MTG Free Day

Today is our fourth Free Day in the last two years and we’re certainly hoping many of you will come and see what’s new. This Free Day is primarily to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and to share our exhibition ‘A Glimpse of India’ and two Diwali-inspired art installations. Come in under the rainbow and bells of ‘The Colour of Light’, hanging outside the front of the museum, and experience the immersive ‘Indra’s Bow’ at the far end of the building. These three new additions have been the result of discussion with members of the local Indian community, and the perfect opportunity to acknowledge one of the many cultures that make up Hawke’s Bay.

It’s a lovely coincidence that the Diwali Festival is on the same day as the Santa Parade. In recognition of this, we have Santa in the building from 10am until midday for children to visit. There’s also an opportunity for a photo in front of Santa’s sleigh, which will be parked on the forecourt for the morning before it heads off to join the parade.

As usual we have a range of activities for children: they can try their hand at making a lantern, complete our activity trail, enter the colouring competition, or do any of the other activities spread throughout many of our galleries.

Exhibitions and Free Days are just two of the many ways we engage with our communities. Earlier this week we took two taonga, Te Riukāhika and Te Waaka Perohuka, to Manutūkē Marae in Gisborne. Iwi and descendants (both Māori and Pākehā) came together to share stories, knowledge and the history of these taonga – making new connections and reconnections. These taonga will be on display at Tairāwhiti Museum, Gisborne, from 17 December in the iwi-led exhibition ‘Ko Rongowhakaata’.

Also this week the Museum Foundation had a function, with guest speaker Roy Dunningham sharing very interesting history around the evolution of the collection at the museum. In conversation with artists Martin Poppelwell and Ben Pearce, Roy teased out some current views around collections in public institutions, the relationship between artists and galleries, and more. Our relationship with local artists and the Foundation, who help grow and develop the collection, are further examples of community ties we cherish.

This month, staff have started in three new roles that are all very much focused on relationships with our communities and visitors. As mentioned in a previous article, Sarah Stroud is our new Community Programmes and Events staff member. Sarah’s now joined by Kirsten Kelly, our Visitor Engagement Coordinator, who’ll be focused on deeper understanding of our communities and how we can better engage with them, alongside ensuring we consistently deliver excellent customer service. And Charles Ropitini has started in his Māori Engagement role which, as the title suggests, is focused on furthering our relationship with Māori communities, and developing ways to better meet their expectations where we can.

We have a strong desire to continue to develop our connections within Hawke’s Bay. Ultimately we want you to feel that this is truly your place and an institution you’re proud to have as your regional museum.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 26 November 2016

Gender roles not always so defined – and divisive

A wonderful part of working in a museum is the big-picture focus on culture: whether it’s looking at how a culture changes over time, or thinking about the similarities and differences between cultures in New Zealand and around the world. What I love about this is the reflect it leads to on my own culture, particularly in realising how many aspects of daily life, that seem immutable, are actually in flux.

Take gender, for example. From the way clothes are marketed and presented in shops, it’s clear that general Western society recognises two genders: one that can wear dresses, and one that most certainly should not.

And yet, looking in the museum collection, there’s a portrait painted in 1830 of a little English boy named William James Patterson, wearing a dress. The actual dress is also held in the collection. It’s a very cute wee number with blue-and-white striped fabric, puffed sleeves and a belt around the waist. You might find something similar in a store today, but it certainly wouldn’t be marketed as something for boys. In fact, parents who dared to publically dress their son in this would likely face confusion at best, criticism and vitriol at worst.

This illustrates how our standards of masculinity and femininity change over time. A more enduring part of the Western understanding of gender, however, is the binary model. In this model there are only two body types, fixed to two distinct gender identities. This has been considered an unquestionable fact of nature for centuries, despite the often extensive measures taken to enforce it.

For example an Evening Post newspaper of 1932 features the headline “Dressed as a woman: young man arrested – to be medically examined.” The person concerned was arrested in Auckland and charged with being an “idle and disorderly person,” due to dressing in a manner that transgressed the social rules of gender. Of course, if the binary model was a simple fact of nature, everyone would happily be in accordance and there would be no need for such arrests.

In New Zealand today, you won’t be arrested for your choices of masculine or feminine appearance, but unfortunately there is still the risk of violence from members of the public. Just last month, Blenheim man Kent Morgan was assaulted and called a homophobic insult for simply wearing a pink shirt while walking home from work. This violence can be experienced by anyone – Morgan happens to be cisgender and married to a woman – but it is most often directed at those who are gender diverse (particularly those who express themselves in a feminine way).

Tomorrow is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual day held to memorialise those who have been attacked or murdered as a result of transphobia. I hope there’ll soon be no need for such a day, when people are free to exist and express themselves fully without fear of retribution.

Violence enforcing the gender binary model also comes in the guise of medicine, with cosmetic surgeries still routinely performed on intersex babies in New Zealand, and internationally. These operations are carried out to enable well-intended doctors and parents to fit babies in either the ‘male’ or ‘female’ box. Medically unnecessary, these operations have been shown to be incredibly harmful to the wellbeing of intersex people throughout their lives.

Last month the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the NZ government to protect intersex children by upholding their bodily integrity. The option of surgery is to be made available to the child only when they reach the age of 16 and can give informed consent. These protections cannot be introduced soon enough, as part of a wider movement to ensure those who, in any way, transcend the binary gender model are treated with the same respect and dignity as anyone else.

Jessica Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 19 November 2016




A Glimpse of India

Last night we opened our newest display space, the Heynes Gallery, which was converted from an old office next to the Octagon. This was something we’d wanted to do for a long time and was made possible by a generous bequest from Mr Leslie George Heynes. As a small gallery space, it’s ideal for showing smaller items from our collection, such as jewellery, as well as concise collections that we hold from cultures around the world.

Our opening exhibition A Glimpse of India provided an opportunity to bring our collection of Indian items out from storage. The display spreads across the new Heynes Gallery and throughout the Octagon. These objects were originally bought as tourist souvenirs by individual collectors during the time of British rule – providing a colonial view of life in India. These range from miniature paintings and figurines, through to textiles and ceramics.

To complement this exhibition, contemporary artist Tiffany Singh was invited to create an art installation in the adjacent Chambers Gallery. Tiffany collaborated with local artist, Jo Blogg, to create Indra’s Bow. This artwork focuses on the spirituality of Diwali: the Hindu festival of lights, utilising the rainbow as inspiration. Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Glass vessels filled with spices and other materials were used to create a rainbow arc hanging from the gallery ceiling.

An intricate mandala covering the entire floor sits underneath, made up of plain and coloured rice, along with beeswax figures and forms. In creating this mandala, the pattern was first marked out on the floor and then each different colour of rice was carefully poured and laid in place. Rice is a ritual offering to the goddess Lakshmi, often associated with Diwali, and provides a strong connection to women and fertility. Indra’s Bow is a masterpiece of meticulous planning, design and execution, creating a stunning and immersive artwork.

Outside the museum another work by Tiffany, The Colours of Light, continues the rainbow motif. Celebrating the spectral colours of light, hundreds of colourful ribbons hang from wires strung across the forecourt. Tied to the ribbons are handmade bells providing gentle music as the ribbons are caught in the breeze. The bells were made in Kutch, a district of Gujarat in India, and their rich tone reflects the mastery of the maker. This component of the work reflects Tiffany’s interest in fair trade and supporting artisan communities. We’re pleased that engaging Tiffany has contributed to this worthwhile endeavour. As is the case with the permanent public artwork Pin Wall, having art on the outside of the building not only adds colour and life, but also invites the community to engage with the museum both without and within.

There’s a not-to-be-missed opportunity to hear from Tiffany today at 11am. She’ll be talking about her art practice, her interest in fair trade and social justice, along with the inspiration for the two artworks at the museum.

Together with A Glimpse of India these two art installations provide a richness of colour, scent and sound throughout the building.

Rosebuds in hanging glass vessels, forming part of Indra’s Bow

Rosebuds in hanging glass vessels, forming part of Indra’s Bow . Photographer David Frost.


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 29 October 2016

  • Lecturer Duncan Campbell talk on the History of China, Saturday 5 November 10:30am at MTG. Free event.
  • Guided tour of Osmanthus Gardens, Cornwall Park, Hastings, with lecturer Duncan Campbell, Saturday 5 November 2:30pm. Free event but numbers are limited – please book through MTG.
  • Saturday 5 November, FAWC! Master Class series, Tickets available through eventfinda. $10 per session

Excitement surrounds opening of new exhibition

Last week I wrote about the continuing nature of change and, having just opened a new exhibition, change continues. It was with sadness that we farewelled the beautiful Lalique exhibition and with excitement we welcomed in What We Make of It: Hawke’s Bay Sculpture which opened last night.

This exhibition features a number of artists living in, and with connections to, Hawke’s Bay. Being a collective show there is incredible diversity in the forms, styles and messages throughout the exhibition. Inevitably a number of themes have emerged, including the prevalence of industrial materials used to create pieces within the display. These include solid large-scale works, such as the powerfully-formed shark titled ‘Shadow’ by Ben Foster. But ‘Cone, Cylinder and Sphere’ by Neil Dawson presents a more delicate style – hanging from the foyer ceiling these three steel works appear light and ethereal.

Nature and environmental issues can be found throughout the exhibition. ‘For Mana and Mokotuararo’ by Chris Bryant-Toi speaks directly to the harm happening in our natural environment, by utilising debris found on the foreshore within his work. Meanwhile Marion Courtillé’s group of three works expresses hope and faith in the strength of nature to outlast such maltreatment, with organic forms springing up from expertly crafted leather contours that recall arid landscapes.

There are social messages, with Louise Purvis’ work ‘Stepped Construction’ referencing homelessness, the goal and challenge of home ownership, followed by the heavy weight and ‘prison’ of a hefty mortgage. ‘Koha to Hōhā’ by Israel Tangaroa Birch is a response to government regulations that restrict Māori customary fishing rights (and is made out of chocolate fish).

Spiritual guardians are present with siblings Jacob and Ema Scott, who’ve both created works that draw upon their connection to tipuna and kaitiaki through very different mediums and styles.

There are other artists, styles and themes throughout this eclectic exhibition which fills the Nelson gallery, spreading across the landing, over the balcony and down to the foyer below. A number of works transfer across several themes, providing a variety of interesting ways to engage with this display.

Planning for this exhibition began when Jessica Mio, Art Curator, arrived here and noted the strong presence of sculptors and makers in Hawke’s Bay. This exhibition’s the product of Jess’ journey of exploration within the art community here and gives a frame of reference to the larger body of artists and work within the region.

Later this month, another sculptural work will open to the public: Indra’s Bow, an art installation to coincide with an exhibition featuring the museums’ holdings of Indian objects and artworks. This work is the product of collaboration between Auckland-based artist Tiffany Singh and Jo Blogg of Hawke’s Bay. Once opened, ‘Indra’s Bow’, coupled with What We Make Of It, will add colour, drama and aroma through the galleries.

What We Make Of It includes works to challenge the viewer, works which are light and comical, and others which provide poignant memories and strong references to family and childhood. We’re delighted to be able to present this small portion of the extensive talent within the region to the community.

A few of the works on display in What We Make Of It

A few of the works on display in What We Make Of It

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 15 October 2016

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