Local Heart, Global Soul

June 15, 2018

Not Quite A Certificate Of Truth…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I mentioned a few posts ago that the Centennial celebrations that took place in New Zealand in 1940 were heavily balanced in favour of Pākehā (white) settlers who had more or less comfortable lives, land, jobs and social mobility.

Maori on the other hand, had less access to higher education, social, economic, and financial opportunities so the sweeping statements that generalized the ideal that everything was rosy in paradise was far from the truth, Ugly truths were swept under the carpet and a bright smile was exhibited for the outside world.

There is no point in pretending that all was wonderful in New Zealand in the 1940’s but it’s also an ideal that was the product of its time, and I hope that we have come a long, long way from that situation in 2018.

Purely from an artistic point of view I was attracted to this document, a “New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, Certificate of Attendance November 1939.” which was on display at the Petone Settlers Museum when Himself and I visited just after Christmas in 2017.

I like the mixture of western and Māori motifs and the central figure that reminds me a little bit of the female figure from the Colombia Pictures Film company logo.

In 1940 New Zealand was of course still heavily bonded with “Mother England” so the cape-like flags that fall either side of the figure feature even a fraction more of the Union Jack than they do of the New Zealand flag.

The illustration is very much of its time, but it is the inclusion of the Māori and very “New Zealand” motifs around the border and illustrated within the central panel of the certificate that I like the most.

I’m also struck that it’s a very “official” looking document for something seemingly as mundane as an entry ticket, especially when I read the accompanying information: “The jewel in the centennial crown was the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition. Running from 8 November 1939 to 4 May 1940, it sprawled over 55 acres of land in Rongotai, Wellington. 2.5 million visitors came to the event, at a time when New Zealand’s population was only 1.6 million people.

Obviously with 55 acres the physical size of the exhibition meant that it could not be covered completely in one day, so many people probably did half one day and the other half in subsequent days, helping to tot up such massive admission numbers.

With rumblings of war in Europe, the mood of patriotism was probably very high at the time as well as many New Zealand young men prepared to fight for “Queen and Country”. Who knows, many of those young men may well have come to Wellington to join ships sailing for Europe and visited the centennial Exhibition before departure. It’s an interesting piece of art, which if you think deeper about it represented in fact many lies told at the time to both Māori and Pākehā, many of which sacrificed their lives for “Mother England” within a very short time of this Exhibition.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Wikipedia / Petone Settlers Museum / History / New Zealand

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