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

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. 

 

 

 

‘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.

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.

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

Sunday, October 10th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post cooked up by Eilish McHugh-Smith, Collections Assistant – Publications

Our recent return to Covid alert level 4 prompted Hocken Staff to fish through their camera rolls and personal bookshelves in search of historical culinary delights to tantalise their bubble’s taste buds. In the preceding weeks, I had been on a mission to find a selection of the most peculiar and delicious sounding recipes within our cookbook collection, so had an array of delights to choose from.

One of my favourite finds is a well-loved copy of New Zealand women’s household guide: containing recipes and general hints, dating from 1934 or 1935.[1] This was published by the Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union, an organisation established in 1925 by the wives of members of the Farmers’ Union to help combat the isolating nature of farm life, advocate for the needs of rural women and children, and of course, provide support to the Farmers’ Union.[2] As part of this the Women’s Division also emphasised and advocated for enhanced home science education, which appears to have been a motivating factor behind this book and its other iterations, some of which the Hocken is fortunate to hold.[3]

Notable recipes within the 1934/1935 edition include milk soup (containing a mere 5 ingredients: milk, onions, vermicelli, salt and pepper), mock whitebait (potato flavoured with anchovy sauce), stewed lettuce, a Marmite omelette, gingerbread cookies and currant buns.[4] However, with week one of lockdown over my bubble was craving comfort food. This led me to the recipes for macaroni soup and ginger pudding, akin to modern day macaroni cheese and a ginger cake- surely these would satisfy.

The macaroni soup recipe [New Zealand women’s household guide: containing recipes and general hints] ([Wellington]: Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union (Inc.), [1934-1935?]), p.12.

The ginger pudding recipe [New Zealand women’s household guide: containing recipes and general hints] ([Wellington]: Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union (Inc.), [1934-1935?]), p.187.

So, I broke down the recipes into step-by-step instructions, converted the measurements into metric and estimated some of the grey areas (noted in square brackets).

First up was the batter of the Ginger Pudding:

Ginger Pudding

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup (115 grams) of butter or dripping
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar

Method

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Bake in a flat dish for ¾ of an hour [Assumed a similar temperature to most cakes (160 degrees Celsius in a fan bake oven)]
  • Original recipe included the note: “What is left from dinner makes a nice plain cake for afternoon tea if a little chocolate icing is put on top”

Interestingly, the resulting mixture was more akin to dough than a typical modern-day cake batter, as the mix was so dry, I struggled properly combine the flour. I also decided to use a large cake pan rather than a small flat dish, out of fear of the mess an overflow would make. Upon baking I found this meant the pudding was still liquid in the centre after 45 minutes and required a further 20 minutes to cook fully. However, as the cake doubled in size, I was relieved to have made the right dish decision.

The batter as it was combined, the batter in the tin, and the final product.

Meanwhile, preparations for the soup began:

Macaroni soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (454 grams) broken up macaroni [I used spiral pasta as macaroni was out of stock]
  • Salted water [I assumed this would be enough to cover the macaroni by about a couple of centimetres]
  • Sufficient stock [I used about 2 cups of chicken stock]
  • ½ pint (284 millilitres) of milk or cream [I assumed that this was referring to an imperial pint]
  • 5oz (142 grams) grated cheese

Method

  • Break up macaroni and boil in salted water until tender
  • Remove half the macaroni from the pot and hold aside
  • Continue boiling the remainder in to pot until it turns to pulp
  • Add stock, milk or cream, cheese and return the held-aside macaroni to the pot
  • Warm without boiling and serve with toast

This was relatively smooth sailing, aside from the requirement to boil half the pasta to a pulp. With an image of wallpaper paste like gloop in my head I set about boiling it for an hour and a half, by which point the pasta remained relatively intact but swollen. With stomachs growling and one bubble member telling me it “looks pulpy to me”, I made the decision to carry on with the remaining steps.

The ‘pulpy’ pasta after one and a half hours of boiling.

All plated up: the final products

A close-up to show the soup’s true soupiness.

 

First up for the taste test was the Macaroni Soup, which received comments such as: “rather flavourless”, “kind of like those quick pasta packet things” and “this is just pasta in salty water”. It was awarded an average rating of 2.5/10 from our bubble, with the consensus being that the wateriness was its biggest shortfall. Personally, I found its indescribable texture a bit challenging and could not find a discernible flavour to it. However, everyone finished their bowl, so it was certainly edible.

In contrast, the Ginger Pudding received slightly more favourable comments like “would be nice with custard”, “better than dinner” and “a lot like steam pudding”. However, its dry stodginess and a desire for a stronger ginger flavour were certainly noted. Overall, it received an average rating of 5/10, but 24 hours later remained untouched on the kitchen bench. Interestingly, the remaining pasta was snaffled before I ate lunch the following day, but I suspect some extra goodies were added to boost its flavour.

Overall, the meal was edible and filling, with the bonuses of being budget friendly and simple to prepare. These would likely have been key considerations for the Women’s Division in their mission to advance home science education for rural women. However, macaroni would likely have been more expensive than today, as it was not until 1941 that The Timaru Milling Company became the first company in New Zealand licensed to produce pasta under the brand name “Diamond” and not until the 1970s and 1980s that pasta became common place on New Zealand dinner tables.[5] Nevertheless, today pasta in all its forms holds a dear place as a staple comfort food in the hearts of many Kiwis, including my bubble’s.

 

[1] [New Zealand women’s household guide: containing recipes and general hints] ([Wellington]: Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union (Inc.), [1934-1935?]).

[2] Rosemarie Smith, ‘Rural Women New Zealand’, New Zealand History, www.nzhistory.govt.nz; accessed 24 August 2021.

[3] Rosemarie Smith, ‘Rural Women New Zealand’, New Zealand History, www.nzhistory.govt.nz; accessed 24 August 2021.

[4] [New Zealand women’s household guide: containing recipes and general hints] ([Wellington]: Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union (Inc.), [1934-1935?]), pp. 6,17,93,103,232.

[5] Sarah Wilcox, ‘Story: Food and beverage manufacturing – Changing technology and tastes’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand; www.teara.govt.nz; accessed 27 August 2021; ‘About us’, Diamond, www.diamondmeals.co.nz; accessed 26 August 2021.

References

‘About us’, Diamond, www.diamondmeals.co.nz; accessed 26 August 2021.

[New Zealand women’s household guide: containing recipes and general hints] ([Wellington]: Women’s Division of the New Zealand Farmers’ Union (Inc.), [1934-1935?]).

Smith, Rosemarie, ‘Rural Women New Zealand’, New Zealand History, www.nzhistory.govt.nz; accessed 24 August 2021.

Wilcox, Sarah, ‘Story: Food and beverage manufacturing – Changing technology and tastes’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand; www.teara.govt.nz; accessed 27 August 2021.

 

What else have we cooked up?

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 Corner #1: Two for the price of one with Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post written by General Assistant, Gini Jory

Welcome to a new segment for the Hocken blog, where our staff review books we hold in our collections. Whether these be novels, poetry, non-fiction, books helpful for research or genealogy- hopefully we will cover it all in our new Book Review Corner!

Today we start with a series fairly new to the collection- the first two books of the Locked Tomb series by New Zealand author Tamsyn Muir. Gideon the Ninth (2019) and Harrow the Ninth (2020) are Muir’s first novels, and have both been met with critical acclaim- Gideon having won the 2020 Locus award for best first novel and the 2020 Crawford award, as well as being nominated for the Nebula award for best novel and the Hugo award for best novel. Harrow is a finalist for the 2021 Hugo award this year.

 

I read these two books over the most recent lockdown, and they have quickly become some of my favourites. I had read Gideon the Ninth previously- as soon as I saw the review tagged on the front cover in the bookstore “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” I had to buy it- and I was super excited to read the sequel. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, horror, queer fiction, and elegant prose peppered with ancient memes, then these might be next on your TBR list.

So, what is it all about?

 

 

“Teacher said the facility was chocka with ghosts and you might die?”

“Correct.”

“Surprise, my tenebrous overlord!” said Gideon. “Ghosts and you might die is my middle name.”

 

 

 

 

Gideon the Ninth takes place in a far off (and possibly our dark future) universe ruled with the magical energy of necromancy. Thousands of years ago the new God (the King Undying, the Prince of Death!) resurrected the universe, which now consists of nine houses, each with different necromantic specialties. Here we find Gideon Nav of the Ninth House (is it Pluto? I like to think so), who is planning her escape- again. The Ninth House is different from the others, as its sole purpose is to protect the locked tomb that lies at its centre, housing an ancient and powerful enemy of God. But around this tomb has grown a sort of cult of worship, and the Ninth House is one of nuns and servants devoted to the locked tomb. There are hardly any actual people left on the Ninth, with the majority of their population being made from necromantic skeletons- of those passed and the newly regenerated. It is from this dark underground society Gideon hopes to escape to join the Cohort, the deep space army of this galaxy. But her plans are foiled by the Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the best necromancer of the Ninth, with the ability to grow entire skeletons out of the smallest bone fragments.

It turns out that God has put out the call for all the houses to send their best necromancers, along with their cavaliers (a champion fighter) to undertake the mission of becoming new Lyctors, who are basically undying warrior saints, the right hand men and women of god. It’s a pretty big deal- there haven’t been new Lyctors since the original eight created when the universe was first resurrected. Harrowhark is set on going (for mysterious reasons I won’t spoil here) but she needs a cavalier and unfortunately, Gideon is the best swordsman she has. It’s unfortunate, because these girls have basically sworn to hate each other for all eternity and have been fighting since their infancy. Nevertheless, Harrowhark is all set to offer Gideon the one thing she wants- freedom- if she will answer the call and go to the First House with her to undertake this challenge. And if you didn’t know yet, that’s not how this story is going to turn out.

When they arrive at Canaan House they are plunged into a series of tests, mysteries, and monsters. With an ensemble of untrustworthy characters, Harrowhark and Gideon must learn to trust each other and work together to uncover the secret to Lyctorhood, and to survive whatever is murdering their fellow necromancers in the ancient laboratories below Canaan House. There’s sword fighting, goth skull makeup, lots of bones, a fair amount of sass and sarcasm and an extremely good murder-mystery all wrapped up in one spooky and very cool magic system.

Gideon the Ninth is unlike anything I’ve read before- it’s dark, funny, high fantasy prose, low brow culture, all at the same time. The necromantic magic system is mildly gruesome and extremely intriguing, and is explained throughout the different tests that take place through the book- Gideon is a big beefcake with only a basic understanding of necromancy, so we learn as Harrow painstakingly explains it to her. Gideon and Harrow are excellent complex characters, extremely relatable in their own ways. They explore their own trauma and grief, and I found the way they handled these, while very different, extremely realistic and uncomfortably relatable. This isn’t a happy queer romance, and the way Muir writes this tragedy wrenches your heartstrings all the way through. She somehow perfectly balances the dark gothic themes with Gideon’s sassy over-it jokes-a-plenty thoughts and narration, making for an altogether different style that I think will sit well with anyone that enjoys a blending of the modern and the classic (in reference and in humour).

 

“I could protect you, if you’d only ask me to,” said Ianthe the First.

A tepid trickle of sweat ran down your ribs.

“I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones,” you said.

“I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt. I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.”

“So what I’m hearing is … maybe,” said Ianthe. “Help me out here. Don’t be coy.”

 

 

 

Harrow the Ninth is a completely different beast all together. Taking place not long after Gideon finishes, we have a Harrow-centric story as she starts her journey to lyctordom. But something is wrong. This is not the Harrowhark we know- she is, as she freely admits, insane. Something went wrong when she completed her transition to lyctor, and Harrow the first (as all Lyctors are of the first house) is not complete. But she must still train and travel with God himself and the few remaining original Lyctors because the universe is at stake. A resurrection beast (the soul of a dead planet) is coming to seek revenge on those who killed it (God) and it will consume any planet in its wake to absorb its energy and make itself more powerful. If they do not stop it, it will eventually consume all nine houses. Harrow is absolutely not up to this task. Not only can she not magically heal as other lyctors can, she has retained no knowledge of the fighting skills of her cavalier. And more concerning for us, dear readers, is this: Harrow has no memory of Gideon, and believes her cavalier was another ninth named Ortus Nigenad. Confused yet? So was I! But don’t worry, it all makes sense at the end.

This book was definitely a bit more jarring of a read for me. Half of it is told in second person, which I always find more difficult to get into. I think this is definitely done with intent though- it seems to be either a Harrow who is so traumatised and disassociated after her lyctorial transformation that she cannot relate to herself so personally, or an absent Gideon narrating Harrow’s actions for her (I’ve seen solid arguments for both, though I originally read it as Gideon narrating to Harrow). The other half of the book is a third person alternative-universe retelling of the events of Gideon at Canaan House, with Ortus as an insane Harrow’s cavalier, a different kind of monster hunting them that they are told about from the get-go, and characters dying in the opposite order to the actual events of the first book. These two styles and two timelines- the current and the AU past- are interfiled throughout the book, leading to a culmination and explanation of the alternative timelines existence during the final confrontation with the resurrection beast.

This book has a very different tone to the first as well- without Gideon’s sarcastic inner-monologue and cringey jokes, everything is a bit more solemn. While Harrow can be funny, its more because she’s being rude than actually cracking a joke. To alleviate what at times could otherwise be a depressing story with its heavy themes of trauma, grief, and mental illness, Muir has brought in a lot more cultural references made by other characters- especially the other lyctors who have ~ancient cultural knowledge~. That’s right, it’s meme time. These references have convinced me that this is a future universe of our own timeline, and this is what has survived of our pre-resurrection culture. Like quoting Latin or traditional proverbs today, in the future let them quote memes.

She references Shakespeare as well though, but if you were on the internet in the late 2000s/early 2010s (2012 tumblr, anyone?) then this specific humour might just tickle you. I absolutely hated myself for knowing some of these references. I did start to tally how many I got as I came across them but I definitely missed some; here is a handy summary  for those interested (spoilers abound!)- it counts around 40, which is a meme or other reference approximately every 12 pages. Beautiful.

Overall, Harrow the Ninth was definitely a much more confusing read than Gideon. It’s the kind of book that sucks you in while you’re reading, but when you take a break you have to ask yourself if you actually know what is happening. The ending is still confusing me. It’s great getting to see a more vulnerable and even naïve side to Harrow in this one, and to get an exploration of mental illness in science fiction/fantasy feels pretty fresh. If you’re not a fan of second person narration, this might not be the book for you, but if you enjoy solving a mystery with very little to go on in the way of clues, you’ll probably love it. And not to worry, there’s still plenty of bones, sword fighting, and flirting.

Even though Harrow the Ninth was a bit of a confusing read, I still loved both of these books and would absolutely recommend them to anyone who enjoys science fiction and fantasy. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series- it was originally a trilogy but will now have a fourth book, announced earlier this year. Nona the Ninth will precede the previously announced final volume Alecto the Ninth, and is set to be published in 2022- not too long a wait if you start reading soon! I can’t wait to see what happens next for Harrow and Gideon, and I hope you enjoy their story too, if you come along for the ride.

References:

Muir, Tamsyn. 2019. Gideon the Ninth. New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

Muir, Tamsyn. 2020. Harrow the Ninth. New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

The women of the D.I.C. – Part one: The knit & purl girls

Thursday, August 19th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | 1 Comment

Post researched and written by HUMS intern, Ceri Spivey

Amongst the business records held here at the Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena, are those from the eminent local and national department store chain, the Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand (lovingly known as the D.I.C.). Established in 1884 by prominent businessman Bendix Hallenstein as a ‘wholesale family warehouse’, the D.I.C. quickly flourished with multiple locations nationwide, until the business eventually closed its doors in 1991, after over a hundred years of successful trading. While much has been written about the store’s revolutionary retail practices, economic successes and male leadership, little attention has been paid to women’s involvement. These hundreds of women worked the shop floor, ran departments, hired staff, dominated shareholding, and breathed life into the company from the moment its doors opened.

A Guy Morris photo of the Dunedin D.I.C. staff, pre-WWI. MS-5063/060, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Department stores revolutionised women’s lives at the turn of the twentieth century beyond retail alone, being female designated and dominated spaces. Women would shop aided by other women for household goods, intimate apparel, clothing and more, in a progressive female-orientated environment. Our own D.I.C. was one such example, having female facilities and toilet amenities, an important shift in the Victorian era, as public toilets were not available to the women of Dunedin until 1910[i]. Alongside amenities, the female staff of the D.I.C. were an integral part of the department store from the outset, becoming well-known personalities, celebrated, and showcased, as early advertisements highlight.

‘Our Miss Button’ advertisement, Otago Witness, 19 October 1910, p.5. [image from microfilm]

D.I.C. company picnic running race, c.1900. MS-5063/012/002, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

As imagery found in the D.I.C. archives illustrates, staff social activities were tied to the store, with women participating in company sports events, picnic races and clubs, alongside philanthropic groups like the D.I.C. Girls’ Patriotic Club. The staff of the D.I.C., like thousands of women nationwide, heeded the call of Lady Annette Louise Foljambe Liverpool, wife of New Zealand’s Governor-General, for the women of New Zealand to band together to provide care parcels packed with ‘necessaries’ for soldiers serving in the Great War.

D.I.C. Girls’ Patriotic Club postcard, 1917. MS-5063/023, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Headed by crockery manager and buyer Miss Frances Alice Button, over seventy ‘girls’ under the age of twenty from the D.I.C. became members, meeting regularly in the nearby Savoy Lounge. Using Lady Liverpool’s Her Excellency’s Knitting Book as a guide, held within our publications collection, the women of the D.I.C. would parcel necessaries- cigarettes, letters, and knitting, for brothers, colleagues, and troops at home and abroad.

Her Excellency’s knitting book (1915), by Annette Foljambe, Countess of Liverpool. Ferguson and Osborn Printers, Wellington. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Miss Button was unable to attend the club’s December 1917 meeting due to a severe illness. Poignantly, a letter was read on her behalf: “Although the sadness of this great war was responsible for the formation of our club, its outcome has been a mutual understanding and comradeship”.[ii] After a long and fruitful career at the D.I.C. (which we will cover in the next blog post on the women of the D.I.C.), Miss Frances Alice Button succumbed to her illness on the 18th of June 1918. The knit and purl girls of the D.I.C. continued their good works, headed by the talented dressmaker Miss E. Lawrence, until the end of World War One.

Frances Alice’s words were ringing true for thousands of New Zealand women, who took up their knitting needles to comfort their loved ones ravaged by war, but gained friendship, autonomy, and much more.

References

[i] St Clair, as a popular seaside destination, saw the first public toilet for women built in 1908, but it wasn’t until 1910 that the central city had “underground conveniences” for women. See Alison Breese’s digital thesis below for more information on the fascinating history of Dunedin’s public toilets: https://scalar.usc.edu/works/conveniences/chapter-one-public-conveniences-and-the-rise-of-undergrounds

[ii] Evening Star, 15 December 1917, Page 4

 

Alternative sources for alternative voices

Monday, June 28th, 2021 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by General Assistant Gini Jory

Radical writers are often thought of as a cornerstone of New Zealand literature. Whether it be poetry, short stories, novels, commentaries or screenplays, these writers have cried out against the status quo, speaking out on issues such as racism, social injustice and numerous other political concerns. These thoughts have shaped New Zealand literature and in turn have produced a wealth of writers armed with radical prose and ideas.

James K. Baxter, c.1965-1972. Michael de Hamel photograph, Box-005-002, Te Uare Taoka o Hākena – Hocken Collections, University of Otago.

One of the most prominent of these writers is James Keir Baxter (1926-1972) who was born into a family with established radical leanings. His father was Archibald Baxter (1881-1970), a socialist, pacifist, conscientious objector during WWI and the author of We will not cease, the memoir of his brutal experiences of forced conscription and imprisonment. The Hocken holds papers for both James K. Baxter (ARC-0027) and the Baxter family (ARC-0351) in the archives collection. Born in Dunedin, Baxter spent his formative years here, attending the University of Otago and returning later as a Robert Burns fellow in 1966. His published works cover a huge range with poetry, literary criticism and social commentaries at the forefront. He was also well known for his radical lifestyle; most notably the period in later life when he moved to Jerusalem/Hiruhārama, a Māori settlement on the Whanganui River, leaving behind his University position and job.

When thinking about potential information the Hocken might have on Baxter, you would be safe in the assumption we carry a large amount of his published works, along with the previously mentioned archival collections. However, given the radical and alternative nature of Baxter’s life and writing, this post will cover some of the more alternative, and perhaps less obvious items we carry in our collections that are equally as useful for research.

If you’re interested in taking a more active (literally!) research approach, a great place to start would be with Writers Dunedin: Three Literary Walks. Along with short biographies of many Dunedin writers, this item provides a map of three walks you can take around Dunedin, highlighting places of significance in the literary history of Dunedin and in the lives of these writers. This includes places like the Robert Burns statue in the Octagon, the Globe Theatre, the University clock tower building, as well as lesser-known places including pubs frequented by writers, schools, houses, bookshops and publishing firms. All three walks include places of significance in the life of Baxter.

Map kindly provided with permission from Southern Heritage Trust. Map design by Allan Kynaston. Barsby, John & Frame, Barbara Joan. Writer’s Dunedin: Three Literary Walks. Dunedin: Southern Heritage Trust. 2012

This publication is a companion to another item, found in our AV collection: Hear our Writers: an audio compilation of eleven Dunedin Writers. This sound recording comprises writers reading aloud their own poetry, as well as having it read by others. James K. Baxter is among these authors, and you can listen to him read his poem The Fallen House, a reflection of his early life in Brighton which he has referred to as his “lost Eden”. It is a very immersive experience to hear a poem spoken by the person who wrote it over 50 years ago, and to understand how he meant it to be heard with his own specific inflection and voice, rather than how we as readers may imagine it in our heads. This item also goes to show just how many alternative mediums there can be, and something written will not only appear in our collection as a published book or collection. We hold several other recordings relating to Baxter, further proving you can find information in the most unexpected places.

Baxter, James Keir. ‘A small ode to mixed flatting.’ Published in Falus: the official organ of the Beardies and Weirdies Industrial Union of Workers. Dunedin. 1967. (The poem continues over page.)

Another slightly different item we hold is an alternative student publication from Otago University, entitled Falus: the official organ of the Beardies and Weirdies Industrial Union of Workers. It was in this that A small ode to mixed flatting was originally published in 1967. This was in response to a decision made by the University to forbid mixed flatting, something that these days is seen as completely normal and out of scope of the University’s control.  Critic was not interested in the story of the student expelled over this issue, so he took it to Falus instead. They approached Baxter and he agreed on the spot, providing them with A small ode to mixed flatting. This piece is an excellent example of Baxter’s alternative outlook and the importance of social activism and criticism in his life. As the Burns fellow at the time of this event, he was not a student directly affected by this decision (he was technically an employee of the University) however, he still took this opportunity to criticise the University over what many students saw as an infringement on their rights.

We have several issues of Falus, ranging from 1965-1968, featuring many poems and political letters, with a lot of satirical content (though not all stand the test of time!). Baxter has also made other contributions to this publication, including a letter about the capping show of 1967. If you are interested in student activism or political poetry, this magazine is a wealth of information and entertainment.

We hold other items related to this mixed flatting event, including this neat pamphlet advertising an organised sleep in, which can be found in our Ephemera collection. ​

Live-in. [1960s] From the Ephemera Collection, Te Uare Taoka o Hākena – Hocken Collections, University of Otago.

We have a few items relating to Baxter on display in our current exhibition, Drift– a new exhibition featuring recent Hocken art acquisitions and selected collection items. These include a photograph of Baxter rolling a cigarette taken by New Zealand art historian, writer and photographer Gordon Brown (b.1931), and a papier mâché ‘Head in a bottle’ made by Baxter in 1951/52 and deposited by his son John Baxter in 2018.  Upon depositing, John wrote:

Please find enclosed the papier mâché head made by James K. Baxter as a young student at Wellington Teachers’ College. It was then a part of his desk furniture for many years, becoming a part of the internal landscape of my mother’s house after his death.

The head was much admired by my mother’s close friend the writer Janet Frame and was left to her in my mother’s will.

Sadly Janet predeceased Jacquie so the piece has come down to me as the remaining child.

I worry about its condition and would be happier if it were in a place where it could be preserved, […]

Drift is open until Saturday 17 July (Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm), so please come visit if you are interested in viewing these items in the exhibition.

When researching a famous local writer, there are plenty of obvious places to look and sources to use. Hopefully this post has highlighted some alternative sources on this topic, as well as demonstrating how the many different collections we house can be of use for all kinds of research- you might find the perfect resource in the most unexpected place!

 

References

James K. Baxter, c.1965-1972.  Michael de Hamel photograph, Box-005-002, Te Uare Taoka o Hākena – Hocken Collections, University of Otago.

Live-in. [1960s] From the Ephemera Collection, Te Uare Taoka o Hākena – Hocken Collections, University of Otago.

Baxter, James Keir. Literary Papers. ARC-0027. Hocken Collections, Dunedin.

Baxter Family Papers. ARC-0351. Hocken Collections, Dunedin.

Baxter, Archibald. We will not cease. London: Gollancz. 1939.

Barsby, John & Frame, Barbara Joan. Writer’s Dunedin: Three Literary Walks. Dunedin: Southern Heritage Trust. 2012.

Southern Heritage Trust. Hear our Writers: an audio compilation of eleven Dunedin Writers. (Sound recording) Dunedin: Southern Heritage Trust. 2009.

Baxter, James Keir. ‘A small ode to mixed flatting.’ Published in Falus: the official organ of the Beardies and Weirdies Industrial Union of Workers. Dunedin. 1967.

Baxter, James Keir. Head in a bottle, 1951 or 1952. Papier mâché, paint, repurposed bottle. Wellington, New Zealand. Deposited by John Baxter, 2018.