English town delights in finding pieces to puzzle in MTG exhibition

There’s a wealth of knowledge held within communities and we’re grateful for the generous way you share this knowledge. Time and time again when we’ve reached out to the community for help on a subject matter or an object, you’ve willingly provided the answer. An example is when Peter Rawstrome wrote in response to one of these columns featuring Len Willoughby’s magic collection. Peter kindly told us how the items were used and more about the magic clubs and activity in Hawke’s Bay. This information was then put on the object file and, when we started working on a future exhibition that will include Len’s magician’s box, we immediately contacted Peter. Peter is now working with Gail Pope, our Curator – Social History, providing more detail and information about the magic tricks in the box. So when you come to see an exhibition with Len’s magician’s box in it, a lot of the information that will sit alongside comes straight from Peter.

This exchange of information occurs in many different ways and across all sorts of communication channels, face-to-face, letters, public media, social media and so on. This year our collection team have been producing two Facebook posts per week – one from the general collections and one from the archives. These posts provide a great way to show the collection more broadly with the community, sharing the treasures and the stories we hold. Proving quite popular these posts are regularly liked, commented on and shared with others and we’re pleased people are enjoying this interchange.

The community of knowledge is no longer limited to those within a certain radius and now spreads far and wide with the use of social media. Recently Gail was contacted by Reverend Kate Massey from Stockingford. The church community there saw information about the House of Webb: a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville exhibition online and were fascinated to learn what happened to the Webb family. Across the other side of the world the story of the Webb family ended with their departure to New Zealand, so it’s been exciting for that community to finally learn what happened to Reverend Webb and his family. Our archives and photographs from the Webb collection are helping to fill-in some gaps for that community both about the Webb family and also about life in Stockingford, with us holding a sketch of the vicarage (which is no longer in existence).

Museums and galleries have very talented and knowledgeable staff, however they cannot know everything about all the objects we hold on your behalf. Long gone are the days when curators and museums were put on a pedestal as people and places that know “the answer” and of course there are many truths in history depending on perspective. Modern museological practice is far more about building networks of knowledge with the community, near and far, to ensure as much knowledge is captured as possible for current and future generations. Sometimes people underestimate the knowledge they hold but all the many pieces create the bigger puzzle and we’re truly grateful for your generosity in sharing with us.

St Pauls Vicarage

Image Caption: Sketch of the now non-existent St Paul’s Vicarage, Stockingford

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 22 September 2018


Te reo embraced strongly – and not just by Māori

As we come to the end of te reo Māori language week I’ve been reflecting on how we’re progressing in this space. As a country it seems there’s been a collective shift over the last year around the use of Te Reo Māori, with New Zealand’s native language being used more frequently and comfortably on our television channels, national radio and elsewhere. I’m told there are more non-Māori than Māori signing up for te reo lessons around the country and that it’s now hard to book into classes due to popular demand. I look back a year ago when I was writing this column and I couldn’t include macrons as the paper didn’t have the ability to print these and now including macrons is completely normal. Now, using technology to good effect, a new app Kupu, has been launched where you take a photo and the app provides the te reo word for the image. For anyone interested in increasing their te reo vocabulary this is an easy and fun way to go. It really fells that, as a nation, we may have taken a big step forward – with of course many steps yet to go.

At MTG Hawke’s Bay we’re also looking at our use of te reo and seeking to increase how consistently and broadly we apply this. Our museum maps are now printed in both English and Māori and we have a range of product in our shop to support language, such as fridge magnets which teach a variety of words around body parts, colours, days of the week, etc, and a New Zealand map with te reo place names. We also stock the beautiful Mauri Ora book which shares Māori proverbs and wisdom in te reo and translated to English. Some of our staff have previously taken te reo classes and this week we broadened out to offer short introductory classes to the public. These classes, taken by our Curator- Māori, Te Hira Henderson, offer an easy introduction to the language and are suitable for anyone even if you have never tried Māori pronunciation before. The first class on Thursday was enjoyed by those who attended and the time just flew by! It’s not too late to try a class for yourself with the second class on this morning at 11:00 – just ring the museum to check there are still spaces available.

We’re in the final weekend of the film festival but there’s still time to catch some great movies. With six films on over the weekend there’s a variety of options available. Two of the films on my list are screening today, Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect and Puzzle, so I’ll definitely be heading in to catch at least one of those. An intriguing option is The World Is Yours  – a film described as “A French gangster comedy that zips along with all the bright, bouncy energy of a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon”.  Rounding out the festival on Sunday are two art films Kusama – Infinity and Petra along with Birds of Passage, a film which explores indigenous Colombian culture tackling the drug trade. We hope you’ve enjoyed the festival and managed to see your top picks.

  • Introduction to Māori language with Curator Māori Te Hira Henderson, today (Saturday 15 Sept) 11:00, meet in MTG front foyer, free event. Please ring 833 9925 to check spaces available.
  • 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, two films – Gaylene Preston’s short film Hot Words & Bold Retorts and film Suffragettes set in London. Wednesday 19 September, Century Theatre – screenings at 2pm and 6pm. Koha appreciated
  • Lunchtime Walk & Talk (public art tour) with Curator Art Jess Mio. Thursday 20 September 12 – 12:45pm. Meet in MTG front foyer, free event, no bookings required.
  • Talk by award winning architect Andrew Patterson, Century Theatre, Thursday 20 September 6-7pm. Light refreshments provided after the talk. Free event.
  • Sound Bites, come and enjoy a series of 30-minute lunchtime recitals by students from Project Prima Volta, MTG Century Theatre, 24-28 September 12:15 – 12:45pm. Koha entry
  • Community stitch panel, Jo Dixey arrives to complete the final stage of this community projects, MTG front foyer, Thursday 27 September, all day from 9:30am.

Te Hira te reo

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 15 September 2018

Going on shopping expedition with museum visitors in mind

Last week I attended the Spring Gift Fair with Amanda Sye, Visitor Engagement Coordinator. This is an enormous trade fair open only to retailers. We went with a focus on looking for new suppliers and new product for the MTG Hawke’s Bay shop to ensure we have a rich and varied range of goods available.

While we already have some great product in our shop there’s always scope for more and, importantly, to ensure there’s always something new for repeat customers.

We have some key purchasing criteria that we try to meet whenever we can. Where possible we prefer New Zealand made and, while we cannot solely stock New Zealand product, where there are two comparable products in a similar price range we preference New Zealand made.

We have a similar approach to sustainability and where we can will offer sustainable product. Interestingly at the gift fair we saw some great sustainable product but it came wrapped in copious amounts of plastic, so there is still a way to go to get this right.

We already support a number of local makers and artisans and will continue to have high quality locally made product available where we can and when it meets other criteria.

A very important factor is considering our audiences and finding product they’re likely to buy. For locals we need to have a range of great books, higher quality gift items and fabulous jewellery. Friends of MTG enjoy a 10% discount in our shop so if you would like to enjoy a discount talk to our friendly customer service team about becoming a Friend.

We also need to think about tourists and look for things that are authentic, lightweight and can easily fit into a suitcase such as flat packed items, jewellery, slim books, pounamu, tea towels and so on. As well we need to have ‘trinkets’ or souvenirs, gift items they can take home to give to others. Locals also buy to send overseas so all the factors for tourists still apply. For all visitors price point is important and we need to aim to cater for all budget levels.

We’re hoping to add in a range to suit corporate clients and will be exploring this in the near future.

Specific things we were looking for at the gift fair included more jewellery options as this is an area we should be known for. We were also on the lookout for appropriate Māori product, which can be challenging as finding authentic but commercially priced product is extremely hard. Increasing the range of art product was another item on the list, specifically prints of works related to, or directly from, our collection. And finally we were hoping to find more product for children that is relevant to the museum.

Did we find everything we were looking for? No but we did find a lot of new products and new suppliers that were relevant. We’re planning some exciting changes to our shop so watch this space. What would you like to see in our shop?

  • New Zealand International Film Festival at MTG Century Theatre until 16 September. Tickets available at MTG now.
  • Introduction to Māori Language, join our Māori Curator Te Hira Henderson amongst the wonderful taonga in our Tēnei Tonu gallery for a free 30 minute Introduction to Māori Language session. Please register at events@mtghawkesbay.com or by ringing MTG as spaces are limited. Tēnei Tonu gallery, MTG 13 & 15 September, 11:00am
  • Celebrate 125 years of woman’s suffrage with two free films. Gaylene Prestons’ short film Hot Words & Bold Retorts focuses on New Zealand’s 1893 elections and campaign, followed by the 2015 Suffragettes film is set in 1912 London where a young working mother is galvanized into radical political activism. MTG Century Theatre, Wednesday 19 September 2pm and 6pm. Free event, no booking required.
  • Join Art Curator Jess Mio on a free lunch-time tour of public art in Napier. Please register at events@mtghawkesbay.com or by ringing MTG as spaces are limited. Tours start at MTG Hawke’s Bay. Thursday 20 September midday.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 08 September 2018

NZ International Film Festival quick to pull crowd

The opening night of this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival was a huge success, with over 100 people turning up for the first screening. Disobedience was a riveting way to launch the festival and gives a sense of promise for a varied and captivating line up of films to explore throughout the festival.

Many films this year explore personal stories on a very human level – stories of love, self-discovery, liberation, incredulity, sadness and joy. One such film which has really captured my interest is Puzzle, which follows Agnes on a journey of self-discovery, breaking out of the small world she has known from a young age – finding her voice, power and liberation. This movie looks quirky and absolutely delightful and is one I’m definitely planning to see. Loveling is another journey of self-discovery and explores a dedicated mother of four sons with all the chaos and fun that brings, facing her first experience of empty-nest syndrome.

Bring your tissues to Aga, as I have it on good authority from a friend that this simply beautiful story about an elderly couple living in the Arctic tundra had her in tears. Another film Shoplifters follows a struggling family of five who take in an abused child with no way of knowing the journey they will embark on. This film uses a delicate hand to explore a number of themes including the very nature of what makes a family. A film that is already proving popular, based on ticket sales, is Three Identical Strangers which shares the simply incredible story of identical triplets separated at birth who find each other again as young adults. The movie clearly has hidden depths as further secrets and unbelievable twists follow.

New Zealand content is well represented this year. Maui’s Hook by Māori psychologist and filmmaker Paora Joseph bravely tackles the grim subject of suicide with a sensitive hand and a sobering touch. While Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen delivers a “richly personal portrait” exploring the life and work of Merata Mita who broke through many barriers as an indigenous filmmaker, a woman and an activist. Paul Callaghan: Dancing with Atoms looks at the life of renowned scientist, thinker and ‘renaissance man’ Paul Callaghan who continues to have an impact today. And we have the ever popular New Zealand’s Best 2018 showing the best-of short films.

For those who love a bit more action or thrills Burning is based on a love-triangle with a story that slowly gets darker and stranger, leading the viewer on a journey of suspense and surprise. The best-reviewed film at Cannes, Burning looks completely mesmerising. Beirut has been personally recommended to me by several people now. Described as a “cracking, old-fashioned spy thriller” this promises twists and turns coupled with fantastic acting by Jon Hamm and fellow cast members. I won’t be missing either of these films!

Of course you can never know where films in the film festival will take you – and that’s the beauty of it all.

  • Talk, walk and beach clean with curator Jess Mio, beginning in the Bottled Ocean 2118 Gloves and bags supplied. Free event, starting and ending at MTG Hawke’s Bay. Today – Saturday, 1 September, 10:00am.
  • New Zealand International Film Festival at MTG Century Theatre now on until 16 September. Tickets available at MTG now.


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 01 September 2018

MTG exhibition suggests ‘evil’ plastic should be viewed as treasure

Our newest exhibition opened to the public yesterday: George Nuku’s ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’. It took three weeks of creative collaboration with school groups, members of the public, museum staff, and many of George’s friends and whānau to bring his vision to life, and we thank all those who contributed.

As the show’s title suggests, George’s vision focusses on the convergence of plastic and oceans. George holds a rare perspective on plastic, which turns prevailing attitudes entirely upside down. Plastic is commonly regarded as a useful (perhaps necessary) evil that, while endlessly versatile, is also undesirable and almost worthless: often seen as an inferior imitation of a more ‘real’ material.

In contrast, George sees plastic as a taonga, a beautiful and precious substance just like pounamu or diamond, with unique properties and an incredible genealogy. Millions of years of intense heat and pressure transformed the remains of ancient marine life into crude oil, which is extracted from the body of Papatūānuku, Mother Earth, and used in chemical processes to form the vast array of plastic forms in existence today. They are therefore simultaneously the oldest and the newest objects in our lives, and they’re all entirely real.

Plastic itself is not evil at all: rather it is a systemic social failure to suitably value this extraordinary substance that sees it produced in obscene overabundance then discarded after minimal use, resulting in dangerous degradation of the ecosystems we all rely on.

I sum up George’s approach to this dilemma as ‘don’t’ hate the plastic, hate the game’ – which reminds me of a work in the EAST exhibition currently on show at Hastings City Art Gallery. ‘The Strong Silent Type’ by Kauri Hawkins features a chess board populated with coins, bottles of coke, packets of cigarettes and more: ‘goods’ which, as Kauri explains, labouring workers often buy from dairies to get through the day.

Kauri makes the point through this artwork that we’re all playing a big game, with pre-determined rules and pieces to play with. Viewers are prompted to ask ourselves, do we like this game? Is it the best one for us all? Where does it come from, who developed it, and how does it end?

‘Bottled Ocean’ presents one possible outcome: an imagined world of 100 years into the future, in which the ice caps have melted and the surface of the globe is covered in ocean. The life forms that have survived have adapted to the proliferation of plastic, and are now both strange and enchantingly beautiful. Microplastics have become children of Tangaroa, while Pānia is seen surrounded by her whānau, contemplating the changes wrought to her undersea world.

Before meeting George, I thought my perspective on plastic was set in place: it’s bad and we need to get rid of it. But his approach, embodied in his art, is compelling and has certainly made me think again – with both more nuance and rigour than before. He will give a talk in the exhibition space this morning, so do come along if you’d like to hear his insights for yourself while experiencing the carved plastic phenomenon that is ‘Bottled Ocean 2118.’

  • Artist talk with George Nuku in the ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’ exhibition, MTG Hawke’s Bay, today at 11am. All welcome, free entry
  • Talk, walk and beach clean with curator Jess Mio, beginning in the ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’ exhibition. Gloves and bags supplied. Free event, starting and ending at MTG Hawke’s Bay. Saturday 1 September 10am.
  • New Zealand International Film Festival at MTG Century Theatre from Thursday 30 August to Sunday 16 September. Tickets on sale now.

    George Nuku

Jess Mio, Curator – Art, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 25th August 2018

It’s Film Festival Time!

It’s film festival time again. On Thursday 30 August we have the New Zealand International Film Festival launch with our opening film Disobedience. After the death of her father (a revered rabbi) Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns home and rekindles a relationship that could rip the orderly Jewish community apart. Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “A transfixing consideration of love, faith, sexuality and freedom” and with a star-studded cast, this looks set to make a great opening film for the festival launch.

In keeping with the nature of film festivals, there’s something for everyone’s taste and we’re really pleased to have three films focused on art this year. Kusama –Infinity tells the story of Yayoi Kusama who left Japan for New York in the 1960s. Famous for polka dot covered scenes Kusama was subject to racism and sexism yet “routinely copied by male contemporaries such as Andy Warhol”.

The Price of Everything explores commercial realities of art. Following the build up to a major Sotheby’s auction this documentary looks at artists who have mastered the marketplace, auction house experts, and an artist who is trying to get back ‘on the scene’. This one will be a must see for me!

Our closing film, Petra, follows a young painter’s journey to discover her father. Petra visits Jaume’s estate in Catalan, Spain, where he works on his grand-scale sculptural works. With dead bodies, plot twists, a villian and spectacular scenery this film looks set to be a feast for both eyes and mind.

Keeping on the theme of visual feasts Yellow is Forbidden follows Guo Pei, the leading couture designer in China as she tries to make it in Paris. Along with truly sumptuous cinematography and breathtaking costumes, this film also explores a determined individual trying to break into an impossibly difficult market. Directed by award-winning New Zealand director, Pietra Brettkelly, a ticket for this film was my first purchase.

A sub-theme among these films is that of strong woman, and who could fit better into this than Vivienne Westwood. Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist provides a fast-paced, dynamic and vibrant look at the passions and drivers behind the huge brand name of Vivienne Westwood.

Another power-house woman is Halla, an “Icelanic superwoman in a woolly jumper” in the film Woman At War. Living the ordinary and invisible life of a middle-aged woman, Halla is also, unbeknownst to most, a secret eco-warrier activist who is fighting a battle against industrial pollution “one exploded pylon at a time”.

There’s such a great line-up of films this year and I’ve only touched on a few. I really wish I could just sit in the theatre for two weeks and watch them all!

  • Friends of the Aquarium workshop (held at MTG) with artist George Nuku, today 18 August at 11:00am. Please pre-register with the Aquarium.
  • Kororaeka – The Ballad of Maggie Flynn, 24 August, Century Theatre from 7:30pm. Tickets available online from Ticketek and at MTG.
  • New Zealand International Film Festival, 30 August – 16 September, Century Theatre, 32 films from 16 different countries, brochures available now. Tickets available online from Ticketek and at MTG.Disobedience

    Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

    Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 18th August 2018

EAST exhibition extends into MTG for first time

Open today is Hastings City Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘EAST’, showing a vibrant array of creative works by 23 artists and designers who each have a connection to Hawke’s Bay. EAST recurs every two years yet is always unique, with this year’s show extending beyond the Hastings gallery walls and – for the first time – into MTG. We are pleased to host the work of three participants and have enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with guest curator Bruce E. Phillips, staff at the gallery, and of course the artists.

A video playing near the sea-facing window upstairs features Jacob Scott (Te Arawa, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kahungunu) giving insight into his landscape design aspects of the Marine Parade Redevelopment: how the new space incorporates stories of mana whenua while encouraging positive interaction between people and the land.

Meanwhile, Auckland-based artist Natalie Robertson (Ngāti Porou) has hung an expansive black and white work on the wall in the main foyer, capturing the attention of all those who enter the museum. It is a photograph of a spring, taken at sunrise, with ferns dipping below the perfectly still surface of the water. Drawn by family connections, Natalie went searching for this particular spring at Te Rimu, near the Waiapu River on the East Cape. Her great-great-great-grandparents lived nearby, and Tikapa Marae, Natalie’s ancestral meeting house, can be seen from the spring.

A partner photograph titled ‘Puketapu’ hangs at Hastings City Art Gallery, tracing the subsequent migration of Natalie’s forebears south to Heretaunga. Her great-great grandfather, George Gillespie Boyd, bought the nearby Silverford mansion from the proceeds of his extensive real estate portfolio. Natalie describes how he made his retirement money in 1913 by purchasing 30 acres at Poraiti, then selling the land in sections two years later. In this way, he and his family profited from the system of Crown-imposed land laws, yet descendants such as Natalie also experience the dispossession caused by those same laws – and for which the Crown has since apologised. In the Heretaunga Tamatea Claims Settlement Bill, the Crown “offers its profound apologies for its actions that alienated you from the whenua that had sustained your ancestors for generations, and deprived you of access to your lakes, rivers, wetlands, and springs.” Which leads back to why Natalie was searching for the spring at Te Rimu.

The third EAST artist at MTG, George Tamihana Nuku (Ngāti Hinemanu, Ngāi Te Upokoiri), is also displaying art at both sites. His ‘Bottled River’ installation is now on show at Hastings, while the related full exhibition at MTG ‘George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118’ will open to the public on Friday 24 this month. This week George has been busy creating artworks out of plastic with the help of school groups, and with thanks to all those who have brought in their used bottles. He often shares some pieces of advice with the kids – one of which seems to particularly resonate with them. “You need three things to be a great artist: a pencil, a pencil sharpener, and a rubber. Always keep your pencil sharp, and likewise your thoughts. Sharpen your thoughts as you sharpen your pencil, every day.”

  • Chamber Music NZ presents Italy’s Ensemble Zefiro, playing 17th and 18th century woodwind instruments. MTG Century Theatre, Thursday 16 August 7:30pm, tickets $5.50.
  • Artist talk with George Nuku through his exhibition ‘Bottled Ocean 2118.’ MTG Hawke’s Bay, Saturday 25 August 11am, all welcome, free entry.
  • Talk, walk and beach clean with curator Jess Mio, starting in the ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’ exhibition. Gloves and bags supplied. MTG Hawke’s Bay, Saturday 1 September 10am, all welcome, free entry.


Image caption: SPRING FOUND: ‘Te Rimu’ by Natalie Robertson, digital photographic print, 2018

Jess Mio, Curator – Art, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 11th August 2018