School’s out so get youngsters into museum

It’s hard to believe we’re back into school holidays again. And, being in the throes of winter weather, we hope the museum might be an enticing place to bring children over this period.

If you have art lovers among your children or mokopuna then ‘Freedom & Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960’ is not to be missed. Cubism was a radical new form of European art, moving away from replicating scenes to challenging conventional viewpoints, angles and indeed the very nature of art. It’s not often that you get to see a series of Colin McCahon artworks in one place and I was certainly surprised by the style of his works during this period. Another artist, Louise Henderson, has emerged as one of the standouts in this exhibition for me, with an incredibly fresh and vibrant style – utilising a colour palette that looks contemporary even today.

For music lovers ‘He Manu Tioriori: 100 years of Ngati Kahungunu music’ takes you on a journey through the amazing talent that has emerged within this region. From WWI waiata, through brass bands, jazz age, rock and roll, classical and contemporary music, to Matatini (the national kapa haka festival) held in Hastings earlier this year, this exhibition covers a vast array of styles and talents. Children especially enjoy interacting with the touch-activated instruments, creating their own jazz music – and there’s space to enjoy a bit of dancing as well. And if they haven’t tried it yet there’s also the chance to mix sounds of taonga puoro (Maori instruments) in Tenei Tonu.

If your child’s interest is history and stories of individual people, I cannot recommend the Earthquake Survivors Stories film highly enough – these are extraordinary first-hand stories told by survivors of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake. They are moving, surprising, poignant and occasionally funny but all very honest and raw memories of the greatest natural disaster in New Zealand’s history. We’re currently working on adding subtitles to this film so that it can be more accessible to a wider audience (sadly not in time for these holidays though).

And of course our drop-in zone will be open throughout the school holidays with books and craft activities to enjoy (and some seating for the adults to take a break). Outside the drop-in zone we have our Matariki inspired colouring wall and there’s always the activity trail, which you can pick up from our lovely customer services team in the front foyer. This way children have something to do throughout the galleries while, hopefully, adults get enough time to enjoy the exhibitions on the way.

Whatever you choose to do over the holidays I hope you’ll manage to get some fun time in with your children and, if you’re like me, find ways to ensure they don’t sit in front of a screen the entire day!

Children making jazz music

Children making jazz music in He Manu Tioriori exhibition

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 8 July 2017


Band of Volunteers Keeps Our Museum Buzzing

Being volunteer week, it’s a great time to celebrate the many ways people contribute to society through unpaid work: from helping out at public institutions like ours, to assisting with sports, education, animal rescue, social services, environmental conservation, and so much more. Volunteering can be some of the most fulfilling work people do, as each person is contributing according to their own interests and talents. Their involvement is integral to building strong communities and it’s fantastic to see them recognised this week.

Here at the museum, we’re grateful for the support of our many dedicated and loyal volunteers, who help in a variety of ways both behind the scenes and in the public spaces. One of our longest-serving volunteers, Carol Delacy, works with the collection team whenever we’re putting textiles on display. Being one of the more complex items to display due to their fragility, we’re always appreciative of Carol’s skilled assistance.

Carol is also one of our volunteer hosts working in the galleries: enriching visitors’ interaction with exhibitions on display, answering any questions and assisting people during their visit. They will be out in force tomorrow during our Open Day, when entry to the museum will be free to all from 10am. We’re offering a series of floor talks, activities, and will be live-streaming the Kaumatua Kapa Haka event taking place in Wellington. There’s always a wonderful atmosphere when the museum is full of people, which makes being here especially enjoyable for our volunteers, as well as the staff members who come along. Tomorrow we’ll have several team leaders and a curator present, so if you’d like to speak to any of us about what you want to see at the museum, do come along and find us – or speak with our ever-friendly volunteer hosts and Customer Service team.

A major drawcard this Open Day is our latest exhibition, ‘Freedom & Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960.’ This exhibition is on tour from Auckland Art Gallery, and features an array of stunning paintings by some of the most pre-eminent artists in our nation’s European art history. The story begins with John Weeks, who studied painting in France and brought back radical ideas that were developing there to New Zealand. He shared them with Louise Henderson, among others, who took the baton and developed her own cubist style that was by turns bold and refined.

Henderson in turn influenced New Zealand’s most famous artist, Colin McCahon, and the work of these two artists forms the main focus of the exhibition. There’s a generous number of their exemplary cubist works, and taken as whole, the exhibition presents the surprising range that this style had within New Zealand. There are scenes of Titirangi kauri bush, nude figures bathing, still-life compositions, a foundry with a pot of luminous molten metal, and more: all painted in the distinctive geometric style of cubism. I hope you can come and enjoy the show this weekend, or at some point before its closing date of 12th November.

Louise Henderson artwork titled Dieppe, 1959.

Louise Henderson artwork titled Dieppe, 1959.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 24 June 2017

MTG Says Sad Farewell to Museum Supporter

Yesterday was a very sad day as I, along with other MTG Hawke’s Bay staff, attended the funeral for Don Millar. Don had an ongoing association with the museum, starting from his time as the Honorary Curator of Taonga Maori between 1990 – 2011. For almost 20 years he committed several days a week coming to the museum to research and catalogue the taonga collection, sharing with visitors and school groups his in-depth knowledge. Through his role at the museum, Don also built strong relationships with local iwi. An active archaeologist, he was awarded in 2011 the New Zealand Archaeological Association Inc public archaeology award in recognition of the outstanding work and dedication he showed to public archaeology. Don worked closely with Maori and had a great love and respect for Maori culture. A karakia was held for Don at a local Maori archaeological site today for people who could not attend the service.

While I only knew Don for a short period he had a great impact on me. I first met him in 2015 when I was giving a public presentation about the museum and where we are heading. Don was a stalwart supporter of what the museum was doing and of me personally – often turning up to many of my talks and reminding me if I’d forgotten anything. In his last few weeks Don was still ensuring he did things to support the museum, Maori and the wider community – bringing in the last of his toki collection from Tukituki Valley, Pakarae River and elsewhere, to ensure these are kept safe for future generations. I’m incredibly grateful for the short time I had with Don and along with museum staff truly treasure the memories we have of him.

On Thursday night this week the Foundation, also huge supporters of the museum, came together for a function and a more in-depth look at the ‘Out of the Box’ exhibition before it closes on Monday. We were delighted and very lucky to have Peter Shaw, Curator of the Fletcher Trust collection, walk us through the gallery and talk to specific artworks. Peter has a depth and breadth of knowledge about New Zealand art and the personal stories and anecdotes he was able to share really brought the artists and their work to life.

At the same event the Chairs of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Foundation and the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, acknowledged another example of support for the museum. This was the very tangible, regional and joint support of five different entities coming together to purchase a significant body of work for the collection. Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Napier Port, the Foundation and the Trust all jointly purchased four Jono Rotman works from a series titled Omaranui. The artist, Jono Rotman, together with his dealer gallery, Gow Langsford, contributed the final two works in the series so that we have a complete set in the collection. These works will go on display in early September.

It takes many hands, and lots of different kinds of support, to make institutions such as ours work and we’re grateful to those who give so generously – of time, funds, knowledge and active support – we couldn’t do it without you.

Don Millar (second from left) participating in karakia at the museum

Don Millar (second from left) participating in karakia at the museum

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 3 June 2017


Early Monday morning, two other museum staff and I travelled to Palmerston North for a conference on Museums of Inclusion: He Waka Eke Noa, looking at ways to make our institutions not only accessible to all, but also welcoming and relevant.

Warmly received by the local hapu of Rangitane, we heard from a range of speakers about the many different types of barriers that continue to exclude people from museums: from barriers to even entering the museum building, such as entry fees, to barriers that can make it physically difficult to navigate the museum, such as steps. There was rich discussion about cultural inclusion (and exclusion), looking at which stories are told, from whose perspective, and to which audiences. Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku referred back to the title of the conference, asking ‘whose waka is it? Who steers the waka, and who decides if full inclusion has been reached?”

We looked at how museums could make our content much more accessible, such as giving tours in sign language and accompanying written labels with audio versions. Practical sessions included tips on how to make exhibition spaces easy to navigate – and experience in full – while using a wheelchair.

It was immensely valuable to learn ways to break down barriers, and then to be inspired to go further. Physical and cultural access for all is just the minimum expected of museums, but what we really need to strive for is active and meaningful participation from a broad range of people within our community. That requires building relationships with a number of groups, especially those that have been marginalised, and over time increasing the diversity within museum staff.

I learned that 24% of the population lives with a disability, and that there are over 20,000 native speakers of New Zealand Sign Language. It’s exciting to think of the potential to work collaboratively to share stories from these communities and more that are not often heard.

I gave a short presentation on gender diversity, introducing those who weren’t familiar with the topic to the many ways that neither bodies nor personalities are limited to the binary model of female and male. With reference to the medically unnecessary surgeries still routinely performed on intersex babies and young people (and which the UN classes as torture), I encouraged museums to be leaders in acknowledging and welcoming all those whose realities aren’t reflected in the gender binary.

It was interesting to hear about what can make visiting the museum much more enjoyable for people with autism, such as having quiet areas to sit, away from lots of sensory stimulation. Another thought-provoking session looked at young people’s access to arts, culture and heritage while held in youth justice residences, and for incarcerated adults.

We were proud to receive a certificate as a finalist for a Museums Aotearoa Award on behalf of our Curator of Social History, Gail Pope, and to hear her congratulated for her wonderful work on the Napier Cemetery tours. All in all, it was a very valuable few days in Palmerston North and we’re looking forward to putting our new insights and perspectives into practice. Please do get in touch if you would like to give us some input on ways we can be more accessible, inclusive and welcoming.

Jess Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 27 May 2017

Clock ticking on popular exhibition, don’t miss out

Time seems to fly by incredibly quickly and it’s hard to believe our very popular exhibition ‘Out of the Box’ closes in two weeks’ time. If you haven’t yet been in to see it, or want a last look around, then you need to be quick as the exhibition finishes on 5 June.

This gallery, featuring approximately ten percent of our framed artworks, is a complete floor to ceiling hang. Breaking away from chronological order, this display allows new interactions between artworks; for example showing 19th century paintings next to contemporary works, which enables the viewer to see differences and make connections that might otherwise go unnoticed. It also shows the rich diversity of the region’s collection, while bringing to our attention some gaps that we’ll try to fill over time.

Feedback on this gallery from the public has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s proven to be one of our more popular recent displays. Much like the 2008 exhibition ‘Open Home,’ which was equally popular, it provided an opportunity to put more on display than usual and create a particularly rich art experience. There’s sure to be at least one artwork in this gallery to appeal to each person’s taste.

Replacing this exhibition in June, is a touring show from Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki titled ‘Freedom and Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960’. This exhibition looks at New Zealand’s response to the revolutionary new cubist style – which is possibly not a well-known period in our national art identity.

Cubism as an artistic style emerged in the early 20th century, with Pablo Picasso often cited as the creator – but more accurately developed in conjunction with French artist Georges Braque. Challenging representational style, this new form experimented with showing objects from multiple perspectives all at the same time. Braque and Picasso emphasised the flat surface of the picture canvas, rather than giving the illusion of depth. They reduced complex forms to basic geometric shapes. Early in the cubism period, the original subject matter could still be determined, but as the style developed, works were fragmented further into pure shapes, lines and planes without any reference to the physical world.

New Zealand was slow to adopt this radical shift in European art. Our isolation meant new developments were slow to reach our shores and, at that time, we continued leaning towards British, rather than continental European, influences. New Zealand audiences also tended to be very conservative and critical of artists who departed from the familiar style of clearly identifiable subjects and traditional perspectives.

Cubist art did emerge in New Zealand, albeit several decades later than overseas – but remains a lesser-known style in our national art history. This exhibition brings together artists Colin McCahon, Louise Henderson, Melvin Day, Charles Tole, John Weeks, and Wilfred Stanley Wallis to show a uniquely New Zealand expression of cubism.

Credit line: French Bay, Colin McCahon, 1957, courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

Credit line: French Bay, Colin McCahon, 1957, courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 20 May 2017

Nyree Dawn Porter (1936–2001), dancer and actor extraordinaire

Now that the Two Sisters exhibition is installed and open to the public, Jess and I are focusing our attentions on another iconic Hawke’s Bay woman: Nyree Dawn Porter (1936–2001), dancer and actor extraordinaire.

The initial impetus for the idea of an exhibition on Nyree came from six paintings, discovered in the Porters’ family home on Shakespeare Road in 2004. The young Nyree painted these directly on the walls of the living room, in which she taught dance during her teenage years. The paintings depict dancers in an array of poses with exaggerated long limbs. Her sister Merle Ayling recalled that Nyree painted them in this way to encourage her pupils to have long necks and elegant arms.

Melanie Oliver, the current owner of the paintings, offered to lend them to the Museum for exhibition. From this point, we began researching Nyree’s life and achievements. Her first love was dancing, and in 1954 the 18-year-old was the youngest dancer from Hawke’s Bay ever to receive the Solo Seal and Advanced Certificate from the Royal Academy of Dancing. She continued teaching dance up until joining a travelling acting troupe, ‘The New Zealand Players,’ in 1956. The major turning point in her life came two years later when she won the Miss Cinema contest, and moved to London to take up the prize of a screen test and follow her dream of becoming a star. The screen test turned out to be little more than a publicity stunt, but Nyree persisted and eventually embarked on an acting and dancing career in London’s theatres.

Nyree was catapulted into fame after landing the role of Irene in the Forsyte Saga: the first television literary soap opera. Broadcast in 1967, the show attracted a worldwide audience of over 160 million viewers in 26 countries. Her portrayal of the heroine captivated the public imagination, to the extent that when Neil Armstrong was asked who he would like to meet after he returned from the moon, he answered – Nyree Dawn Porter. Her performance also won Nyree a Bafta award and in 1970, she was appointed an OBE for services to television.

Nyree’s extraordinary fame in Britain and Europe did not translate back to her own country to the same extent. Ships were named after her, she received sack loads of fan mail, and even featured on British stamps but the BBC episode of ‘This is Your Life: Nyree Dawn Porter’ was never even shown on New Zealand television.

Through this exhibition, Jess and I hope to shed light on this remarkable performer and Hawke’s Bay woman. We would be very interested to hear from anyone who knew Nyree or who has related objects, photographs or information. The exhibition opens in September.

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

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 13 May 2017

Answering the Bugles Call

ANZAC Day holds a special place in the hearts of many New Zealander’s and more so over the years of the centenary period for The Great War.  As a young Cub Scout, I can remember proudly preparing my uniform with scarf and toggle, rising early, and making my way to the cenotaph in Hastings to join the Cub Pack in remembrance of those who fought for our freedom many decades ago.  Later I joined the Hastings Citizens Band and gained an appreciation for marching in the parade and leading the veterans from the cenotaph to the RSA for breakfast.  One of the traditions of the band was to cease playing while marching past the memorial outside Saint Matthews on Eastbourne Street.  There was an eerie solemnity of the parade marching to a solitary drum tap and then rousing the citizens’ with Colonel Bogey as if making a loud statement to those who did not rise to join us at 0530hrs – get up!

These young memories have stayed with me forever and ultimately shaped my own citizenship and need to participate in ANZAC services every year without fail.  It is our duty to remember and do our best to curb global conflict and maintain peace through peace.

I have always been and still am a keen bandsman, however it was my time as an army musician with the 7th Wellington and Hawke’s Bay Battalion Band where I truly learned the highest forms of military ceremony and the history of our local territorial unit.  Therefore, it is no surprise that my favourite object in our current World War One exhibition is Dr Frederick de Lisle’s bugle engraved with the insignia of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment.  This bugle was last sounded at Gallipoli and prior to that gave orders at Awapuni Camp and Cairo in 1914, El Kubri Suez Canal in 1915 and then the Dardanelles 25 April – 8 May 1915.

Being a bugler must have needed an immense amount of guts and there are many stories associated with buglers acts of courage under fire.  Buglers often fill my thoughts as I hug my tuba on parade, I really do not know if I would have cut the mustard as a soldier yet alone a bugler!  However many of those courageous young boys that went to the battlefield probably thought the same yet off they marched for God, King and Country under the guise of an overseas adventure.

Our World War One exhibition tells the Hawke’s Bay story well and will close on the 1st of May, this ANZAC Day we are opening the museum doors at 7.00am for families to view the exhibition and learn about our contribution to the war effort one last time.  The gallery will then tell the story of Maori waiata written during World War One with Houngarea marae at Pakipaki as the backdrop.  Pakipaki is where all Maori soldiers from the East Coast congregated for a final farewell before departing via rail to their training camp and then embarkation to Europe.  One of the waiata, E Pari Ra (Ebb Tides), written by Paraire Tomoana was later gifted to the Royal New Zealand Navy as their official Slow March.  The waiata was gifted to the Navy at Pakipaki in 1968, where the band marched up and down the marae playing the waiata as a slow march and have done so ever since.

So as we close one World War One story to tell another, we invite you all to enjoy the museum and World War One exhibition as a free open day.  Nau Mai! Haere Mai!  We Will Remember Them!

Bugle, 9th Hawkes Bay Regiment, gifted to the HB Museums Trust by Mrs Florence Le Lievre.

Bugle, 9th Hawkes Bay Regiment, gifted to the HB Museums Trust by Mrs Florence Le Lievre.

Charles Ropitini Pou Ārahi | Strategic Māori Advisor, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 22 April 2017