Te Hao Nui edited by Fiona McKergow and Kerry Taylor reviewby Sally Blundell
There are rich pickings in the stories of 40 objects from Te Manawa.
They provide an intriguing insight into the articles and the work of the museum sleuth, the professional and presumably obsessional curiosity that drives research into “Bill Brown’s refractor head” (part of a collection of optometry instruments belonging to optician, inventor, herbalist, pharmacist and pioneer filmmaker William Thomas Brown of Pahiatua), Welshman Henry Coles’s moa footprint casts, and the pou from the Rangitane pa, Puketotara (its fellow carved posts are in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris).
A painting once displayed in Palmerston North’s Collinson and Cunninghame department store, for example, holds the story of Anzac Day services (“surrogate funerals”) and the symbolism of the red poppy. The unexceptional Woolpack and Textile samples take the reader into the history of New Zealand’s fl ax textile industry (and the scratchy fl oor mats of primary school); the Regent Confectionery’s sweet roller reveals the nostalgic world of the boiled sweet moulded by the hand-powered “drop roller”; the brass hand bell used by ferry man John Aitken reimagines early navigations of Manawatu Gorge – according to an 1855 English traveller, one of New Zealand’s “chiefest wonders” – and the perilous role of the 19th-century ferryman. As the title says, a great, and unexpectedly rich, catch.
TE HAO NUI: THE GREAT CATCH – OBJECT STORIES FROM TE MANAWA, edited by Fiona McKergow and Kerry Taylor, photography by Michael Hall (Godwit, $65).
Sally Blundell is a journalist and art writer.
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