Thursday, January 28, 2010

VirtueVision Voyages: Design


I’m impressed with the old colonial Victorian homes and buildings, with their beautiful attention to detail. Reminds me of New Orleans.
The modern downtown skyline is ugly, with horrible 80’s architecture, the crowning glory of which is the Sky Tower. Not unlike the one in Seattle. We ate dinner when we first arrived looking down on the sprawling city of Auckland.

Maori architecture is simple refined and elegant, with incredible carvings. This type of traditional housing is not used by Maori today. However, there are large Wharahui constructed for ceremonial purposes. This is a sacred place to be treated with great respect.

There is a European influence for sure, but here in the south pacific there is also a unique hybrid style, its more sophisticated, I like it. I'm particularly inspired by their current clothing design, and some historic design, that has a striking south pacific influence. I found a company called Native Agent, check it out, it has a funky combination of old European army uniforms and Maori design.

Examples of just everyday things that sort of demonstrate what i'm talking about.

Everything is more expensive, second hand clothes cost more than clothes I purchase new. The displays in stores are so well put together, I’m having to try really hard not to buy.

VirtueVision Voyages: Northlands

The Northlands

Did someone say Hobbit? This is the land of the hobbit. We made our epic 5-day voyage, up the west coast stopping at one of the last surviving Kauri forests. Kauri trees are native to New Zealand, the wood was prized by all, but the Europeans took it to the brink of extinction. The Waipoua Kauri forest is owned and run by Maori, and it was a great place to stop, hike and spend the night. The next day we went to visit Tane Mahuta, named for the Maori God of the forest the oldest and biggest Kauri tree alive today.

We hit Omapere on the Hokianga harbour, the coast up here is covered with huge sand dunes, that were apparently thrown out from the tops of erupting volcanoes.

We visited Dhaj, the mother of my friend Brent Sumner, living in a tiny village called Peria (near Doubtless Bay), to stay in her amazing hand built home. She let us stay at her holiday rental ‘the adobe art house’. Then we headed to the very tip of the island, Te Rerenga Wairua, to see the place where Maori spirits depart the earth, and return to their spiritual home of Hawaiki.

Back down the west coast we stopped at Bay of Islands, famously picturesque, to watch a sunset and visit the town of Waitangi.

This is the place the Treaty between the British and the Maori chiefs was signed regarding the ownership of land in New Zealand.

It’s a pretty simple one-page document, it goes something like this.
Article 1. The queen is now in charge.
Article 2. You can keep your land unless we want it.
Article 3. There is nothing you can do about it.

We headed south after spending the night in a cow field. Camping on the side of the road is no problem, and I actually like roughing it, as friends who have traveled with me will know.
A roughing it necessity, a pee bucket.

VirtueVision Voyages Little Black Sambo

The influence of the British is undeniable. They speak English, drive on the left side of the road, eat fish and chips, play cricket and have high tea at 4pm with scones and jam, put the queen on their cash (I haven’t seen any Maori on the cash yet) and the old folk still wear knee high socks with their sandals.
I grew up in England, and one of the stories I remember reading was ‘Little Black Sambo”. It was written by a Victorian white woman living in India.

The story itself is not racist, but the character of Black Sambo is. As a black child being called a Sambo was a racial slurr. I was teased with this name by my hateful little catholic school peers.
Another antiquated racial icon that was around when I was a child, was ‘The Golliwog’.
Another relic of an earlier time when racism against those of African descent was blatant. As a child, being called a Wog, was no fun.

Here in New Zealand there is a revival of this toy. It is placed in the Museum, with a banner reading something along the lines of ‘a cherished childhood cultural artifact”.
I was horrified to see a child carrying one recently. When I made a point of it, the reaction was, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a toy”.
I said, “If you were black, you might be more sensitive to the issue”. In my research into little Black Sambo and the Gollywog, and because of my childhood experiences in England, I have a clear understanding that these images are derogatory and racist.
I guess they are a little behind the times here in NZ.