getting stuck in christchurch in new zealand longer than planned meant i had time to wander the streets a bit with camera in hand. i really don't do that enough - linger in a place with time on my hands and get lost on the streets. it's such a great way to see a place.
one of the immediate things in christchurch that you see is that it is still very much post earthquake and i'll come back to that in a later post. but the other thing i began to notice was street art. i subsquently discovered that post-quake christchurch has become a hub for street art with various festivals and artists commissioned to paint huge murals.
i began to reflect on the contrast between the more fixed statues in the city and the newer street art. lots of cities have pompous statues - london has plenty! look at this guy john robert godley who was the founder of the canterbury settlement ariving in 1850. i really don't like this statue which is in front of christchurch cathedral! he has a sort of english colonialist swagger about him towering over you. it may be totally unfair and i don't know much about him. but i am not naive about english colonial behaviour either. reading up on him, the canterbury settlement (which is the wider area christchurch is in) was particularly tied up with the church of england and he worked to set up the canterbury association with edward wakefield securing 300 000 acres of land. that involved dealing with the new zealand company. when you read artilces in wikipedia or in encylopedias they are very matter of fact about it all. i am not a historian but i am pretty suspicious about this sort of story - so sure enough a bit of digging and it turns out that the wakefield brothers and the new zealand company were a very shady land grabbing company hustling all sorts of property and land from maori by whatever means legal or illegal or inbetween. they lobbied hard to get the treaty of waitangi dismissed. i'll come back to the treaty in a later post but it is the treaty between maori and the british that gives equal rights to maori and settlers. the new zealand company also hated the missionaries with a vengeance because they advocated for the maori. so even if he was a good guy there were some other shameful things going on.
here's another statue in the road below hagley park - james edward fitzgerald. i read up what i could find on him and to be honest they made him sound a really incredible man. it must have been so challenging to work to build a settlement. but he too worked with the wakefields on the settlement. i was giving him the benefit of the doubt. but then his name cropped up in bible and treaty by keith newman which i was reading which said "when the national assembly first met in 1854 the the colonial office had already agreed that native affairs would be the sole preserve of the governor. premier james edward fitzgerald also used the occasion to to announce his plan to acquire 12 million acres - about forty percent of the north island - for settlement. while some maori would resist, the balance should be acquired." wow! according to this article he was an advocate for maori rights, and for self government for new zealand and wanted maori to take part in government and tried to develop policies to improve relations. but at the same time he was securing as much land for settlement as he could. clearly not straightforward and certainly more swagger in the christchurch landscape.
i got slightly obsessed with street art and have added an album of photos - street art in christchurch. i photographed things that caught my attention rather than everything i saw. but two things immediately grabbed me. the first is that the iconography of street saints inc hcristchurch is so different to the statues. the predominant figure celebrated in the landscape is a woman and by and large those women are indigenous. i love the mural above for example. this is whero o te rangi bailey painted by kevin ledo. she was a local elder who the artist painted from a photograph. she was a teacher, counsellor, and "a humble woman who radiated a peaceful and loving energy which was felt by all" according to her daughter.
here is another. it is painted by erika pearce and is of harlem-croz atarangi ihaia. this brings me on to the second thing i noticed - birds. the bird in this picture is the huia which is extinct - sadly the only place i saw one was in canterbury museum stuffed. in this image the woman is wearing kawakawa leaves which would be worn in mourning so it's an image that speaks of sadness and loss. othe birds that feature are largely indigenous birds - the tui, bellbird and kiwi for example.
there were others too such as this image kaitaki by fin dac with an owl and kingfisher - i'd love to read the iconography of that image if someone has any ideas. i have read up that it is about protection and a warning but the image is so interesting. what do the birds represent? the feathers? the eye mask? the kiwi is obviously a national icon but it seemed to me that the birds in so many murals both mourn something that has been lost and express a longing for something too. the loss is real - through settlement the population of birds has been decimated both through the felling of forests but also through the introduction of predators as this mural bunnies vs birds articulates. it's also a loss of deeper and wider things i suspect. but i wonder if they also represent a deep longing, a longing for a recovery of something, to be at home in the land in an environment where the indigenous bird and people are free to be at home. perhaps the longing is not just for recovery but for a new future?
there is a new mural that went up this year on welles street which is really bright and zingy. i didn't photograph the whole thing but you can see an image of the full mural here. it is called cassandra's dream and painted by yoobee design students caitlin booth, sarah dickie, caleb harris, victoria marshall, kayla salt, and phillipa suckling. it is very celebratory and includes all sorts of aspects of christchurch life - creativity, innovation, nature, food, design, dancing, heritage. cassandra in greek mythology uttered true prophecies that no one believed. i can't believe the name is a coincidence or random though i couldn't find anything about it online (cassandra's dream is also the name of a woody allen film). here is a vision that a new christchurch, a new new zealand is possible but will anyone believe it could be so?!