It’s been lovely watching over the course of the week as more and more people appear in Art Deco dress, enjoying the fabulous Hawke’s Bay sunshine. The Opening Soiree, held at MTG last night, was a roaring success – boding well for a great festival this year. I hope you all get to enjoy a taste of the fun and frivolity over the weekend.
The festival, however, always makes me think of the catastrophic event that led to the rebirth of Hawke’s Bay as the Art Deco centre of New Zealand. The 7.8 earthquake of 3 February 1931 rocked the region, forever changing the landscape.
Amazing stories of bravery, heroism and lucky escapes emerged from what is, still, New Zealand’s worst natural disaster. In the collection there’s a photograph showing the spot where James Collins, aged 67, was pulled from the ground following the earthquake. Collins was buried lying on a bed in the old Men’s Home at Park Island for three days and four nights. He was finally found, still alive, and lived to tell his tale.
Many did what they could to help, with people looking after the injured, rescuing survivors and setting up shelters and camps. In the Survivors Stories film, on show in our 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake exhibition, Hana Cotter recounts the grim reality of searching for survivors and the deceased along with other members of her whanau.
A B Hurst (Arthur Bendigo) immediately following the earthquake, grabbed his camera, along with rolls of film from his photography studio in Emerson Street and ran out to document the earthquake damage and subsequent fire raging through the town. When he ran out of film he took rolls from ruined and vacated chemist shops. His images captured the devastation of a city and the shock and trauma of the survivors. Also in the film Survivors Stories, Hurst’s daughter Audrey, talks about the effect this experience had on her father. Hurst’s images remain the most significant collection of photographs from the earthquake.
One of our latest education programmes, Breaking News, focuses on the earthquake, allowing children to experience the day as news reporters. Drawing on images and stories in the exhibition and archives, students work in groups to research and plan how they will present their information. Using a green screen students then create their own breaking news broadcast.
Our educators offer a range of lesson options covering art, social history, Maori and decorative arts. Breaking News compliments existing education programmes focused on the earthquake through a series of different lenses aimed at different age groups.
The 1931 earthquake remains a defining moment in Hawke’s Bay’s history. From the literal ashes of disaster the region was rebuilt in a new and distinctive architectural style. With clean lines, geometric design motifs of zig zags, sunbursts and speedlines, the region has a heritage to be proud of and is home to the highly successful Art Deco Festival, celebrating 30 year this year.
Image by A B Hurst, showing the fire destroying the town
Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 17th February 2018