HB women play their part in suffrage campaign

Monday 19 September marks Women’s Suffrage Day, when New Zealand women won the right to vote in parliamentary elections. On this day in 1893, Lord Glasgow signed the new Electoral Act into law, making New Zealand the first self-governing country in the world in which all women over the age of 21 finally had the right to vote – after two decades of determined and relentless campaigning.

The Hawke’s Bay suffrage campaign was initially spearheaded by the Napier Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) formed in 1885, whose slogan was, For God, and Home and Humanity. The primary function of WCTU nationwide was to limit men’s consumption of alcohol, and suffrage was seen as a means to achieve that end. Many of the arguments for women’s suffrage were based on the issue of temperance, as it was often the wife and children who suffered through a husband’s drunken behaviour. Women had no legal redress in New Zealand society with unequal divorce laws and limited means to financial independence.

While the suffrage campaign was coordinated by women living in Napier, women throughout Hawke’s Bay were actively involved: encouraging others, canvassing for signatures, distributing franchise literature, and writing letters to newspapers.

One of the national WCTU’s main methods of campaigning for women’s suffrage was petitioning Parliament. The first petition was delivered in 1891 and supported in Parliament by Premier John Balance. A second petition, larger than the first, was presented the following year – and a third, larger still, in 1893: in which Hawke’s Bay women’s signatures made up ten percent of the overall total.

By the 1890s, people of Hawke’s Bay were well aware of the issue of women’s franchise (legislated rights) through local newspapers, which played an important role in communicating ideas as well as providing a forum for debate. Most people thought women’s suffrage would primarily be used to influence laws around education and the moral welfare of the young, extending a woman’s role as ‘mother’. This idea saw women not as adults with an inherent right to democratic participation, but instead as moral protectors of society concerned with preserving peace, law and order.

Once the Electoral Act came into law, local newspapers stressed the necessity for women to register. On November 28, the day before voting, the Hawke’s Bay Herald recorded that ‘Woman (sic) franchise was demanded and conceded as a right, not as a privilege, and that right involves the duty to vote’. This was followed by the threat that if a person neglected to vote, under the new Electoral Act they would be struck off the rolls. When voting day arrived, suffrage opponents warned that delicate ‘lady voters’ would be jostled and harassed in polling booths by ‘boorish and half-drunken men’. This did not happen and the 1893 election was well conducted and orderly.

Waipawa Women’s Christian Temperance Union banner

Waipawa Women’s Christian Temperance Union banner

Written by Gail Pope – MTG Hawke’s Bay Curator of Social History 

Plenty of Fare on Offer at NZ International Film Festival

I’m very excited to say that it’s nearly time for the NZ International Film Festival again, with most films screening here at MTG Century Theatre. Starting on Thursday the 1st of September, the festival runs through until the 18th and is packed with a fantastic line-up. Films range from inspirational, heartfelt and poignant through to intense, dramatic and thrilling – there are options to appeal to everyone.

For our opening night we have the uplifting and inspiring film Miss Sharon Jones! I’m looking forward to hearing the full story and following her journey to success after being told she was ‘too black, too fat, too short, and too old’ to make it as a soul singer, while enjoying some seriously good performances throughout. Other inspiring films include Free to Run, which explores the history of running over the last 50 years, including the effort it took to lift the ban on women competing in races over 800m.

There are a couple of gripping detective-inspired films including Argentinean story The Clan. Based on the true story of the Puccio family, who in 1985 were responsible for a series of kidnaps and murders, the trailer looks both chilling and mesmerising. Chilean film Neruda is the fictional story of an obsessive detective chasing the (real) Chilean poet and politician who went into exile in 1948.

And there’s no lack of thrillers, suspense and drama either. Elle looks to be an intriguing and potentially controversial film, set around the brutal rape of the main character. It explores power and domination and, I suspect, will challenge and engage the viewer throughout.  High Rise is a drama which explores social division between those in the lower and upper levels of an apartment building. It has been described as “a kind of adult Lord of the Flies.” It’s interesting to see these sorts of films responding to current debate about social systems such as gender and class.

Two charming animated films of beautiful and poignant stories should be a hit with young and old. Long Way North tells the story of Sasha, a young Russian aristocrat in 1892, who undertakes a treacherous journey north to seek her grandfather who has failed to return from his latest expedition to the North Pole. The other animated film The Red Turtle tells a castaway tale and is full of sublime imagery “a must for the big screen”.

Local content is not forgotten, with three strong features from New Zealand and the Pacific, giving the opportunity to get behind and support our own filmmakers in the film festival. These include The 5th Eye, New Zealand’s Best 2016, and Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts 2016.

Suffice to say these are only some of the films in the line-up and I’ve already purchased (rather a lot) of tickets for some of my favourite options – not all listed here. Tickets are on sale now, at MTG, and Film Festival brochures are available from the museum foyer and will be widely distributed through shops and cafes in the city next week. Hope to see many of you at screenings in September.


Long Way North, 2015, directed by Rēmi Chayē

Long Way North, 2015, directed by Rēmi Chayē


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 6 August 2016

Throwaway culture at odds with our No8 wire identity

As we head to the end of July I’ve been reflecting on my, admittedly not very successful, attempt to complete Plastic Free July. Aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating single-use plastic for at least one month a year, this movement originated as an initiative of the Western Metropolitan Regional Council, Perth, in 2011. By 2013 they’d thrown the challenge open to the world.

Just to be clear this is not aimed at eliminating all plastic, it’s specifically about single-use plastic, such as their top four list – throw-away plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.

I used to think I was doing really well; over ten years ago I removed plastic wrap, tin foil and baking paper from our house and have been managing fine without this. Unfortunately I’m struggling with two of the top four above. I do have reusable coffee cups but don’t always remember to take them with me and I’m still far too prone to accepting plastic shopping bags. I guess just the fact that it’s caused me to stop and think, and reassess my own practices is something, but I’ll definitely strive to do better – and on a permanent basis.

It’s an interesting dilemma when you think of where we started, our ‘number-eight wire’ culture, of making do with what we had and finding ways to repair and reuse virtually everything. We currently have two works on display which reference this. No. 8 Wire, a work by Nigel Brown, conveys a sense of nostalgia for an identity built on practical ingenuity and the simple life working the land. We also have a work by local artist Ben Pearce, Stone Age Eight Gauge, which recently won the Fieldays No.8 Wire Award. This award celebrates the resourcefulness of New Zealanders, particularly the ability to make do with any available resources. Resembling ancient artifacts, such as spearheads and stone tools, Pearce’s work shows that the number 8 wire mentality was global – transcending time and place.

And yet now, we’ve become a plastic throw-away culture. In the early 20th century, when plastics were developed, they replaced other plant and animal products, such as the use of ivory and tortoiseshell. However come the 1960’s the use of plastics for durable items spread to disposable plastic packaging.

And it can be really frustrating, plastic is everywhere! As a busy person I tend to shop at supermarkets for time convenience (usually late evenings when markets aren’t open) but I object to finding cucumbers now completely wrapped in plastic, pumpkin quarters the same, and so on.

I’m really rather pleased therefore that one of the films in the NZ International Film Festival this year, Tomorrow, is focused on environmental issues. Not from a doom and gloom viewpoint but a more optimistic look at what we, as individuals and communities, can do. I’ll certainly be making time in my diary to see this film – showing on Thursday the 8th of September at 6pm. The film festival will be on at the Century Theatre from the 1st of September through to the 18th.

No. 8 Wire, Nigel Brown

No. 8 Wire, Nigel Brown


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 23 July 2016

Regret at Your Departure

Precious items are often gifted into the museum collection by generous members of the public. One such recent donation is an ornate and beautiful illuminated address, found unceremoniously slotted between a desk and a shelf by a member of the Port Ahuriri Bowling Club while cleaning out their clubrooms. It was kindly gifted to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust after the Port Ahuriri Bowling Club closed. This illuminated address is both a decorative piece and an important historical manuscript connecting our community with the past.

Illuminated addresses were created to mark special occasions or celebrate a person’s achievements. They are formal greetings with beautiful handwriting and fine decoration.  The word ‘illuminated’ refers to the use of gold or silver and bright colours in the tradition of medieval manuscripts. Often the decoration was personalised with miniature pictures relating to the life and work of the person honoured. The presentation of an illuminated address was marked by a formal ceremony during which the text of the address was read aloud.

This particular illumination was in honour of Edward Crowley who, after 35 years, was leaving Napier to take up a new position in Tauranga. The address celebrated his many years of valuable service to the township of Napier as a Napier Borough Councillor. While on Council, he was closely associated with the development of the Municipal tramway system, which opened in 1913 with five trams, travelling from the depot in Faraday Street to the Port Ahuriri terminus. The line was damaged in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake and never restored.

At his farewell on 4 May 1914, with over 100 people in attendance, his former business partner (and opponent in a slander hearing) Mayor John Vigor Brown, handed Crowley a purse of £165 sovereigns with goodwill. Vigor Brown stated that an illuminated address was being drawn up and that, as it wasn’t completed, it would be forwarded to the Mayor of Tauranga to present to Crowley on behalf of the citizens of Napier. Crowley said that his nine years on the Napier Borough Council had been a “labour of love and he was leaving Napier with many regrets.” The illuminated address was finally presented to Crowley on 29 January 1915 at the Tauranga Bowling Club – a fitting place because of his keen interest in the game of bowls.

The address was designed, handwritten and painted by Henry Charles Adolphus Wundram, who was renowned in Hawke’s Bay as an illuminator. Wundram was also a Napier Borough Councillor and Inspector of Public Buildings. On the right hand side of the illumination he incorporated five images of Napier. Traditionally miniature paintings decorated the address, but Wundram instead used beautifully cut-out oval images from coloured postcards. On the left, he personalised the life and work of Edward Crowley by incorporating the Municipality of Napier crest and the Napier Bowling Club flag. The Mayor, Councillors and Presidents of four bowling clubs signed the address at the bottom and finished with the statement that they “wished Crowley the best of health, happiness and fortune for the future.”

Detail of Edward Crowley’s illuminated address

Detail of Edward Crowley’s illuminated address

Written by Gail Pope, Curator – Social History MTG Hawke’s Bay

Upcoming festivals to reveal city’s cultural depth

Last night Hastings City Art Gallery opened a spectacular new exhibition titled The Cubic Structural Evolution Project which I can highly recommend visiting. It’s a fun and interactive display where the visitor gets to be part of making the work – imagining, designing and creating a future cityscape. Having dragged my two reluctant teenage sons along, I can say first-hand that the exhibition grabbed their attention and fired their imaginations. And I too had fun contributing my bit to the city-scape. This is a work that engages young and old and I believe it’s a must to experience while here in Hawke’s Bay.

We continue to collaborate closely with Toni McKinnon, Director Hastings City Art Gallery, and her team to find ways we can share, build on each other’s offerings, and develop joint programmes or events. This week we’ve been discussing the upcoming Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival in October and looking at what we can do together to participate in this event. We’ve come up with some fun ideas to get involved and will share those with you once we get nearer to the date and our ideas are fully formed.

This month, around the 13th of June, Auckland Museum’s Cenotaph digitisation unit will be coming to MTG. The Cenotaph is Auckland Museums’ online database that serves as a living memorial to military personnel who served New Zealand during times of international conflict. It covers international wars up to Afghanistan. People are welcome to come in and search the database and also to add new records and information. There is a scanner to create digital records of photographs or objects which are then added to the ever growing database online.

Of course Winter Deco Weekend is edging closer and we’re pleased to have Jessica Mio, our Curator – Art, presenting at the Brunch With MTG Hawke’s Bay At The Masonic event. Jessica will take the audience through Rene Lalique’s journey from pre-eminent Art Nouveau jeweller to international master of Art Deco glass. Having heard Jessica’s thoughts and ideas on this subject before, I can certainly say that she’ll provide interesting background information and insights on the subject.

With Te Matatini (New Zealand’s national kapa haka competition) less than a year away, there’s much going on and coming up to get engaged in. For those who haven’t experienced Te Matatini before the number of attendees is similar to Art Deco Festival numbers. In 2017 Art Deco and Te Matatini happen one after the other, Art Deco 16-19 Feb and Te Matatini 22-26 Feb, so our region will be bustling. Our team are working away on plans for displays which showcase the rich and varied artistic talent of Māori musicians, performers and artists within this region.

There’s much that goes on in Hawke’s Bay within the arts and culture space that deserves to be embraced and celebrated by the community. And there are many talented and passionate people who give so much of their time, energy and talent to projects within the region. Whether you personally engage in arts and culture or not, this is the element of any city that adds life, personality and vibrancy to the community landscape.

The Cubic Structural Evolution Project finishes at Hastings City Art Gallery on 28 August so do make sure you get the chance to engage with this before it closes.

Olafur Eliasson The cubic structural evolution project (installation view) 2010. Purchased 2005. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Olafur Eliasson. The cubic structural evolution project (installation view) 2010. Purchased 2005. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 4 June 2016

  • Artist’s floortalk for new exhibition Bodytok Quintet 11 June 10:00am, free with museum entry
  • Avalanche City, family music event 11 June 7:30pm, tickets available through Ticketek

Bowring paintings on display at museum

Last night, Laura and I attended the opening of ‘W A Bowring: a true colonial artist’ at the Hawke’s Bay Club – just across the road from the museum. This is an exhibition of all the Walter Bowring paintings in the Club’s collection, most of which are portraits or caricatures from the early 1900s that depict Club members of that time.

The Club approached us late last year with the suggestion that we hold a concurrent display of Bowring’s works at the Museum, and we’re pleased to have been able to do so. Six works by Bowring from our collection are now on display in the Octagon of the museum. Meanwhile, the Club’s exhibition will be open to the public, with free entry, each Saturday morning in June from 9am-12pm.

Bowring was described in a newspaper article of 1902 as a “true colonial artist, since he was born and bred, trained and educated in the colony.” This was true; however as a ‘first-generation’ New Zealander with European parents and art teachers, his work has much in common with many other Pākehā artists of his time who had immigrated from Britain or continental Europe.

As such, Bowring’s paintings in the Octagon fit well alongside the late 19th century landscapes in the adjacent ‘Gifts of Nature’ exhibition. Like the landscape painters (and many other colonial painters in New Zealand), Bowring‘s paintings depict local subjects in a manner that was closely bound to European conventions, yet isolated from the latest developments there.

An example is his 1912 work ‘Storm Breaking over Sea Wall Below Bluff Hill, Napier, which depicts a local scene in a style strongly reminiscent of JMW Turner, the renowned English master of landscape – who had died half a century before this work. The Impressionists had since come and gone, followed by Vincent van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists, and Cubism was in full swing. Colonial New Zealand was further removed from these revolutionary ideas due to its cultural allegiance to Britain rather than France, with modern art taking longer to catch on amongst the British artists and public.

In fact, Bowring made his position on modernism clear after travelling to London to study the work of both the Old Masters and his European contemporaries, writing that “for so called modern art in its more extreme form, I have no sympathy at all.” He spent a year studying with prominent English painters Augustus John and William Orpen, and was inspired by their command of portraiture. He returned home and began a prolific career as a portrait painter, proving talented at capturing an accurate likeness.

His skill in that field brought him numerous commissions, while his background as a newspaper cartoonist furthered his popularity, as he could accompany a traditional portrait with a witty caricature of the same person. He was commissioned to paint numerous wealthy and prominent Pākehā men in all areas of power: central and local government, commerce, clergy, military and so on. Included in our display is his grand portrait of Sir Douglas McLean, along with both a portrait in oils and a light-hearted watercolour caricature of Maurice Bower, town clerk of Napier for 37 years.

Storm Breaking Over Sea Wall Below Bluff Hill, Napier, c. 1915

Storm Breaking Over Sea Wall Below Bluff Hill, Napier, c. 1915


Jess Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 28 May 2016

Conference Challenges Museums to be more Inclusive

Having just returned from the Museums Australasia Conference in Auckland, I am inspired – as always after such conferences – to stop and think about what we do, why we do it and how we could do better. The conference theme of “Facing the Future: Local, Global and Pacific Possibilities” included reminding us of the very imperialist roots of our discipline.

One keynote speaker, Boon Hui Tan (Director of the Asian Society Museum in New York), challenged us to become more aware of the Euro-American framework that we use, and recognise that this cannot simply be applied to other cultures. Tan also stated that “we give colonialism too much power”, we talk about it too much and focus on it too much. This is a refreshing view but not one I’m sure we’re ready for yet and, with the 250th of Cook’s arrival in 2019, it’s not a subject we can ignore. Tan challenged us to be aware of our biases and the frameworks we operate in, acknowledging that this is not accessible to all. It’s a wonderful challenge but daunting to try and address. How do you make the experience accessible for all cultural viewpoints? And how do you attempt to do so without alienating the existing audience that understands the current model?

This is talking about a multi-cultural approach while our industry continues to explore how to really engage with Māori communities and Māori stories. Museums in New Zealand have certainly come a long way but I don’t believe we’re there yet. Another keynote speaker, Moana Jackson – Director Nga Kaiwhakamarama I Nga Ture (Maori Legal Service), proposed that the entire framework of all displays in our institutions should be based in both Māori and Pākehā worldviews, rooted in the bicultural principles of our country. This is one aspect of what we’ve been discussing in our review of the 1931 earthquake exhibition.

We have, as an industry, moved away from the model of experts telling the public what to think – “THE TRUTH” – to a more collaborative and inclusive model, acknowledging that knowledge comes from many sources and in many forms and that truth(s) can be different. Our role is to provide information while being confident and comfortable enough to allow the viewer to reach their own conclusions. However exploring all viewpoints and letting every voice speak has its own challenges and is not appropriate for every exhibition and subject matter. The danger of ‘the neutrality of museums’ was also raised at the conference. If we’re so busy making sure we’re entirely inoffensive and inclusive, does this make a museum bland? Courtney Johnston, Director of The Dowse Art Museum, noted that we all have biases and the key is to be aware of them and understand them – to make conscious decisions.

Unfortunately we didn’t come back with any awards from the conference and, whilst we’re naturally disappointed, we know we were a strong contender. The winners in our categories were exceptional and justifiably received awards. Pin Wall did however receive a special mention but simply couldn’t win against two major museum building projects (a complete new museum in Kaiapoi and Te Kōngahu – The museum of Waitangi). Nonetheless we made it into the finals in all three categories we entered and I’m incredibly proud of the work the team here have done. I have no doubts that we’ll produce future award-winning programmes and exhibitions.

Tēnei Tonu one of the finalists for the Regional Taonga Māori award

Tēnei Tonu one of the finalists for the Regional Taonga Māori award

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 21May 2016