Book Review Corner: ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post written by Collections Assistant – Publications, Gini Jory

 ‘The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.’

In this 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, a blood feud between two rival gangs that has been going on for generations has swept Shanghai into chaos. The Scarlets, with their newly returned heir from America, Juliette Cai, have previously been almost unchallenged for power, except by their rivals, the Russian White Flowers. But now with the various colonial powers as well as the Chinese Nationalists and Communist party all vying for control of the ancient city, the lawless power of the gangs is being threatened. And when gangsters on both sides start ripping their own throats out, their strenuous hold on power starts to slip even more as the people start whispering of a madness, and a monster in the shadows. To figure out who is behind the madness and save her people, Juliette must team up with the heir to the White Flowers, Roma Montagov- her first lover, and her first betrayal.

Welcome back to the Book Review Corner of the Hocken blog! In this post we discuss New Zealand author Chloe Gong’s New York Times Bestseller These Violent Delights, a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920’s Shanghai featuring a horrible monster, political intrigue, queer characters, and a scathing takedown of colonialism. If you like Shakespeare, historical fiction and fantasy, this might be right up your alley!

Before we get into These Violent Delights, I want to take a moment to talk about its author, Chloe Gong. She is only 23 and finished writing this book at 19. NINETEEN. When it was released in November 2020 it debuted at no.3 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was on there for over six months, which is an incredible achievement for a first novel. The sequel Our Violent Ends came out in late 2021 to equal success, and Gong already has a spinoff series in the work with the first book being released this September, and an adult fantasy series due out 2023. Born in Shanghai, Gong grew up on the North Shore but went to university in America as she knew that was where she’d want to publish. She’s been writing since she was 13, and These Violent Delights was her eighth completed manuscript. And while many might think she’s a bit young to be so successful (most young adult authors are a lot further removed from the intended age genre), I think this is in part why she’s been so successful. She knows what young adults are looking at online, how they come across content and what will make them purchase a book. Gong’s own tiktok is a great example of her own marketing- she was creating videos of makeup looks inspired by the White Flowers, sharing quotes from her novels and inspirations for these, and following viral trends. And it worked- I heard about this book from an Asian-American ‘bookstagram’ creator I follow on Instagram, and the creator sounded so genuinely excited about it that I pre-ordered my personal copy that day. This is the kind of organic work of mouth marketing that Gong was aiming for, and it has obviously aided her success.

Back to the review. I really loved this book, and thought it was a great modernisation of such a classic story. Romeo and Juliet was never my favourite Shakespeare play but Gong has really taken it in a much darker direction. In this adaptation we no longer have two very young star-crossed lovers but two bitter and jaded eighteen-year-olds whose secret love affair when they were fifteen ended in disaster and betrayal. Juliette has recently returned from America a true flapper, with beaded dresses and gelled hair to take her place as heir to the Scarlet gang empire- an empire that is under threat from foreign powers. Roma is seemingly on the verge of losing his place as heir to the White Flowers as the gap between himself and his father widens. Both are on rocky ground when a madness starts to spread through Shanghai, affecting members of both their gangs as they are infected by some sort of insect and compelled to rip their own throats out. (Warning- there are a few very gory descriptions of violence in this book.) When they run into each other as they are both separately investigating the cause of the madness, they realise it is within their best interests to work together and use both of their connections to solve the mystery. But as their families have a rival blood feud, they must do so in secret, not even telling their closest friends.

The new family and friends Gong introduces was part of what really sold this book to me. There are the obvious adaptations- Tyler for Tybalt, Marshall for Mercutio, Benedikt for Benvolio- but Gong also introduces female cousins for Juliette, to give her someone her own age and gender to confide in. These cousins, Rosalind and Kathleen are the cornerstone of Juliet’s family life and give a view of how others in her family are treated in the Scarlet gang hierarchy. Roma is also given a younger sister, Alisa- perhaps to make him slightly less impulsive and willing to sacrifice his own life. These family and friends are given their own point of view chapters as well, so we get the story not only from the sometimes very jaded views of our main couple. It is also through these characters that Gong subtlety and naturally introduces queerness into an otherwise very straight world.

When Kathleen is introduced to us, waiting tables at a Scarlet club, the indication that she is trans is so subtle I completely missed it the first time through:

Rosalind used to tell her that someone was going to snatch such a precious stone if she wore it so obviously, but Kathleen liked it there. If people were to stare at her throat, she always said she would rather it be because of the pendant than the bump of her Adam’s apple underneath.

Kathleen is never misgendered by any character, and her cousin and sister always come to her staunch defence if anyone even looks like they might insult her for being trans. But unfortunately her trans identity has not always been valid or easy. When her father finally accepts that she is trans it is only under very specific circumstances that he allows her to present as woman, and she must take on someone else’s identity, not the one she had chosen for herself. I think it can be difficult with queer characters to walk the line between overused and upsetting tropes (such as the bury your gays trope used in a lot of media, especially for lesbian characters) and acting as though their queer identity would be fully accepted, especially in a historical setting (there are absolutely settings where discrimination does not have to exist though). While Kathleen is given a tragic backstory she is also given important roles within the story by her cousin, has her own agency, and in the present text is never looked down on for her trans identity.

We also get gay representation in the form of Roma’s best friends, Benedikt and Marshall. Their relationship is very much a slow burn, and while we don’t get to see them admit their feelings for each other in this book, their POV chapters make it very clear how they feel about one another. They are extremely close and live together, but both are afraid of ruining their friendship and of the repercussions they would face from the leaders of the White Flowers if they were to come out.

Another great aspect of this adaptation is the historical setting of 1920s Shanghai. Not only do we get the glitz and glamour of the American flapper age through Juliette and her fantastic dresses and styled hair, but it is set against the very real colonisation that took place in China during this time after their loss in the Opium Wars. Juliette often makes remarks about foreigners taking parts of the city for themselves, and her family is constantly scrambling to make agreements with the Nationalists so they can still maintain a semblance of their power. Communism is spreading through the workers of the city, and historically there were thousands of strikes across Shanghai in 1926 due to the terrible wages and working conditions. The Scarlet gang is also loosely based around the Green gang, a secret society and criminal organisation prominent in the mid 20th century, and while there was no equivalent of the White Flowers, Shanghai was a free port and many Russians ended up there after fleeing from the civil war. I personally love a historical backdrop in any novel, and having this very real pressure of foreigners, Nationalists and Communists all fighting for the city is an integral part of the story.

Overall, this is a great book and I would really recommend it if you enjoy modern Shakespeare, the enemies to lovers trope, queer fiction, murder mysteries, monster hunting, and historical backdrops.

Interested in reading this? These Violent Delights is in our published collections and can be used on site in our reading room.

References:

Gong, C. 2020. These Violent Delights. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Zhang, S. 2020. ‘Chloe Gong is 21, she’s from the North Shore, and she just wrote a US bestseller’ The Spinoff. 24 December 2020. Accessed 2 September 2022. https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/04-12-2020/chloe-gong-is-21-shes-from-the-north-shore-and-she-just-wrote-a-us-bestseller

Interview – Julie Dunn from trace/untrace records

Tuesday, May 31st, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills. Curator Music and AV

Julie Dunn (Kai Tahu / Kāti Māmoe) has been a key figure in the Ōtepoti Dunedin music scene since founding the independent label trace/untrace records in 2017 with label partner Richard Ley Hamilton. The label has released key recordings (many on the it-will-never-die cassette format) by a large number of emerging and up-and-coming local Dunedin artists, including Neive Strang, Koizilla, Adelaide Cara, Asta Rangu, Night Lunch, and Dunn and Hamilton’s band Bathysphere.

The theme of Te Marama Puoro o Aotearoa / New Zealand Music Month 2022 is ‘level up’ – encouraging all members of the music industry to raise awareness of new, emerging, and up-and-coming musical artists. This includes supporting these artists in their music career development and helping them to cross over to a broader audience. trace/untrace records have been key in doing this mahi.

To celebrate Te Marama Puoro o Aotearoa / New Zealand Music Month 2022, Hocken Collections Music and AV Curator, Amanda Mills, spoke to Julie Dunn about trace/untrace records, their music background, and the local Ōtepoti Dunedin music scene.

Heaven is Other People. Bathysphere. trace/untrace records, 2017. Hocken Music Collections, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena. Cover image taken by Susan Dunn. Reproduced with permission by Julie Dunn.

Hocken Collections: What is your musical background?

Julie Dunn: “I was introduced to the local music scene when I snuck into an Idiot Prayer gig in my final year of school (2011). It was eye-opening to say the very least (life changing might be a more accurate way to put it…). From that time on I started gravitating towards the scene and the people who had introduced me to it, and within a year I had become a dedicated roadie to my friends’ band A Distant City (Josh Nicholls, Zac Nicholls, Nick Tipa, CJ Holley). Over the years their bands would proliferate at speed, however all the while I remained in the role of roadie / manager / merch maker / door person. It wasn’t until after trace / untrace had begun that I started to write my own music, and alongside that formed Mary Berry and played my first gig in 2018.”

What made you decide to establish trace/untrace and support local artists?

“Years of being involved with the scene had fostered a great love of Dunedin music and the people here who make it. The number of bands that my friends were gigging in was increasing at speed, and at that time there were about four releases recorded and ready to see the light of day. Richard and I decided to action an idea we had been chewing on for some time and start a small label to collect those releases together. Our main kaupapa at that time was to support the bands to create freely by helping them to handle the (often off-putting) admin bits that come with releasing music, and to find a way to make a physical format more accessible by making cassettes ourselves.”

How long have you been involved with the label?

“Since it started in 2017!”

Where did the label name come from?

“We brainstormed a bunch of names, mostly from music that inspired us. trace / untrace was a riff off the Sonic Youth lyrics in their song New Hampshire, ‘trace paper fly onwards’. It also alludes to the ephemeral nature of so much Dunedin music, especially that stuff which only existed in band practices and at gigs, and which was never recorded. Even things that were recorded were often removed later from Bandcamp by the artists. Although we were about to start immortalising people’s music in the form of cassettes, we wanted to preserve that wairua and centralise it within our mahi.”

trace/untrace releases some material on cassette. What was the attraction of that format?

“There are so many things that I love about cassettes! Initially it was just that they were the cheapest, easiest thing to make, and it was something that we could produce at home rather than having to outsource. Once we started to make them I came to realise also that they are a hugely tactile format, in the same way as vinyl I guess, in the winding of the reels and physicality of the analog medium. I love the sound quality as well, the cassette lends a compression to the music that always tends to compliment the type of music that we release. I have always had circa 1994 vehicles with their original tape players intact and loved the sturdiness of my tapes in comparison to how I remember CD’s performing. When I bought Peter’s first Fazed on a Pony cassette I played it on repeat in the car for about 4 months every day and it’s still going strong.”

What was your involvement with the rehearsal/performance space the Attic?

“The Attic had many forms over the decade or so that it was a home to creatives in Dunedin. I became involved a few years after its inception when my partner formed a band (Space Bats, Attack!) with Lee Nicholson, one of the members there. From that time in 2012, it supported every band that we were involved with, and a thriving community grew up around it. I think there’s no way trace / untrace would exist without it; in many ways the two things were synonymous – the Attic was the place, trace / untrace was the face. It’s so true that often you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone, and although I always felt so lucky to be a part of the Attic and the community it represented, I only now appreciate how empowering it was for us to have a space that we had a level of agency over to springboard our projects out into the wider scene. We are sorely feeling the loss now! “

The theme of Te Marama Puoro o Aotearoa / New Zealand Music Month 2022 is ‘level up’ – supporting emerging or up-and-coming artists. Do you see much support for emerging artists in the wider local music community?

“In Dunedin there’s definitely an incredible culture of tautoko for younger bands. Initiatives like Amped Music Project have been amazing in driving that sort of mahi, and even informally there is so much interest in younger people and the music they are making. If I’m completely honest, sometimes I feel like bands down in Dunedin can be overlooked within the national music scene purely because we are out of the way, and potentially have to push harder for the same amount of recognition in comparison to bands who live in the bigger centres. Funding-wise this can often be apparent, and I think it’s likely related to the criteria for getting that funding being based on things that are made easier by living in a main centre. However, as has been the story for years now in Dunedin, our single biggest challenge is the lack of venues and landlords willing to rent practice spaces to musicians!”

Where do you think the local music scene and independent label scene is heading?

“More bands, and more diversity in those bands. As we all recover from the Covid thing I expect there is going to be a lot of pent-up energy released over the next few years in the form of high-output.”

How would you describe the current Dunedin music scene?

“To be honest I have been pretty out of touch with it recently as Covid has put me deep in to hermit mode. To me the Dunedin music scene is currently embodied by the Crown Hotel and those bands that play there almost every weekend. Obviously I can only speak for my own niche in the scene but it feels like the energy is there in spite of the venue situation. Albums are still coming out every month and tours are back on, hopefully there’s good things on the horizon.”

What is next for trace/untrace?

“Next year we are losing the Bank St HQ and will need to find a new recording studio / practice space. Aside from that, there are heaps of releases that I’m so excited to announce over the next few months, and without a doubt are some of the best music we will have ever released! We’ll just keep churning out the tunes regardless of anyone listening.”

For further information on trace/untrace records, check their website https://www.traceuntracerecords.com/

Many thanks to Julie Dunn for taking the time to answer these questions – kia ora Julie

Stirring up the stacks #10: celebrity Sister O’Regan’s carrot salad

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post cooked up by Jen Anderson, Collections Assistant – Publications

People who work with heritage material often find themselves compelled to demonstrate its relevance to contemporary society. Some connections are obvious, and some require a little more lateral thinking. Initially I intended to justify this carrot-themed post via the Easter bunny, but having tasted the results of my carrot salad attempt, I realise that it more readily fits Lenten themes of mortification and repentance.

The recipe I tried comes from : Celebrities’ choice cook book : a unique collection of recipes from N.Z. celebrities / [compiled by the Canterbury/West Coast Region of the N.Z. Red Cross Society].

Vegetables, fruit, textiles and earthenware: the enticing cover of
‘Celebrities’ choice cook book : a unique collection of recipes from N.Z. celebrities’.

This book was published in 1991, but being a compilation of tried-and-true favourite recipes, it is a veritable time capsule from the pantheon of NZ’s illustrious. Ever wanted to try Geoffrey Palmer’s chili con carne? How about Judith Kirk’s fish bake? I was tempted by The Wizard’s microwave chocolate self-saucing pudding, but in the end there was only one possible recipe.

Deep breath.

Carrot salad.

Now, I’ve always had a troubled relationship with cooked carrots.  This is the legacy of childhood memories of carrot disks in casserole, the brimming-with-flavour carrots and white sauce, and – horror of horrors – mashed carrot and parsnip [a.k.a. rainbow vegetable]. Normally a carrot salad would bypass the cooking, but this recipe is a little different. It starts out reasonably; carrots, green pepper, onion, salt. It is in the second column of ingredients that you really start questioning the life choices that led you to this point.

1kg carrots

1 green pepper

1 onion

1 (450g) tin tomato soup

1 cup sugar

½ cup cooking oil

½ cup vinegar

Pepper and salt

 

Instructions follow:

Cut carrots in rings and cook.

Chop the green pepper and onion and cook in tomato soup, sugar, oil and vinegar.

When cooked mix in the cooked carrots.

 

The recipe for the inimitable carrot salad

I’m not much of a chef, but looking at the recipe you’d think it wasn’t complex. What could possibly go wrong? I don’t know what I did, but my creation would not elicit the rapturous community response received by the author, Sister Pauline M. O’Regan.

“This salad is a great favourite of our Community, and one or other of us invariably brings it to pot-luck meals and barbeques in summer. People always ask for the recipe. It’s a great feeling.”

I trust Sister Pauline O’Regan implicitly. She sounds like an extraordinary person who did a lot of good for her communities while authoring some very well -regarded books. Going by this photograph on Te Ara, she also knew how to host a successful casual outdoor gathering. Surely the problem was not the recipe, but my execution.

Look at what I made. Empty your mind and just look at it.

The pièce de résistance

I tried some fancy plating, but it was irredeemable.

The salad, plated. Enough said.

I was left with a catering sized supply of cooked carrot salad which, under COVID restrictions, could not be shared with my delightful colleagues.

The thick layer of oil wasn’t even the worst of it. Nor was the tooth-aching amount of sugar. No, it was the sheer ratio of dressing to carrot. Believe me, I boiled 450 g of tomato soup and vinegar mix ferociously in an attempt to reduce it. The kitchen was filled with a vinegar-tinged miasma. The capsicum had lost structural integrity and the onion was slimy yet the mixture defied attempts at evaporation. Eventually I gave up and added the carrot (cooked al dente, although I know the original 70s version would have been for 30 minutes or until done).

The sound when I stirred it haunts me to this day.  I don’t know how to describe it. Loose wallpaper paste? Creamed corn with clumps? Whatever it was, it was eldritch. This looked and smelled like something that, if consumed, should be done so in private mortification while crying. Dear reader, I tried a tentative forkfull and was hit by sugary carrot overlaid with vinegar and an oily finish. It was Not Nice.

In a Hail Mary I tried following the recipe recommendation: “This salad is best prepared the day before use and kept in the fridge (it will keep in the fridge for several days).” The flavour may have infused overnight, but it certainly didn’t improve. Perhaps it is best described as entrenching. I left the salad in the fridge for several days and I can verify that it is a very low theft risk because no-one else in the household touched it.

I don’t doubt that this recipe can be executed well. I’ve talked with people who remember it fondly from their BBQ and salad days. Tell me, dear readers, how did I mess it up so catastrophically? Can someone explain how to cook this properly? Maybe a 450g tin of soup is inclusive of tin weight, so I measured out too much? Should I have chosen a better vinegar? Was the pepper and salt quantity lacking? Does anyone have any advice for attempt #2, the one where I make colleagues eat and review it? Tell me about your success stories. Or do you have a more entry-level carrot salad recipe to suggest?

What else have we cooked up?

Stirring up the stacks #9: two for the price of one! Macaroni soup and ginger pudding

Stirring up the stacks #8: Xmas Cake Recipe Recommended by “Buckhams”

Stirring up the stacks #7: Virginia pudding

Stirring up the stacks #6: Pumpkin pie

Stirring up the stacks #5: Sauerkraut roll

Stirring up the stacks #4: A “delicious cake from better times”

Stirring up the stacks #3: Bycroft party starters

Stirring up the stacks #2 The parfait on the blackboard

Stirring up the stacks #1 Variety salad in tomato aspic

Book review: Self-Portrait by Marti Friedlander with Hugo Manson

Sunday, April 10th, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Eilish McHugh-Smith, Collections Assistant – Publications

Welcome back to the Book Review Corner of the Hocken Blog! Today we delve into the world of photography with a review of Self-Portrait by Marti Friedlander in conjunction with Hugo Manson. 

The first thing that attracted me to Self-Portrait was its physicality. A beautifully bound hard back, with high-quality leaves containing vivid imagery and an easy on the eye font, all wrapped up in a simple yet alluring dust jacket. Self-Portrait would not be out of place on a coffee table, yet it is a book of substance, that one could easily get lost in for hours on end. It will come as no surprise that this book was shortlisted for the PANZ Book Design Awards HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Cover in 2014. [1]

A biography of the highly acclaimed New Zealand documentary photographer, Marti Friedlander, Self-Portrait is framed around numerous self-selected images, with an interview by Hugo Manson helping form the text. However, the interview has been cleverly framed to feel as though Marti is conversationally telling her story. Without the acknowledgement of Hugo in the afterword, one could easily be mistaken for thinking Self-Portrait is a solo venture.  

Self-Portrait begins with Marti detailing the childhood and young adulthood which led her to photography. Born to Jewish refugees in London and ending up in orphanages from the age of three, it is incredible to believe that the sickly child who at eleven years old weighed only three stone (19 kg) and stood only three foot (91 cm) tall, went on to become one the greats of New Zealand photography. Throughout this section Marti weaves images of her own childhood and those she has taken of other children, with commentary of her early years and childhood more generally. She also addresses the influence and impact that being Jewish has had on her life and identity. If not for someone suggesting she study photography during an interview for a scholarship to the Bloomsbury Technical School for Women, Marti would never have become a photographer, as she initially wanted to pursue a career in dress designing.  

Fast forward through another scholarship to further her studies at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts and beginning her career developing images for photographers Douglas Glass and Gordon Crocker, Marti fell in love with her husband Gerrard Friedlander, a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family and settled in New Zealand. After travelling through Europe together they settled in Auckland, where Gerrard worked as a dentist, and Marti assisted as a dental nurse, before returning to photography. 

Subsequently, Marti explores different projects, themes and events that shaped her career through her photographs. Each chapter is focused around a core area: “Other Couples,” “New Zealand,” “Parihaka,” “Moko,” “Politics and Personalities,” “Writers and Artists” and “Protest.” Beautiful black and white images of kuia with their moko kauae, images of her friends and some familiar faces like John Key and Rita Angus, along with some iconic New Zealand images grace the pages. Marti analyses some of the visual elements of each image but provides context about the subject, situation and her perception of it that cannot be seen within the photograph. Against the backdrop of Marti’s life and through her insight, readers view the images in a new light, with far greater consideration for the finer details, the craft that has gone into creating such expressive and meaningful images and the fresh perspective Marti bought to her work as someone seeing New Zealand for the first time. 

The book concludes with Marti reflecting on her life and old age, providing wisdom and advice to live by. Most poignantly she emphasises the need to live in the moment:   

When you begin it [life or a new adventure], you have no idea the direction it will take. You can’t imagine the things that might occur during the course of it. And it’s better that you can’t. [2]    

Overall, Self-Portrait is a versatile book capable of engaging a wide audience; this book is as much about people, relationships, interactions and life as it is photography. It is an easy, yet substantive read that would pair perfectly with a nice cup of coffee and a seat in a sunny spot on a Sunday morning.  

Self-Portrait is available to read in library here at the Hocken Collections and for take home use at many public libraries throughout New Zealand. For anyone wanting to view more photography by Marti Friedlander or learn more about her, The Hocken Collections holds several of her works and publications containing her works, including:  

From our Published Collection: (links supplied will take you to the catalogue entry) 

Maurice Shadbolt, The Shell guide to New Zealand, revised edition (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1973). [Specifically see pages 54, 55, 63, 77, 8-, 101, 102, 144, 190, 222, 232, 240, 279 and 305 for Marti’s images.] 

Leonard Bell, Marti Friedlander, (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2009).  

Michael King and Marti Friedlander, Moko: Māori tattooing in the 20th century(Wellington: Alister Taylor, 1972).  [Further editions of this were published in 1992 and 2008 by David Bateman publishing, Auckland]. 

Marti Friedlander and James McNeish, Larks in paradise: New Zealand portraits(Auckland: Collins, 1974). 

Marti Friedlander, and Jim and Mary Barr,  Contemporary New Zealand Painters(Martinborough, New Zealand; A Taylor, 1980).

Dick Scott and Marti Friedlander, Pioneers of New Zealand wine(Auckland: Reed, 2002).  

From our Archives and Photographs Collections: (links supplied will take you to the catalogue entry) 

Friedlander, Marti : Two prints (1979-2001). Two gold-toned gelatine silver prints of Ralph Hotere. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, P2010-013. 

‘Jim Allen Torso brass and bronze…photo by Marty Friedlander’ (1959). Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, MS-0996-002/475/054.

‘John Kingston, standing figure…photo by Marty Friendlander’ (1958). Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, MS-0996-002/475/047.

‘M[aurice] Gee, [photo by M[arty] Friedlander’ (n.d.). Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, MS-0996-002/475/050.

Friedlander, Marti : Portrait of Gordon H. Brown. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, P2017-028. 

Te Papa Tongarewa has also digitised numerous photographs by Marti Friedlander, including those taken for Moko: Māori Tattooing in the 20th Century. They are available to view through their Collections Online website here.

 

References

[1] ‘HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Cover 2014 Highly Commended’, PANZ Book Design Awards; www.bookdesignawards.co.nz/, accessed 7 April 2022. 

[2] Friedlander, Marti, with Hugo Manson, Self-portrait, (Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 2013), pp.250. 

 

 

 

Queer archives : the papers of Yoka Neuman

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and prepared by HUMS 301 Intern Rebecca White

To commemorate the end of Dunedin Pride Month 2022 I thought it was fitting to highlight some of our LGBTQ+ holdings here at the Hocken and discuss past and present issues surrounding collection and availability of such archival materials.

At the Hocken Archives we hold an extensive collection of 37 boxes filled with
the donations of (or in the name of) Yoka Neuman – a prominent figure in the feminist,
lesbian, and human rights circles in New Zealand before her passing at age 93 last November. The majority of this collection references the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund (LMDF) which she founded in 1979 and led until 1992. There are also numerous items relating to feminist movements, the Homosexual Law Reform Bill 1986, and other social issues of the time. Alongside the LMDF, Yoka also helped set up Te Whare Pounamu Women’s Refuge Dunedin, Rape Crisis Dunedin, and the Women’s Resource centre, was a leading volunteer at ‘Daybreak’ the first women’s bookshop in New Zealand, attended the 2019 climate action march in Dunedin, and marched in solidarity with the nurses’ strike in June 2021.

Through my internship I have been working to appraise and catalogue a new donation
to the Neuman, Yoka : Papers collection. This blog post will mainly centre on the items of this new donation. There are many items within this collection I could touch on, but for the sake of keeping this post concise I will just present a few of the highlights.

Handwritten note by Yoka Neuman,  2000, MS-5159/046

On the back of a June 2000 calendar page is a handwritten note written by Yoka
Neuman. While the note is brief, it details some of her personal experiences after coming out in the late 1970s compared to contemporary experiences of coming out. An item such as this is crucial in the sense that LGBT+ identities in New Zealand history are more politicised than humanised. Only recently have academic works begun to appear in which LGBT+ lives have been analysed as lives rather than political topics (see the works of Chris Brickell for example). Although the note has not yet been made available for viewing at the Hocken it will be listed as item MS-5159/046 in the near future.

In this note Yoka speaks on changing attitudes towards coming out publicly, with
particular reference to how “the present student body” could not imagine the “opposition, division, condemnation” as well as “dubious pleasure” which came along with her experience of coming out in the late 1970s. This note presents, at the very least, a change of public and private opinions on coming out. Coming out is no longer widely seen as a condemnable offence – at least by law or the larger part of society in New Zealand – as indicated by the recent banning of conversion therapy passed by parliament earlier this year.

Another item of interest in the new donation was a box of cassette tapes – in particular
one labelled “Yoka N/Leah to Jenny R.” (MS-5159/076). On this tape, we are able to hear Yoka speak about the “flash in the pan” nature of the establishment of the LMDF, running the LMDF on her own 5 years after it was established, and successful and unsuccessful cases of custody for lesbian mothers. Notably, in this tape Yoka describes the formation of the LMDF as a retaliation to a Families Need Fathers representative arguing on radio that children should not be able to be brought up in homosexual households under the Guardianship Amendment Bill 1979. Yoka explained she was so frustrated by the broadcast that she immediately typed up a submission to counter it, signed in the name of the National Gay Rights Coalition to give it more credibility. While researching for this submission, she stumbled across the LMDF in Canada and decided to set up a similar organisation in New Zealand.

So why is it so important to hold items such as these in archives? Put simply,
representation of traditionally marginalised communities in archives is crucial to the
preservation of the history of that community. According to Franklin Robinson in ‘Queering the Archive’ – “unless we leave behind a full range of primary documentation in publicly accessible archives and libraries from which LGBTQ history can be written, the history will not be written, or not written accurately and in context.” That is, selection, arrangement, preservation, and accessibility of archival collections are intrinsically linked with the collective process of remembrance or forgetting of communal histories. By not actively engaging with traditionally marginalised communities and without the inclusion of these voices in archival practice, systematic disenfranchisement of those communities is created. LGBTQ sources are frequently inaccessible to the wider public. Lack of relevant donations to a particular archive is an issue which the archivist is frequently challenged by – many archives rely heavily on donations sourced from the community, but oftentimes people do not realise the historical significance of the items they have.

Unlike the general papers, articles, books, and newsletters which were already a part
of the Neuman, Yoka : Papers collection at the Hocken, the more atypical, unique items such as the handwritten note and tape recording make it possible to reconstruct connections, thought processes, opinions held in a time very different from now; a time which, as Yoka pointed out in her note, many people have never experienced and could not imagine. Slowly, with additions of items such as these that are more than just factual, the past becomes illustrated from the point of view of someone who was there, coloured by their emotions and motivations.

References

“Courageous kuia inspirational figure for many,” Otago Daily Times, 22 January 2022, p.26.
Handwritten note by Yoka Neuman, 2000, MS-5159/046.
Robinson, Franklin. “Queering the Archive”. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking vol. 1, no. 2 (2014): 195-198.
Tape of Yoka interview on Lesbian Mother’s Defence Fund, 6 September 1985, MS-5159/076.

‘Hets miss out on gay blood’: early gay community perspectives on AIDS

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Blog post researched and written by Kari Wilson-Allan, Collections Assistant – Archives

Content warning: this blog post includes quotes of homophobic statements. Reader discretion is advised. It is also acknowledged that there are a multitude of gay communities, and other communities situated around sexuality and gender. However, during the era discussed in this post, the narrower term ‘gay community’ was used.

As we traverse the current pandemic, many of us have both a heightened sense of vulnerability and a growing awareness of how the media can influence chains of events. Looking to the HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic, still ongoing, we can see these same factors at play.

This post explores how the contents of one selected publication – Pink Triangle – contrasted with the messaging in mainstream media, represented here by the Otago Daily Times (henceforth ODT). Pink Triangle was a lesbian and gay community newspaper, published in Aotearoa by the New Zealand National Gay Rights Coalition (NGRC) from 1979 through to 1990; the NGRC itself having come together in 1977 as calls for gay liberation and homosexual law reform grew (decriminalisation of homosexuality was attained in 1986). Who did the NGRC want to reach? Content and advertising found within Pink Triangle indicates that their likely audience was predominantly financially comfortable, cisgender[i], gay, lesbian and bisexual Pākehā adults.

In reading Pink Triangle, we can hear the voices obscured from the dominant narrative. Understandably, with the legal situation and strong societal prejudice, very few felt safe to ‘out’ themselves to the established press, or even trust the information supplied, but Pink Triangle met some of these needs. What follows is predominantly an exploration of material published in Pink Triangle (contrasted with material published in the ODT), between mid-1981 through to early 1985, looking at the emerging discourse around AIDS in the gay community.

Several themes quickly become apparent: along with a conviction that AIDS should not be portrayed as an illness only affecting homosexual people, issues around blood donation, community support, the need to counter misinformation, the continued presence of medical homophobia, how the situation might affect calls for law reform, and, finally, how the gay community was portrayed in the media were all significant points for discussion.

As we now know, HIV can result in AIDS. However, as the first cases of AIDS were identified among gay men in the United States, little was known about its causes and consequences.  Some mainstream media adopted the pejorative term GRID: Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, which could only compound homophobic sentiment. Due to the variation of early terms used, finding relevant article references in databases proved challenging.

The first mention of anything relating to HIV or AIDS I uncovered in Pink Triangle was a snippet entitled ‘Gay pneumonia? Not really, says researcher’ in September 1981.[ii]  (One of the first American reports was published in the New York Times in July of that year, describing a ‘rare cancer’). The USA Centres for Disease Control and Prevention coined the term AIDS the following year.

‘Hets miss out on gay blood’, Pink Triangle, May June 1983, p.1

One of the first areas of discussion in Pink Triangle revolved around blood donations.  While the ODT printed an article in May 1983 titled ‘Some homosexuals’ blood unacceptable’[iii] Pink Triangle were simultaneously proclaiming ‘Hets [heterosexuals] miss out on gay blood’.[iv] As testing was not yet available, and the potential for transmission via blood transfusion was unknown, ‘promiscuous homosexuals and intravenous drug addicts’ (groups considered at high risk of carrying the later-named HIV), were requested not to donate their blood to the Wellington blood transfusion service. The wider discourse around blood donation from the medical establishment was lambasted as homophobic by the gay community, and a number of protest actions occurred, including regular donors from the community returning their donor cards, and, controversially, calls from one gay activist to continue donations regardless.[v] Later that year, the doctor who front-footed the policy, when asked about its success, made the arguably peculiar comment that ‘people in Wellington are co-operating and not engaging in blackmail’.[vi]

‘Gays co-operate’, Pink Triangle, Issue 44, July-September 1983, p.3

When, in 1984, a test became available to indicate exposure to HIV, Bruce Burnett, head of the New Zealand AIDS Support Network – following an American precedent – encouraged the community to avoid it. He was concerned that a possible lack of privacy around test results could be ‘used to discriminate against and label gay men’.[vii] He preferred the test only be used for screening purposes prior to blood donation, and not an opportunity the gay community should take up out of curiosity, with the hope that:

AIDS is no longer seen as a ‘gay’ disease, at least not by most medical people. Our sexuality is no longer seen as a cause, merely as one mode of transmission among others such as heterosexual intercourse, transfusions and IV [intravenous] drug use.[viii]

As Pink Triangle articles traced the movement of the virus closer and closer to Aotearoa New Zealand, by the summer of 1982-83,[ix] they began directing attention to the myriad damaging implications of AIDS being referred to as a ‘gay plague’, imploring the gay community to work together to ensure its collective health. Concerns were expressed that while homosexual communities were having success in establishing their identity separate from the pathologising tendencies of the medical world, now was a time where that profession could once again very easily slip into a position of power and control:

We have to make illness gay and dying gay, just as we have made sex and baseball and drinking and eating and dressing gay. This is the challenge to us in 1982 – just when the doctors are trying to do it for us…[x]

The NGRC struck out at straight media for spreading misinformation about AIDS: implications that the gay community was the only group at risk were rife. This focus on the ‘gay disease’ further stigmatised the community and emboldened homophobic options and actions.[xi] By 1984, the aforementioned AIDS Support Network was established, and advertisements began to appear in Pink Triangle.[xii] Their stated aims were to:

prevent a major outbreak of AIDS and ARC [AIDS-Related Complex] in NZ through education, the promotion of risk-reduction measures and the training of cousellors [sic] and support personnel.

The AIDS Support Network would later become known as the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and its work changed the AIDS and HIV landscape immeasurably. Some examples of their work to minimise stigma in particular are pictured below.

Flyer from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation on ways to reduce stigmatising language.
Avoiding bad language. New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Auckland, 1990. Ephemera Collection, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

AIDS myth busting from the AIDS Support Network.
AIDS is not easy to catch. AIDS Support Network, Christchurch, 1988? Ephemera Collection, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Where AIDS-related information was created by the gay community, it tended to be straightforward, with more explicit discussion around ways in which the virus was understood to be transmitted, one example being Bruce Burnett’s article ‘Reducing the risks: AIDS in the gay ghetto.’[xiii] A pamphlet ‘AIDS choices and chances’, created by the NGRC, and inserted in the July-August 1984 issue of Pink Triangle, emphasised the importance of a ‘calm response to the impact of the AIDS crisis upon intimate areas of people’s lives,’ saying ‘the stresses and strains generated by fear, uncertainty, even panic, are potentially as damaging as AIDS itself’.[xiv]

Mainstream media however could be seen to perpetuate misinformation; a reporter in conversation with the Christchurch chair of the Haemophilia Society, who was waiting to hear if he had been exposed to the virus, described the man’s attempts to protect his family: ‘he always has to be careful. He uses his own glass, towel, or face cloth – just in case’.[xv] Professionals and the media appeared to willingly take the opportunity to further stigmatise other groups too: one article reported on an Auckland virologist’s suggestion that sex workers be licenced and subject to frequent mandatory health screenings to control the ‘killer virus’ and limit its spread among ‘the families and girlfriends of men who slept with infected street girls’.[xvi]

Pink Triangle highlighted the challenges the community faced when seeking support from the medical system. Where an ODT article in 1984 declared ‘Nurses ready to care for AIDS patients’[xvii] this obscured other stories. That same year, the first AIDS patient in New Zealand was transferred to New Plymouth, his place of origin, from Sydney. The Taranaki Herald, according to Pink Triangle, reported ‘a nurse […] would resign rather than treat the AIDS patient’.[xviii]  Similarly, the AIDS Support Network reported difficulties procuring a location for a clinic. An Auckland public health unit had been suggested as a base, but the existing staff objected, one saying ‘[…] the AIDS clinic fits very uneasily into family health work’ and ‘there are a number of places in town far more suitable. For instance, in the rooms of general practitioners who are sympathetic to AIDS people’.[xix] While it is unpleasant to read these quotes, Pink Triangle clearly saw a reason to report them.

Phil Parkinson (administrator of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Resource Centre at the time), in a rare example of a gay voice being welcomed into a mainstream media space, argued for the importance of Homosexual Law Reform, stating that the AIDS crisis would only grow if it remained illegal to share information about risks. While prosecution remained a possibility, the stakes were too high to potentially out oneself when seeking information around prevention. He emphasised, too, that ‘AIDS is a blood disease not a homosexual one. It is caused by a virus and, like all viruses, can infect anybody.’[xx]

A selection of potentially stigmatising headlines from the Otago Daily Times.
Left to right, top to bottom: Some homosexuals’ blood unacceptable,10 May 1983, p.24; Nurses ready to care for AIDS patients, 11 February 1984, p.3; Living with the fear of AIDS, 10 April 1985, p.12; Prevention programme on AIDs, 4 August 1984, p.32; Screening blood for AIDS costly, 18 May 1985, p.12; AIDS man dies, 3 June 1985, p.5; ‘No autopsies on AIDS victims’, 27 March 1990, p.5; AIDS risk posed by prostitutes, 20 August 1985, p.15; Compensation sought for AIDS, 19 April 1985, p.2.

Meanwhile, in an ODT article headed ‘Living with the fear of AIDS’, a representative of the Haemophilia Society indicted the ‘homosexual community of using the AIDS situation for gaining political end such as gaining support for the Homosexual Law Reform Bill.’[xxi]  While it is important to recognise haemophiliacs as another group vulnerable to AIDS, this seemed an unnecessarily opportunistic dig at an already deeply stigmatised group fighting for human rights. The same Society queried if Accident Compensation Corporation support was available for those who received contaminated blood products through a transfusion.[xxii] From my observations of the ODT, stories such as these were more common than those that sought the voices of those from the gay community; let alone intravenous drug users who were also at great risk.

Pink Triangle was alert to how the community was perceived by the dominant media voice and the damage caused by negative stereotyping and rhetoric. The 1984 feature ‘Homosexuality in the media: a warped image’, by Paula Wallis, examined the content and tone of Auckland newspapers in the previous year. Wallis’ findings were ‘overwhelmingly negative’ in the way they referred to the homosexual population. References to AIDS were ‘alarmist and threatening’, predominantly blaming ‘promiscuity’ for the ‘dissemination of the disease.’ Wallis stated: ‘we are considered newsworthy only when a news item is outrageous enough to consolidate current prejudice.’[xxiii] In short, the community was othered and not permitted to share their stories with the wider society they lived in. This was not a fresh concern: in 1981, the NGRC published the guide How to work with the media: a manual for lesbian and gay rights groups.

‘Homosexuality in the media: a warped image’. Pink Triangle, Issue 49, September-October 1984, p.9

As a child of the 1980s, my first clear awareness of AIDS in media representation was the case of young Eve Van Grafthorst. Van Grafthorst received HIV contaminated blood as an infant in Australia, and was ostracised. Her family moved to Aotearoa where she became a prominent figure in the AIDS media discourse until her 1993 death. Considering the contrasts explored above in how the gay community and AIDS was portrayed by Pink Triangle versus more conventional media, it is not surprising that Eve’s death was where my attention was directed. Yet by the end of the year in which Van Grafthorst died, there had been 340 known AIDS deaths since the first notified cases of 1984, and the majority of these lives lost probably received no media attention, let alone a compassionate framing.[xxiv]

Medical progress now means we, at least in the developed world, can look to the number of people living with HIV, rather than dying of AIDS, yet HIV vaccines are still in the experimental stage.[xxv] It is hard to not contrast this with the rapid development of vaccines for COVID-19. There are myriad reasons why the latter were able to be developed so quickly, but a cynical person might question the reasons behind the slower pace on the former when 36.3 million people globally have died of HIV.[xxvi]

Ultimately, this examination supplies us with useful reminders for every time we engage with news media. Whose voices are prioritised? Whose knowledge and opinions are dismissed or never sought? Who benefits – and who loses out – when the story is presented as it is? Where else should we look to get a fuller picture?

 

[i] Cisgender describes ‘someone whose gender aligns with that which they were assigned at birth. The opposite of transgender.’ ‘Rainbow terminology: Sex, gender, sexuality & other key terms’, InsideOUT Kōaro, https://www.insideout.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/InsideOUT-rainbow-terminology-August-2021.pdf (accessed 30 March 2022)

[ii] ‘Gay pneumonia? Not really, says researcher’, Pink Triangle, Issue 27, September 1981, p.1

[iii] ‘Some homosexuals’ blood unacceptable’, Otago Daily Times, 10 May 1983, p.24

[iv] ‘Hets miss out on gay blood’, Pink Triangle, May/June 1983, p.1

[v] ‘To give or not to give’, Pink Triangle, Issue 44, July-September 1983, p.2

[vi] ‘Gays co-operate’, Pink Triangle, Issue 44, July-September 1983, p.3

[vii] ‘Blood test; network cautious’ Pink Triangle, Issue 50, November-December 1984, p.3

[viii] Ibid., p.19

[ix] ‘Crisis – what crisis?’ Pink Triangle, Issue 41, Summer 1982/83, p.1

[x] Ibid.

[xi] ‘NGRC hits back on AIDS’, Pink Triangle, Issue 44, July-September 1983, p.3

[xii] ‘AIDS Support Network’ [advertisement], Pink Triangle, Issue 50, November-December 1984, p.19

[xiii] ‘Reducing the risks: AIDS in the gay ghetto’, Pink Triangle, Issue 48, July-August 1984, p.13

[xiv] ‘AIDS choices and chances’, National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand [pamphlet] Pink Triangle, Issue 48, July-August, 1984

[xv] Living with the fear of AIDS, Otago Daily Times, 10 April 1985, p.12

[xvi] ‘AIDS risk posed by prostitutes’, Otago Daily Times, 20 August 1985, p.15

[xvii] ‘Nurses ready to care for AIDS patients’, Otago Daily Times, 11 February 1984, p.3

[xviii] ‘AIDS man transferred’, Pink Triangle, Issue 46, March/April 1984, p.1

[xix] ‘Nurses object’, Pink Triangle, Issue 51, Summer, 1984-85, p.1

[xx] ‘AIDS and homosexual law’, Otago Daily Times, 20 June 1985, p.4

[xxi] ‘Living with the fear of AIDS’, Otago Daily Times, 10 April 1985, p.12

[xxii] ‘Compensation sought for AIDS’, Otago Daily Times, 19 April 1985, p.2

[xxiii] ‘Homosexuality in the media: a warped image’, Pink Triangle, Issue 49, September-October 1984, p.9

[xxiv] AIDS – New Zealand, AIDS Epidemiology Group, Issue 20, February 1994,     https://www.otago.ac.nz/aidsepigroup/otago714396.pdf (accessed 29 March 2022)

[xxv] ‘Experimental mRNA HIV vaccine shows promise in animals’, National Institutes of Health, 11 January 2022, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/experimental-mrna-hiv-vaccine-shows-promise-animals (accessed 29 March 2022)

[xxvi] ‘Global Health Observatory HIV/AIDS’, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/hiv-aids (accessed 30 March 2022)

References

Web resources

KFF, Global HIV/AIDS Timeline, 20 July 2018, https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/timeline/global-hivaids-timeline/ (accessed 23 March 2022).

Lesbian & Gay Archives of New Zealand Te Pūranga Takatāpui o Aotearoa, Out of the ashes, December 1986, https://www.laganz.org.nz/trust/ashes.html, (accessed 22 March 2022).

New Zealand AIDS memorial quilt,  Eve Van Grafhorst 17 July 1982 – 20 November 1993, https://aidsquilt.org.nz/eve-van-grafhorst-7/, (accessed 28 March 2022).

Publications

National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand, How to work with the media: a manual for lesbian and gay rights groups. National Gay Rights Coalition, Wellington, 1981.

National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand, National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand, National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand, Auckland, 1978.

New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Living well with HIV: Piki te ora. NZAF, Te Tūāpapa Mate Āraikore o Aotearoa, Wellington, 2017.

Kaleidoscope World

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 | Hocken Collections | 1 Comment

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills. Curator Music and AV, and Katherine Milburn, Curator Ephemera.

Kaleidoscope World: 40 Years of Flying Nun in Dunedin explores the Flying Nun scene in Dunedin – from the early origins with The Enemy through to the contemporary local music scene which looks beyond Flying Nun. The exhibition pulls material from across the Hocken’s rich collections as well as some iconic and visually arresting loans from people central to the music scene, while also featuring a commissioned artwork by Robert Scott (The Clean, The Bats). This blog post highlights three works featured in the exhibition.

The central exhibition image is the collage of a one-eyed cherub holding a record, created by Ian Dalziel for the tenth anniversary of Flying Nun Records in 1991. Dalziel used the collage for the commemorative card set, taking original images of a cherub, hair, and an eyeball from the 1978 Harters Picture Archive for Collage and Illustration, compiled by Jim Harter, and the image of a record from a magazine ad. The collage was again used on a 1991 New Year’s Eve Flying Nun gig poster at Christchurch’s Dux de Luxe, this time adding solar and lunar elements designed by Alec Bathgate (The Enemy, Toy Love, Tall Dwarfs). The cherub has become an iconic image associated with Flying Nun – it was used to heavily promote the label’s 25th anniversary and has more recently been re-imagined as a t-shirt motif.

Ian Dalziel, (b.1957), The Original Collage, 1991, collage and ink on paper, 135 x 135mm, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago, V2015.14.1. Given by Warwick Eade, 2015. Part of the artwork Commissioned for Flying Nun Records, on the occasion of their 10th anniversary. Permission to use kindly granted by Ian Dalziel and Flying Nun Records.

Conceived by Stephen Hall-Jones, Social Activities Manager for the Otago University Students’ Association, and strikingly brought to life on a poster by artist Robert Scott, ‘mutant hillbillies’ was a memorable and successful 1990 Orientation theme. With his friend Michael Tull, Hall-Jones introduced the full story in a calendar where each page depicted a hillbilly family member. (The Hocken would be very grateful for a donation of this calendar should anyone have one spare.) The poster advertised a 12-night programme of events described by Critic as ‘…a veritable feast for those people who are into New Zealand music’. Robert Scott was not only the poster artist that year, but he also performed as a member of two of the drawcard bands: The Clean and The Bats.

‘Mutant Hillbilly Orientation 1990’ Dunedin: Otago University Students’ Association, 1990. Eph-0069-LG-D-03/01 Posters collection, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. Permission to use kindly granted by OUSA.

For Flying Nun’s 15th anniversary in 1996, the label commissioned five musicians signed to the label (who were also visual artists) to create a limited-edition artwork, an etching on a 7” vinyl disc with an accompanying label on the reverse side of the disc. These discs featured no music and were designed purely as collectable promotional items. There was no specific brief, and each artist – Alec Bathgate, Chris Knox, Sean O’Reilly, David Mitchell, and Hamish Kilgour – created an etching from their imaginations, which were quirky, abstract, or lurid. Alec Bathgate created a whimsical illustration, a guitar playing figure seemingly hovering over volcanos, with the Auckland cityscape behind it. Bathgate remembers there being nothing meaningful in the illustration, as he recalls “I was just asked to contribute something and came up with that!”

Alec Bathgate. “Flying Nun Records 1981-1996: 15th anniversary label and etching.” Flying Nun Records, 1996. Hocken music collections Rec-S 3091. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. Permission to use kindly granted by Flying Nun Records and Alec Bathgate.

Keen to see and hear more? Come and visit Kaleidoscope World: 40 Years of Flying Nun in Dunedin at Hocken Collections, open until 19 March 2022. Open to the public, Monday to Saturday from 10am-5pm. 90 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, (03) 479-8868, or www.otago.ac.nz/hocken

A Tale of Adventure – from the archives of photographer George Chance (1885-1963)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Anna Petersen, Curator Photographs

Figure 1 Barranquila, Colombia, South America, 1906. P1991-023/01-2222

The Hocken holds the definitive archive of works by English-born photographer, George Chance (1885-1963).  The collection encompasses all aspects of his output from original prints, negatives, and colour slides, to proofs, albums, correspondence, sound recordings, written notes and published reproductions in the form of newspaper and journal illustrations and calendars.

Photograph historian, William Main, drew extensively on this resource when compiling a chronology of Chance’s life and researching his catalogue essay for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery exhibition George Chance: Photographer in 1986.  That touring exhibition catalogue remains the main publication on Chance’s work and his influence on New Zealand photography, though others have also contributed to the literature since then.[i]

This blog serves to illustrate and probe a little deeper into one particular chapter of Chance’s life that Main only mentions in passing.  Pieced together primarily from Chance’s own written and recorded accounts, spoken with his fruity London accent, the surprising tale reveals something of Chance’s adventuresome spirit before he ever reached New Zealand and draws attention to images of more international interest that are housed in the Hocken Photographs Collection.[ii]

The story began in December 1905.  Young ‘Chancey’, as his friends called him, was working in Regent Street at the time, for the prominent London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.  He held the position of demonstrator/instructor, showing how the latest cameras and photographic equipment operated to all manner of aristocrats, explorers and famous people.

Figure 2 Regent Street, 1907. Album 544, P2007-014/1-040a

One day a very tall man with a beard walked in and pledged to buy a complete set of movie and still cameras if the firm provided a man to accompany him on a trip and act as photographer and secretary.  It promised to be a valuable commission so ‘Marmalade’ the salesman, offered ‘Chancey’ £5 to apply for the job.  Chance obviously felt up for the challenge because that Monday he went along for an interview with the mysterious customer, who turned out to be the eccentric English hunter and adventurer, John Talbot Clifton (1868-1928).  Talbot Clifton reputably made a habit of sampling the wild animals he came across (including a mammoth found in the Arctic permafrost).[iii]

Figure 3 John Talbot Clifton, 1905. P1991-023/01-0499

Talbot Clifton thought George looked a bit young, but George (who was only 19 at the time), reassured him that he wasn’t as young as he looked and he got the 15-month contract, on condition that he got himself a tropical kit and made the ship by Saturday.  His father wasn’t too thrilled, and nor were his employers, but George managed to wrangle it and soon found himself in charge of about 30 parcels of guns and supplies, boarding the SS Atrata at Southampton on Christmas Eve.  It wasn’t until several days into the voyage that he learned that they were bound for Cocos Island, situated in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Costa Rica.  They were on a quest in search of lost Spanish gold. As one of several newspaper articles on the subject pasted into the back of Chance’s diary states, there were two alleged buried hoards on the island: ‘one, a pirate treasure, is valued at between six and twelve millions sterling, and the other – known as “Keatings treasure” – is said to be worth three millions’.[iv]

Figure 4 Map of the voyage, n.d. Lantern slide, P1991-023/03-032

After a rough trip across the Atlantic, the party made a number of stops in quick succession along the upper coast of South America; the first at Barbados on 4 January, where Chance got a photograph of himself in Georgetown, apparently dressed for the part.

Figure 5 George Chance in Georgetown, Barbados, 1906. Photographer unknown, P1991-023/01-0582

Moving on via Trinidad to Venuzuela, Chance was let off at the country’s main port of La Guaira on 7 January for four hours and told to get some native studies.  What his boss neglected to mention was just how politically unstable the region of Central America was during this period and as Chance recalled, he did not venture further than the pier.

A third stop-off in Colombia proved more fruitful from a photographic point of view (figures 1 and 6).  Chance recorded in his diary how he ‘Wandered about the streets [of Barranquilla] + admired the peculiar thatched houses.  Streets were very quiet + nearly all shops closed as folk we[re] having afternoon snooze.  Got some interesting photos…’.[v]  There the danger seemed to lie in Savanilla Bay where they observed five wrecks.

Figure 6 Natives and home in Colombia, South America, 1906. P1991-023-2344

The next day at Colon, Chance took some rather boring snaps if those in the Hocken Collections are anything to go by.  As he noted in his diary ‘Colon looks an awfully desolate + dreary place, had a big fire there recently so that best part of town is in ruins’.[vi]  From Colon they took a train to Panama, where they found another large fire still raging and Chance almost got his camera saturated with water by a fireman’s hose.  The real danger, however, was of a different nature as deaths from Yellow Fever saw work on the canal come to a halt.  Still, they had to wait around for the President of Ecuador, General Leonidas Plaza Guierres, to join them on the ship before sailing south to Quayaquil.

Talbot Clifton and his advisors had chosen Quayaquil in Ecuador as the supply base for the expedition to Cocos Island because of the prevailing winds, but the city would prove another hot bed of political unrest.  In an account later published in the Otago Daily Times in 1932, Chance related all the details of his conversation with General Guierres on board ship, which indicated that the leader had no real idea of the gravity of the situation.  Far from saving the day and having his troops photographed by Chance as planned, he was welcomed at Quayaquil by a horde of revolutionaries led by Eloy Alfaro and the President narrowly escaped about a week later with his life.[vii]

Figure 7 Crowd of citizens from Guayaquil meeting the boat loads of revolutionists arriving to join in the revolution, January 1906. P1991-023/01-2353

Figure 8 Revolutionists arriving by boats at Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 1906. P1991-023/01-2349

 

Exactly how much at risk the expedition party ever was at during the revolution is a little hard to gauge.   Chance wrote in a letter to his parents on 19 January from the Gran Hotel Paris:

Our ship arrived here yesterday morning.  The town is not on the sea coast as I at first thought but some miles up a very wide river, it is one of the finest towns on the whole of the S. America coast + we have put up at the very best hotel.  Mr C. has two rooms + I have a nice room to myself overlooking the river.  This is the order of the day.  Coffee is served from 7am to 9.  Breakfast 10.30 to 12.30 Dinner 5.30 up to 8.0[.]  Some of the dishes are rather curious + want getting used to but I make a point of eating plain food + plenty of fruit + this I find agrees with me very well.[viii]

We know that Chance did not want his family worrying and tensions did escalate.  The letter is unfinished and his diary entry for the same day reads ‘For hours bullets were passing our windows + striking the tin roofs…’.[ix]

There was definitely some fierce street fighting during the night when at least 150 people lost their lives and Chance undoubtedly had one or two nasty frights during his stay at Guayaquil.  Inscribed photographs provide evidence of some of the worst scenes that Chance encountered when he eventually ventured out of his room with his new friend, Captain Voss.  He noted on the back of the photograph in figure 9:

Bullet holes on plaster.  Capt. Voss is the centre right figure[.] In this native square were many dead bodies mostly the result of hand to hand fighting with knives – I was violently sick at the sight + because of any native reaction when I might have been knifed on the spot I did not attempt further photographs – 200 were killed that night. 

 

Figure 9 After the revolution, 1906. P1991-023/01-2354

Captain John Voss was another colourful character who had already acquired fame by this time for a journey he made around the world in a dug-out canoe called the Tilikum and joined the party in Quayaquil with the job of leading the treasure hunt.[x]

Sadly the treasure-hunting aspect of the adventure ended in disappointment.  Chance tells of how they purchased a 50 ton barque at Quayaquil and sailed to Cocos Island (also famous for its shark-infested waters).[xi]   They stayed only a very short time and had to abandon any further plans because of the fighting and rampant fever.  In other words, the Talbot Clifton expedition, became just another of the many failed attempts to locate gold on the island over the years, though the place continues to capture people’s imaginations in fictional accounts, from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to Michael Crighton’s Jurassic Park.[xii]

Back in Quayaquil, things literally began to fall apart.  Chance was developing some photographs when an earthquake struck and the front of his room fell down into the street.  According to Violet Talbot, who later wrote in an account of her husband’s life after his death (en route to Timbuktu!), ‘news came that the Chilean Government would not allow any more expeditions to Los Cocos.  Talbot had to pay off his men who were glad to be freed, for they had had their fill of danger.  The outbreak of yellow fever and the revolution were followed by more earthquakes’.[xiii]

Clifton Talbot decided to do a little exploring instead, hoping amongst other things, to find the source of the Amazon.  According to Chance, he was not allowed to follow because he was under 21, so he decided to do a little exploring of his own. Chance did not leave precise details of this part of the journey but he suffered intermittent fevers from malaria that he had contracted in Barbados and ended up in the canal zone where he stayed for several months before returning to England.

Chance was welcomed back into his old job in London, now the company’s expert in the specialised field of tropical photography. (They had tried photographing wild animals at night in Central America with the aid of a primitive kind of flash powder, but Chance didn’t like it much and it was more exciting than successful. Apart from anything else ‘there were some nasty little snakes, which looked like branches of trees, which if they bit you, well, it was good night’).[xiv]  Most notably, Winston Churchill would come for several afternoon lessons in preparation for his tour of East Africa in 1907.  This contact caused Chance to fear for his position, as Winston forgot to roll on his films and when given the job of developing the precious negatives, Chance had to front up with 200 blanks.

Chance was always ambitious and eighteen months later, he put aside photography for a while and trained to be an optician – a profession that would eventually lead to a job on the other side of the world in Dunedin in 1909.  On leaving the British Stereoscopic Company, the General Manager commended Mr George Chance, Junior for being a ‘good salesman attentive to his duties, punctual and excellent manners and address’ and that he had ‘assisted in various outdoor expeditions requiring smartness and ability’.[xv]  I dare say, not all of the outdoor expeditions were quite as dangerous and exciting as the Cocos Island mission.

Although the expedition to Central America failed to produce the great riches the Talbot Clifton party had dreamed about, Chance did manage to save £300 while he was away, which left him a young man of means, with a fine story to dine out on for the rest of his life.  In a way, the surviving photographs are the real treasure, available now to everyone in the Hocken Collections, thanks to the generosity of the Chance family.

 

References

[i] See Linda Tyler, George Chance: Improving on Nature, exhibition catalogue, Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, 2006 and David Eggleton, Into the Light: A History of New Zealand Photography, Nelson, 2006, pp. 49-50.

[ii] Thank you to David Murray for providing copies of the sound recordings in Hocken Archives, MS-5119 and to Sarah Fairhurst for her suggestions.  All figures taken by George Chance, unless otherwise stated.

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Talbot_Clifton (accessed 29/11/2021).

[iv] ‘Island’s Vast Treasures. Admiral Palliser and New Cocos Expedition. Doomed to Failure’, Daily Express, 2 April 1906.

[v] George Chance, Diary, 9 January 1906, MS 3158/142.

[vi] Ibid., 10 January 1906.

[vii] ‘General Guierrez Ups and Downs of a President’s Life: Dunedin man recalls revolution in Ecuador’, Evening Star, 21 September 1932.

[viii] George Chance, Letter to parents, 19 January 1905 [sic], MS-3176/005.

[ix]Diary, 19 January 1906.

[x] See J.M. MacFarlane and L.J. Salmon, Around the World in a Dugout Canoe: The Untold Story of Captain John Voss, Canada, 2020 for Voss’s own account of the conflict at Guayaquil, as well as details of Voss’s previous trip to Cocos Island and other photographs relating to the Talbot Clifton expedition –  which include George Chance (though wrongly identified).

[xi] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocos_Island (accessed 29/11/2021).

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] V. Clifton, The Book of Talbot, London, 1933, p.280.

[xiv] Chance reel 4, 26.49-55, MS-5119.  No examples of these animal photographs are included in the Hocken Collections.

[xv] Letter of commendation, 23 October 1907, MS-3158/142.

Michael Trumic: A well urned career

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Jen Jeffery, Collections Assistant – Archives

Mirko (Michael) Trumic was born in Yugoslavia in 1928 and moved to Dunedin as a refugee in 1950 post-war. Trumic commented that Dunedin was ‘Not quite the tropical Gauginesque milieu [he] had imagined.’[1] Trumic had spent two years prior as a medical student before he and his fiancée fled to New Zealand to escape from war-torn Europe. Once in Dunedin, Trumic began to make friends with other European refugees, including painter Rudi Gopas. Trumic recalls that Gopas had a small studio in central Dunedin and the pair used to meet there every weekend. Trumic added that the men used to drive around Dunedin; Trumic would take photographs whilst Gopas would draw. It was Gopas who pushed Trumic to start drawing.[2] Gopas encouraged Trumic to pursue the arts, and their relationship transitioned into that of student and teacher.[3]

Michael Trumic throwing on the pottery wheel, n.d. (MS-5122/004)

Both men moved to Christchurch where they joined a lively arts and intellectual circle, as Gopas became a lecturer at the School of Fine Arts in Ilam. Trumic found himself in Yvonne Rust’s design studio and discovered clay. Trumic had the realisation that he was a three-dimensional person rather than two-dimensional. Gopas was not impressed.[4] Trumic recalls an interaction with Rust at her studio. Trumic sat at the wheel whilst Rust was trying to convince him that this was not his first time on the wheel – as Trumic remembers Rust exclaiming after he his first attempt “You must have [thrown clay before] – you made a beaut cylinder in one go!”[5] At the same time as Trumic was introduced to clay, he was working at a steel factory, where he would sculpt small abstract art pieces from polished steel. In a few years, Trumic became a full time potter, a first for Canterbury.[6]

Michael Trumic throwing on the pottery wheel, 1989. (MS-5122/073)

In 1960 Trumic established an art gallery “Several Arts”. The name portrayed Trumic’s stance on art, by simply allowing the work he admired to be displayed. This outlook made Several Arts a unique gallery of its time. Several Arts also served as a place where artists around Canterbury could gather and allowed younger artists with little experience to exhibit their works. Whilst the gallery kept Trumic occupied during the day, the evenings and weekends allowed Trumic to potter away. For ten years under Trumic’s supervision the gallery was incredibly successful, and become renowned across New Zealand and Australia.

Michael Trumic’s Pottery, n.d. (MS-5122/004)

After the success of the Several Arts, Trumic began voyaging around the South Island and teaching workshops on all things clay. This included regular ceramic classes in Christchurch for interested potters, which evolved into part-time teaching at Christchurch Teachers’ College and occasionally for universities when they demanded additional guidance.[7] In 1972 Trumic was asked to travel to Sydney for a Ceramic Study Group and workshop, to talk to artists and their teachers. Trumic was then invited to the Art School in Canberra, as a demonstrator and speaker to senior art students.

Michael Trumic’s students at Otago Polytechnic, 1990. (MS-5122/057)

In 1975 Trumic was asked by the Otago Polytechnic School of Fine Arts to teach part-time. Within a few years the part-time position grew into full-time, and eventually Trumic established the Diploma in Ceramics, Sculpture and three-dimensional design. Trumic’s students remember him fondly, however he had a strong presence, and was known to “rub people up the wrong way.” Nelson ceramic sculptor Christine Boswijk adds that Trumic was “a hard taskmaster….He taught with his belly. He was unmerciful. He took that risk to make you an artist.” [8] It was well known that Trumic could bring students to tears, but in the same breath lift them up again. In 1989, Trumic was awarded with an Honorary Diploma in Fine Arts with Honours from Otago Polytechnic in recognition for his services to ceramic education in New Zealand. This was the first Diploma of its kind presented in New Zealand. After nearly 20 years of service, Trumic resigned from teaching in 1992.

Michael Trumic’s Honorary Diploma, 1989. (MS-5122/073)

Trumic lived with his wife Wendy Wadworth, who in her own right was an accomplished artist. They moved to Loburn in Canterbury where Trumic continued to ‘potter away’ in his studio until his passing in 2012, aged 84.

Michael Trumic assisting in the building of a kiln, 1990. (MS-5122/057)

Trumic’s ceramics can be found in various galleries and museums around New Zealand including the Otago Museum and Canterbury Museum


Achievements of Trumic

  • Foundational member of the New Zealand Society of Potters
  • Foundational member of the New Zealand Professional Potters Guild
  • Early member of the Canterbury Society of Arts
  • Full member of “The Group”
  • Recipient of three Queen Elizabeth II Art Council Grants

[1] Moyra Elliot, “Michael Trumic 1928-2012,” Cone Ten and Descending…, last modified 13 April 2012, https://conetenanddescending.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/michael-trumic-1928-2012/

[2]Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

[3] Brief C.V of Michael Trumic, n.d., MS-5122/078, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[4] Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

[5] Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

[6] Brief C.V of Michael Trumic, n.d., MS-5122/078, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[7] Brief C.V of Michael Trumic, n.d., MS-5122/078, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[8] Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

References:

Elliot, Moyra. “Michael Trumic 1928-2012.” Cone Ten and Descending…. Last modified 13 April 2012. https://conetenanddescending.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/michael-trumic-1928-2012/

Shiels, Rosa. “Clay and Fire.” New Zealand Potters. Retrieved 13 April 2012. http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

Trumic, Michael. Brief C.V. MS-5122/078. Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

One hundred years ago today: Prof Jack’s public radio broadcast

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by David Murray, Archivist

The University of Otago’s own Professor Robert Jack made the first public radio broadcast in New Zealand one hundred years ago today, on 17 November 1921. Jim Sullivan records that he “continued the transmissions two nights a week and the programmes – a mixture of announcements, live music, and gramophone records – were heard in all parts of the country and even on a ship near the Australian coast.”

Robert Jack is seated at the centre in this photograph of the university’s Physics Department staff and senior students, taken in 1926.

Professor Jack’s colleague Agnes Blackie (seated on the left in the photo) described him: “In everything, Dr Jack’s aim was perfection. This showed itself in many ways: the laboratory place-cards that he printed so beautifully by hand, the finely-written lists, the tidiness of the department. His standard for himself was also his standard for his students and woe-betide them if through carelessness, they fell short of it. Dr Jack’s insistence on punctuality has become legendary: ‘You’re late, Mr Smith.’ ‘No I don’t think so; the clock is just striking,’ ‘Well, you’re nearly late!’ Yet he could easily be disarmed by the right approach as in the case of the student who when asked fiercely whether had had any excuses for lateness replied, ‘Plenty, Doctor, but no reasons.'”

“Dr Jack was a splendid lecturer, illustrating his lectures with experiments skillfully demonstrated and enjoyed as much by the lecturer as by the students. His popular lectures for the public of Dunedin were great occasions: lecture-room packed, lecture-bench crowded with apparatus and the audience lifted out of themselves by the lecturer’s own enthusiasm.”

“To a very sensitive nature was added the strain of nerves stretched taut by serious overworking. It was, however, only a very blind student who did not see through the protective barrier of sternness to the warmly human man behind.” (ref: MS-4443/051).

The photograph is signed on the back by: R. Jack, Agnes R. Blackie (seated on the left), Robert R. Nimmo (seated next to Jack), Helen C. Thomson, Phyllis J. Sutton, Evelyn A. Franklin, Allan G. Harrington, James K. Horn, William M. Somerville, Harold M. Taylor, Doris M.A. Wheatley (ref: MS-3846 Box 2).
 
Anna Blackman anna.blackman@otago.ac.nz
 

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