Interview with filmmaker Jess Feast, otherwise find your local screening and get there!

Can’t wait to check it out, also if this gets you all tingly, you can download Freerange Vol.2: Gardening & Violence, which suddently feels a bit scandalous against this beautiful story.

Thanks to Gina for passing this on!

 

 

The Leasons

Written by Ruth Hill with photographs by Dion Howard, this article originally appeared in Freerange Volume 2: Gardening & Violence in 2009, edited by Barnaby Bennett and Gina Moss.

 

A small organic holding in sunny Otaki, New Zealand, sprouting kids and pigs and walnut trees, seems a world away from the devastation of war-torn Iraq. But for Adrian and Shelley Leason, the two are intimately connected.

A hail of arrows, knives and tomahawks fly through the air as Adrian Leason strolls through the paddock pushing a wheelbarrow full of small children.

“Gardens are violent places,” he muses.

“Full of creatures eating other creatures, plants struggling for primacy, strangling other plants….”

He pauses by a small bonfire.

“I’m not happy about that fire, boys,” he remonstrates gently with his older sons, who are practising their marksmanship on distant targets with a variety of weapons.

“Piss on it, please.”

This peaceful rural idyll is home to Adrian and Shelley and their semi-feral tribe of beautiful children – Jack (13), Finn (11), Che (9), Mana (6), Ari (4), Samuel (2) and Davy (born in April). The Leasons have rejected many of trappings of modern life, including television, but the couple have ensured their family is attuned to world events in a way many of us manage to comfortably avoid.Read more

Day 20: Lang Suan

This is a guest post generously shared by Nicholas Jordan, a freelance writer who peddled his insatiable appetite around Thailand and wrote about it over at Im Still Alive. I met Nicholas walking the Routebourn trek in New Zealand’s deep south a couple of years ago, he was eating a bag of spinach because he reckoned it had “the best price to nutrients to weight ratio.” I got hooked midway through this journey, and have chosen to drop you there on Day 20, but if you like what you see, I encourage you to get back to Day 1. –Byron. Ed.

 

March 27, 2014

Alan told me he’s really slow. I didn’t believe him because that’s totally a normal thing to say to a stranger you’re about to ride over 100km with. We were both trying to suss the other person out and make sure they’re not a total gun and or a slothian slug from the slums of slowtown either. We didn’t ride very far today so I’m still unsure of how fast or slow he actually is.Read more

EWH

The amazing band Electric Wire Hustle features Freerange contributor Mara TK, and I’m delighted to see/hear they have released the debut track of their LOOOONG awaited new album. Epic. Tune.  Check it out.

 

 

Freerange is going to start featuring some more music as we seem to be surrounded by super talented people, music included.

Open Mics: A Compendium of Souls

Open mic jam sessions. Most people have stumbled across at least one such gathering. Where everyone is welcome and everyone is nervous, either because of what they are about to perform, or what they are about to witness. The adrenalin adds to the thrill. The experience is reminiscent of busking, except nobody gets paid, and there is an added sense of guilt if you walk away when someone is half way through a song. The hosts try and claim there are rules, but let’s face it, there are none. ‘Three songs only’ can be interpreted as ‘Open with Smoke on the Water, then play your morose 18 minute looped instrumental guitar piece, followed by a suicide threat relating to an ex-partner, then an ironic Britney Spears cover, because everyone knows Smoke on the Water was just a warm up. Then consider an encore

When the host turns off the PA or has the offender removed by security after the third uninvited encore, the stage once again sits in a dimly lit anticipation, waiting for whoever has finally found themself next on the list. The earnest youth with all heart and no skills, the dedicated master with all skills and no heart. The too louds and the too quiets, the progressive, the kitsch, the unpredictable, the Next Big Thing, the last big thing, the once-was from decades past. The bits left in the sieve, the bits that are not yet (or never were) refined enough to slip through the cracks into the comfort of mainstream acceptance.

I collect these moments; a compendium of souls bore through song, in whatever city, village, nook or cranny I might find an open mic. Hotel lobbies, basement bars, converted churches or prison cells, cocktail lounges, alfresco gardens, non-descript corners and nowhere petrol station taverns. Interiors dotted with bar stools, pool tables, poker machines and plasma TV screens. Couches. Chandeliers. Candles. Crowded or near empty with cover bands, metal bands, rappers, and troubadours; suits, bohos, hobos, who knows…

The most recent addition to the compendium is the Parisian man shredding variations of Pachelbel’s Canon on a skull guitar in a packed den of warm smiles near Pont Neuf in St Germain. For the most part, the distortion in the amp drowned out the sounds of the Brazilian man throwing up in the toilets.

From two years earlier, there is the semi-crippled boy soldier (now a young man) from Sierra Leone, standing near a pool table in a tavern on an island off the coast of Washington, singing heart breaking tales with all feeling and no discernable melody as the unrehearsed and ill-briefed house band play a cheesy impromptu reggae backing mix. Never have I felt cringe and admiration in such equal measures.

Then there are the countless Mondays I spent with a friend driving down a deserted highway to a dilapidated hotel nestled between the bridge and the train line in North Fremantle in Western Australia. Of all of the evenings here, there is one that stands out. Present (other than my friend and I) were the MC, two Swedish backpackers, some regular orange vests straight from the wharfs, and Ozzie Osbourne (dead ringer). He was there every week, drinking his routine bottle of bourbon, with few words and ample presence. This was the first time I had seen him take the stage. Under the gaze of the two dull stage lights, his long black hair shone from the bottom of his black cowboy hat, his black leather get up glowed and his dark glasses reflected like half dead disco balls. The only thing that sparkled with any ardency was the white shell pieces in his yin and yang belt buckle. He slurred a few mutterings, fumbled onto his chair and then began to tune his guitar. This tension building exercise went on for about twenty minutes. The “audience” grew impatient and started to heckle (mainly: “play a song!”).  As the tuning was just right he told everyone where to go in no uncertain terms, picked up the dregs of his bourbon, and exited the building. The room was quiet for a bemused moment of awe in his wake. Once again the stage was empty, waiting in dimly lit anticipation for whoever was next on the list.

Unlike a stadium gig, where every millisecond of uncertainty is choreographed away with pre-recordings, blinding lights and scripted or non-existent banter, these nights guarantee nothing. These nights cannot be replicated, only recounted by those who are lucky or unlucky enough to bear witness. These are the kind of nights you can’t pay for. These are the nights you don’t pay for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we harness trust?

TRUST:

1. To let someone in your lives.

2. To give information

3. To be vulnerable.

Without trust where will we be?

Living in Christchurch I have observed many businesses operating from home.

I love this!

PhotoMan, Tadakki Kusaka formerly photographing tourists outside the Cathedral in Cathedral Square, Christchurch – Now on 233 Waimairi Road, Ilam, Christchurch Ph: +64274374113 OPEN 7 DAYS

BUSINESS

These people having their flag, their business card hang high. The many signs on the streets of Christchurch: – Haircuts – Architectural Design – Fashion Design – Passport Photos A complete range of signs, some hand painted; really connecting the sign to that person, that business. I’m thinking small business not big business, thinking local business in my neighbourhood and not 30 minutes away in the city centre. I’m also thinking I’ll support thy neighbour and perhaps they will support me – Community!

1) Plants for sale in my neighbourhood Beckenham, Christchurch 2) Architects Stuart Manning’s Studio above a garage beside his house in Somerfield, Christchurch

INTERVIEW

I interviewed a range of businesses earlier in the year; Stuart Manning Architects, the PhotoMan, and Briar Cook from Rethreads Clothing Label. I presented the information at the recent SHAC Conference in May 2012 – www.shac.org.nz . Asking the audience whether we should have a network of skills in our neighbourhood? The overwhelming answer was yes.

I ask Briar Cook from Rethreads, What is it like working from home? Briar Responds, “People are beginning to know I’m here. It’s just easier as time goes on.” facebook.com/rethreadsnz

OVERWHELMED

Since the earthquake I have been overwhelmed by trust. Attending an art exhibition from a home two houses down from me. I went inside.

A displaced Gallery now selling artwork from their home, open to the public. Let’s support art from innovative spaces, let’s support emerging artists. Another link: facebook.com/artexplore I was wowed by the fact ‘High St Galleries’ were in my backyard – a gallery two doors down. And the trust this family had to let strangers through their house to view art. Viewing art amongst the kitchen and lounge – in its true state of place perhaps. This innovative space, people drinking wine and eating cheese like a fine art gallery, though in a home -these elements trans-placed to the home.

How do we harness this trust?

Freerange collaborations

Here are a few projects we’ve been working with or supporting lately.

Songs for Christchurch

We’ve been working closely with artists around the world, including 2 grammy award winning artists, for around 18 months on this project. Launching later this year, we’ve just started a fundraising project to raise some funds to support the release.  Pledgeme site. 

The Children of Parihaka

In 2009, a group of Taranaki children were taken on a bus trip to visit the places their ancestors, passive resistors from Parihaka in the 1880s, were imprisoned and forced to labour in. Places like Addington Jail in Christchurch and various buildings and roads they worked on in Dunedin. Along the way, they were welcomed at local marae by descendants of local Maori who supported the prisoners at the time. It was an emotional journey, documented by Joseph’s camera and the children themselves. The narration is by the children, from their writing, poetry, song and art, expressed in a workshop after the journey.

 

Lurujarri Dreaming

This collaborative documentary will be a vehicle for the Goolarabooloo people to share their culture, history and vision for reconciliation with a wide national and international audience via broadcast, film festivals and online platforms. The Goolarabooloo are currently threatened by the prospect of a massive LNG refinery on their land, which threatens their sacred Songline, the Lurujarri Heritage Trail and there ability to carry out traditional cultural practices. The soundtrack will be composed by the renowned Deadly Award winning Broome indigenous musicians- the Pigram Brothers.

Lurujarri Dreaming Trailer from Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman on Vimeo.