New Zealand Chinese Language Week Celebrations at Shirley and Hornby Libraries
Coincidentally, Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival on 24 September and Confucius’ Birthday on 28 September fall during this year’s New Zealand Chinese Language Week. Christchurch City Libraries is collaborating with the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury to celebrate the two events.
Our activities include paper cutting, calligraphy, plate painting, Chinese games, Chinese folk dancing, and learning basic Chinese greeting and numbers. Free, no bookings required. Recommended for all ages. Caregiver required.
Come and celebrate Chinese Language Week with us at Hornby Library. Lead teacher, Fang Tian from the Confucius Institute will run a Chinese calligraphy taster and Cherry Blossom painting session. Suitable for all ages. FREE, no bookings required. Wednesday 26 September, 3.30pm to 4.30pm. Find out more.
Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival中秋节
Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is on the 15th day of the 8th month of a lunar calendar year when the moon is believed to the biggest and fullest. Chinese people believe that a full moon is a symbol of reunion, harmony and happiness so Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunion. Mooncakes are the main characteristic food for this occasion. Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival was derived from the ancient rite of offering sacrifices to the sun in spring and to the moon in autumn. Folklore about the origin of the festival is based on the ancient legend of Chang’e and her fateful ascent to the heavens after having swallowed an elixir pill.
Confucius, also known as Kong Qiu, is a great Chinese scholar, teacher and social philosopher. Confucius is believed to be born on 28 September, 551BC. He was living in a period regarded as a time of great moral decline. Working with his disciples, Confucius edited and wrote the classics and compiled Four Books and Five Classics 四书五经 to find solutions. In his life time, Confucius traveled throughout eastern China to persuade the official classes and rulers of Chinese states with the great moral teachings of the sages of the past. Although Confucius did not succeed in reviving the classics, his teachings formed as a dominant Chinese ideology, known as Confucianism, which values the concepts of benevolence仁, ritual仪, propriety礼. His teachings have had a profoundly influence on Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese thoughts and life for 2500 years.
Each year, Confucius’ birthday celebration ceremonies are held on the island of Qufu (Shangdong Province, Mainland China), the birthplace of Confucius. Outside Mainland China, Confucius’ birthday is also celebrated in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Japan. In Taiwan, Confucius’ birthday is set as a public holiday for teachers, known as Teachers’ Day, to memorise the first great teacher in the Chinese history.
Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 percent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. According to Statistics New Zealand, here in Aotearoa by 2051, there will be over 1.14 million people aged 65 years and over. They are expected to make up 25.5 percent (or 1 in every 4) of all New Zealanders (4.49 million). That’s a significant group of part of why the United Nations has an official International Day of Older Persons, and why Christchurch City Council has an Ageing Together Policy.
The Positive Ageing Expo is a fun day combining information about services for older adults with free entertainment. Chat with librarians – their stand will display some items from the collection, promote the Christchurch Photo Hunt, rest home services, Outreach and public programmes.
Exhibitors will cover areas such as Health and Wellbeing; Recreation; Staying safe; Nutrition; Social Opportunities; and Transport Options.
Library resources for older people
We have many resources and services that can be of use to older people, including: Audiobooks; eBooks; Large Print books; eMagazines; DVDs with subtitles or captions for the hearing impaired
Create your own theatre scene! Start with a simple shoebox as your stage and craft your creations. You may like to enter your creation into our library competition and be in to win a
family pass to the matinee show of The Nutcracker at the Isaac Theatre Royal in November. Browse libraries and times for these sessions.
Looking for something to do during the October holidays? Then come learn about the sea through story, games and craft – there’s something for everyone! Have you got what it takes? Are you up for the challenge? Recommended for ages 5 to 15. FREE. Bookings ARE essential, please phone 941 7923.
Get creative using Lego and discover the process of producing animated movies. Plan a story themed on being kind to our world, create a set and craft your own movie using stop motion photography.
Ages: 8 to 12 years
Minecraft Game Zone is a 3D gaming experience that involves creating your own virtual world and interacting with others online. To really enjoy this programme, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of Minecraft. Book in for a two hour session and play to your heart’s content.
Ages: 8 to 12 years
A STEAM holiday programme with an emphasis on sustainability and recycling. Children will explore environmental issues with a focus on connecting to the planet around them using books, interactive activities, digital media and craft. Come along to listen, participate and create.
Ages: 5 to 7 years
Do you love music and like the idea of making your own, using an iPad? Pitched at a beginner level and using Garageband, you can make your own adventurous
soundtracks to match our awesome themed video clips of space, nature and cats.
Ages: 9 to 12 years
Children may be enrolled in two programmes only. If you would like to enrol your child in more than two programmes he/she will be placed on a waitlist and notified closer to the start date as to whether or not there is place available.
Christchurch holiday programmes and workshops
The following organisations regularly run holiday programmes or workshops for kids or teens in the October 2018 holidays.
Going on a Bear Hunt – Tuesday 2 October (approx. distance 1km)
1pm – 2pm; 2pm – 3pm Walter Park Playground, Hills Road, Mairehau, Christchurch
Bring the children down to the park for a swishy swashy, splashy, sploshy, squelchy, muddy, experience. Great outing for the younger walkers and their families. Gumboots essential. Find out more.
Gruffalo Explorer – Wednesday 3 October (approx. distance 2.3km)
Start anytime between 10am and 1pm (event finishes at 2pm). Bottle Lake Forest Information Centre, 100 Waitikiri Drive, Parklands, Christchurch
Young walkers can become mouse to explore the deep dark woods on this self-guided walk featuring storytelling and Gruffalo craft activities. Find out more.
Pukeko Stomp – Tuesday 9 October (approx. distance 1.5km)
Start anytime between 10am and 11.30am to finish at noon. Halswell Quarry, Kennedys Bush Road, Kennedys Bush, Christchurch
Shake your tail feathers as you skip, walk, hop and stomp your way around Halswell Quarry to find Perky the Pukeko and friends.
SCAPE Season 2018 Opening: Hellers Family Fun Day Saturday 6 October 10am to 2pm
Margaret Mahy Playground, 177 Armagh Street, Christchurch
Join in the fun at SCAPE’s festival of colour, flair and ambitious new ideas – it’s all free! Hellers will be on the barbecue serving up a free sausage for everyone! Entertainment from the renowned Christchurch Pops Choir. Everyone is welcome at the family day to kick off six weeks of free public artworks popping up in spaces around Christchurch. Free art activities, giveaways and a great bunch of people getting the first glimpse of SCAPE’s new artworks in the spring sunshine. Find out more.
Check out Christchurch City Council family events for more kid-friendly goings on in the school holidays.
Things to do, and places to go in Christchurch
Some of these venues are free, but others have a entry fee. There is more information on their websites.
New Zealand women gained the right to vote on 19 September 1893, so this year marks 125 years since women won the right to vote. The Suffrage 125 celebration is being led by the Ministry for Women, New Zealand Minitatanga mō ngā Wahine in partnership with Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
The Suffrage 125 Events and Celebrations include happenings in Ōtautahi, on Wednesday 19 September (and before and after the anniversary date):
The Mix: Suffrage City 125: Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū Wednesday 19 September 6pm to 9pm Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
Includes curator Felicity Milburn in conversation with Barbara Brookes, author of A History of New Zealand Women, NZI Foyer takeover with Fun Natural Fun (join Instant Fantasy, Misfit Mod. Trainwreck & blle fmme for an all-inclusive DJ night, drop in Feminist Badge making workshop …Subscribe to the Facebook event.
Kate Sheppard Suffrage Dollshouse display and Raffle for Cholmondeley Children’s Centre
Come along and see tiny suffrage dollshouses at the new Woolston Community Library 689 Ferry Road from Saturday 15 to Saturday 22 September and enter the live raffle draw at 11am on Saturday 22 September at the Woolston Library. You could win the Kate Sheppard dollshouse ($2 a ticket or 3 tickets for $5). Come and enjoy the display, tiny cupcakes, and coffee – and also see tiny dollshouse tributes to other women who campaigned for the vote including the Dunedin Tailoresses Union, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia and more.
More local Suffrage 125 events
Women’s Suffrage Ride Sunday 7 October 1-3pm Armagh Street bridge, Hagley Park. Part of Biketober, this guided ride around the central city will incorporate significant places of interest related to the women of Christchurch, both past and present. Places limited. Sign up via Facebook to secure your spot.
Suffrage Series at the Arts Centre Tuesday 16, Wednesday 17, and Friday 19 October
The Suffrage Series celebrates the diverse range of women we have in Canterbury through three nights of quick fire talks, discussions and music.
Suffrage and Suffering – Changing Canterbury Canterbury Museum 12 October to 22 October
Visit a display commemorating Kate Sheppard’s role in achieving suffrage for women in New Zealand. Tours: Tuesday 16 October 3.30pm to 4.30pm; Thursday 18 October 3.30pm to 4.30pm
Suffrage and Heroism Saturday 13 October 2pm to 3.30pm, Former Trinity Congregational Church, 124 Worcester Street
A floor talk by Dr Anna Crighton of the Christchurch Heritage Trust, will explain why the theme of Suffrage and Heroism relates to the history of the Church.
Methodist Suffrage Trail Talk [bookings required] Thursday 18 October 2pm to 3pm Methodist Church of New Zealand Archives, 50 Langdons Road, PapanuiCome to an illustrated presentation on the role of the Methodist Church in the campaign for women’s suffrage in New Zealand during the 1890s.
Trust the Women: Dora Meeson Coates Friday 19 October 12.30pm to 1pm Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o WaiwhetūChristchurch Art Gallery Curator Felicity Milburn discusses the extraordinary life of Canterbury College-trained artist Dora Meeson Coates (1869-1955).
Suffrage 125 national events
Here are some events and resources online specially for Suffrage 125:
#Trailblazing125 marks this massive milestone and honours all the amazing women of New Zealand. We are proud and privileged to bring you 24 incredible wāhine toa – one post for every day for the first 24 days of September.
Suffrage 125: The Women on Wikipedia Challenge
Celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage by helping to increase the visibility of New Zealand women who have made a contribution to the arts and community life in Aotearoa. Your mission if you choose to accept it: think of a female NZ writer, artist or community figure, check whether they are represented on Wikipedia, and if not, create an article about them and their work. If an article already exists, check there’s nothing important missing and fill the gap if you can. When you’re done, post the links to the Women on Wikipedia Challenge Facebook page so other people can read, share, and add to them. Find out more.
And hooray, there’s a Funny Girls NZ Suffrage Special on THREE on Thursday 20 September 8.30pm to 9.30pm
Women’s Suffrage Petition
The petition was organised in 1893, and was described by Kate Sheppard as “a monster petition” demanding the right for women to vote. A digital image of the actual petition held at National Archives. Search for the names of women who signed the petition at New Zealand History Online.
When it’s so easy to cross the Tasman, many people do – a winter holiday on the Gold Coast, a show in Melbourne, shopping in Sydney, family in Perth …thousands of Kiwis travel to Australia every year, and its easy to forget that the very first trans-Tasman flight was less than 100 years ago and was A Very Big Deal.
The flight time was 14 hours and 25 minutes, with the three-engineed Fokker plane Southern Cross flown by Australians Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm along with navigator Harold Litchfield, and radio operator Thomas H. McWilliams. This flight was only the latest in a series of ‘firsts’ for Kingsford Smith and Ulm: in June 1927 they completed a round-Australia circuit in 10 days, 5 hours; then on 31 May 1928 they made the first eastward trans-Pacific flight, leaving from Oakland (California) to Brisbane, via Hawaii and Suva, in 83 hours, 38 minutes of flying time. In August 1928 came the first non-stop trans-Australia flight from Victoria to Perth.
An unsuccessful attempt to fly the Tasman had been made by two New Zealand Air Force pilots – Captain George Hood and Lieutenant John Moncrieff in January 1928. The crew of Southern Cross dropped a wreath to their memories approximate 240 km off the coast of New Zealand.
Initially Kingsford-Smith and Ulm planned to depart Australia on 2nd September, but were forced to delay departure due to poor weather, departing Richmond (near Sydney) on the evening of 10th September. The flight was made in stormy – at times icy – conditions, with landfall near Cook Strait.
The crowd that greeted them in Christchurch was estimated at between 30 and 40,000, and the whole country celebrated the achievement – finally we were connected to the rest of the world.
While the New Zealand Air Force overhauled their plane, Kingsford-Smith and crew were taken on a triumphant nationwide tour. Their return flight from Blenheim to Richmond took 23 hours due to severe weather, fog and a navigational error. On landing they had 10 minutes of fuel left.
It was another twelve years before a regular air service by flying boat began in April 1940, and flight time was 9 hours. Thank goodness it doesn’t take so long now!
Kingsford-Smith went on to make further record-breaking flights and was knighted for services to aviation in 1932.
Selina Tusitala Marsh is impressive. Tall and exuding warmth with an open, smiley countenance topped by a mass of long dark curls, she enters carrying her tokotoko which is topped with long hair mirroring her own.
One immediately feels drawn to her and the packed audience settles down to be entertained. Selina is in conversation with her sister poet and friend, Tusiata Avia. They are obviously at ease with each other and enjoy talking together.
Selina is New Zealand’s current Poet Laureate, the fifth woman to hold this position and the first woman of colour. She feels she has an obligation and responsibility to make everyone feel included as well as showcasing her Pasifika heritage.
Her mission is to get the story of the tokotoko out there and she regularly invites people to come along and touch it. It is fitting that she is the 11th Poet Laureate and the tokotoko breaks down into eleven pieces which is necessary for travel.
Paula Green, NZ poet, says “Hone Tuwhare and Sam Hunt are the two poets that are so beloved by our nation. I predict Selina is our third.”
One wonders how she manages to fit everything in in her extremely packed schedule. She has composed and performed for the Queen and welcomed Barack Obama to New Zealand. As well as travelling extensively both here and abroad, she is involved in the Writers in Schools Programme which is booked up for the next two years.
She feels women find it hard to value their self-worth and to ask for help. With the help of her friend Tusiata, she is learning to be more forthright. She equates life to four burners – Family, Health, Work and Friendship. For a long time the friendship burner was missing. She felt guilty about leaning on friends when she had so little time to reciprocate. She is definitely in the fast burning lane.
Tusiata meanwhile is recovering from burnout, suffering ill health from her fast pace of life. Whilst recuperating at home, they spent many hours on the phone talking. Selina was thrilled. She could now talk whilst running around Waiheke Island, where she lives and maintain two burners at once – exercising for health and friendship by being each other’s sounding board. She also advocates movement of mind and body for relaxation. This is achieved by running, yoga, writing and creating. Running is also where she has inspiration for her poetry. She has boundaries surrounding her family time and makes sure she spends weekends with them when she is in New Zealand, hence her 4pm flight back to Auckland following her appearance.
We were treated to Selina reading a poem from her latest book Tightrope titled ‘The Working Mother’s Guide to Reading Seventy Books a Year‘.
Where to now? Her latest project is a graphic mini memoir very aptly titled “Mophead to Poet Laureate” which is due out in 2019.
It was a chilly, damp, blustery and all-over a very Christchurch kind of day on Friday. Sheltered in the foyer of the Piano was a small and well-wrapped group of people, both long-term locals and people visiting just for the weekend, waiting for our 90 minute tour of the central city with Joseph Hullen (Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngāti Hinematua). I was really looking forward to it – I love finding out the stories behind a place, how human histories are represented in art and design. Joseph, and Ōtautahi – did not disappoint. The work that Matapopore has put into Ōtautahi Christchurch is incredible.
We started the tour in Victoria Square, near the site of Puari, a Waitaha Pā. The square was later known as Market Square after colonial settlement, and Joseph talked about the European design of the square and how it’s a bit… higgledy-piggledy (my word there, not his). Queen Victoria faces toward a building that isn’t named after her, faces away from a street that is named after her, and the closest figure to her is James Cook, a man she shares no whakapapa with. Their life spans never even crossed over.
In 1857, Ngāi Tahu rangatira, Matiaha Tiramōrehu, wrote a letter to Queen Victoria calling “That the law be made one, that the commandments be made one, that the nation be made one, that the white skin be made just as equal with the dark skin.” These words, and more from his letter, now adorn the tall windows of the Hereford Street entrance of Te Hononga, the Christchurch Civic building. A lovely link between Victoria Square and the Council building.
Our second stop was our very own Tūranga, the new Central Library. Joseph told us the story behind the naming of the building as he explained the artwork carved into the stone above our heads. Tūranga was the place that Ngāi Tahu ancestor Paikea landed in Aotearoa, after his journey from Hawaiki on the back of a whale. It is a fitting name for a library – a repository of knowledge – as Paikea bought with him all the wisdom and knowledge from his homeland. The art on the side of Tūranga represents migration stories, and the pathways that bring people from all over the world to our shores.
Another thing to note, when standing directly under Tūranga and looking up at the building, is how ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE it is! Phwoar!
Next we ventured down toward Te Hononga on Hereford Street to see Matiaha Tiramōrehu’s words on the windows, and explored the art and the rain gardens across the road at the Pita Te Hore Centre, where the old King Edward Barracks used to stand. Before the barracks, it was at the edge of the Puari Pā site. Joseph drew our attention to the banks of the river and the fact that the side we stood on was higher ground than the other – a very sensible place to build as it was much safer when the river flooded!
There’s a lot to see in the Pita Te Hore Centre, the landscaped courtyard in the centre of the office buildings is gorgeous. The stormwater is all treated on site in the rain gardens which are full of native plants. A moving sculpture, called Pupu Harakiki, commemorates Lisa Willems who died in the 2011 earthquake. Another sculpture, Kirihau – Resilience, speaks of the kaha – the strength and resilience of the tuna – the long finned eels – to adapt to their environment and it acknowledge the durability and adaptation of the people who live here as well.
The tiles under our feet are laid out in a poutama pattern – it looks like a series of steps, climbing toward excellence. The pattern also represents the pathway that the local soldiers took during World War One – out of the King Edward Barracks, across the river, toward the train station, over to the port at Lyttelton, and off to war.
We followed the same path as the soldiers across the river (although there is a bridge there now – the soldiers at the time trudged across the water), across the Bridge of Remembrance. In front of the bridge is one of the series of 13 Ngā Whāriki Manaaki – woven mats of welcome. This one, Maumahara, remembers the men and women fallen in battle. Images of poppies are woven into the pattern that represents the march to war, and the journey after death to the spiritual realm.
Next we stepped down toward the river where little tuna were poking their heads out from beneath the steps, drawn out by Joseph’s tempting fingers on the water. This whole area was a mahinga kai – a food gathering place – rich with tuna. This started a discussion among the group about sustainability – you get heaps more protein and calories from an acre of tuna than you could ever get from an acre of cows, and farming tuna is much better for the environment than farming cows.
Onward we walked to Hine-Pāka, the Bus Interchange, where the artwork on the ground in front of the entrance understandably represents navigation. Joseph drew our attention upwards too. Ngā whetū, constellations used for navigation, adorn the ceiling.
From the exchange we looped up Manchester Street, where the high density housing in the East Frame is going in – and the greenery around it in the Rauora Park. There’s also a basketball court and climbing frame – places to play are a vital part of any residential area.
Finally we heading back past Tūranga for a group photo, then back to the Piano where members of the group thanked Joseph with a waiata, a moving close to a really brilliant tour.
There was a welcome number of baby bumps and wee ones in the audience for the WORD Christchurch session on Motherhood with Kiwi blogger and The Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes – who has recently launched her second book on parenting – Is It Bedtime Yet? – and British superstar poet Hollie McNish, known for her poetry and writings on the lesser talked about aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenting, collated in Nobody Told Me.
When Emily wasn’t sure whether to sit or stand to start off the session with a reading from her book, moderator Catherine Robertson jokingly suggested she just pretend that the audience are all in bed and that Emily is reading to us at our bedside. By the size of the sold-out audience, it’s evident even adults love being read to.
In the anthology Is It Bedtime Yet? Emily has edited together different perspectives of parenthood, be they single parenting, parenting from a Māori perspective, parenting a child with a disability or learning needs, older mothers, queer parents conceiving, stay-at-home dads and more. The variety of experiences shows that there are so many versions of normal parenting. Emily has said there is a danger in a single story or narrative of parenting so by sharing multiple variations of parenting it fosters empathy and the reassurance that actually, we’re doing it okay. Here, mothers are both equally ordinary and extraordinary.
This is most certainly not an advice book – just personal situations, reflections or a snippet in time on a parenting continuum. You can dip into the book anywhere – there are 50 short vignettes with half of them written by Emily herself and interspersed throughout the book. The stories range from poignant to the comedic. In interviews for this book, Emily has said: “We are all so different in the way we parent but that can be a thing that unites us.” She hopes these stories “make us change just a little bit in our day-to-day interaction with each other as parents – or to parents.”
The personal stories shared in Is It Bedtime Yet? are from both never before published writers as well as established authors, some of whom also regularly write for the The Spinoff Parents website. Humorous highlights from the book include musings on “competi-parents” – even those unwittingly being competitive without meaning to; the myth of the magical creature known as ‘the relaxed mother’; the anti-glitter brigade and the realisation that we’re not just mothers, we’re sudden experts in palaeontology to our dinosaur mad kids. The confessions chapter was especially funny! And after reading one dad’s vasectomy story, I will never see The Wiggles the same again!
There are plenty of WTF? moments in parenting shared in the book. And there’s no holding back on the use of the F word but unfortunately for the parents contributing, there’s not a lot of the Zzzzz word (which may have something to do with the former?) Ironically it was Emily’s lack of sleep after having babies that meant she had plenty of time (albiet in the wee hours) to write and we are benefiting from that with her books like Rants in the Dark: From one tired mama to another. “I’ve always been someone who writes to work out my feelings.” She hopes her books are like “a friend in the dark” as they offer realistic views of parenting versus idealistic notions. Judging by the 15,000+ emails she says she got right after her initial sleep-deprived parenting post (“I am grateful, now f*** off!”) went viral in 2015, there’s a few friends out there in the dark indeed. One mother in the audience said perhaps if she had been given books like Emily’s when she had her babies – instead of just Gina Ford parenting books – then she might have been a lot better off.
There’s one chapter which is just a literal recording of what Emily says to her wee son one day, starting from 5:00am. We don’t get to hear the child’s replies but the one-sided conversation of “put your shoes on” is oh so familiar. I read this transcription to my young son and he thought it was hilarious and spot-on, just change a few words and it could be any parent repetitively saying the same basic instructions to their kid and then amplifying their pleas with hollow threats.
There’s a few piss-takes in the book too and Emily read to the audience her humorous chapter on parenting styles. Move over ‘helicopter parenting’ and make way for the ‘cucumber’ style of parenting which consists of just giving your kid the only food they’ll happily eat. In this case, cucumber! Someone needs to invent a word for laughter crying because there was a lot of it coming from both the audience and guest speakers. In fact, before doing her reading, poet Hollie McNish shared her bemusement at Emily’s cucumber parenting description since she herself has pictures of her own child sharing a pram with a whole cucumber. (My first child too was so obsessed with cucumber to the point that he can be seen wielding one in the birth photos of his sibling). But Emily has ultimately decided on the style of parenting she got from growing up with the Cub Scout motto of ‘We will do our best’ – not ‘do THE best’ she clarifies – just YOUR best! And as Emily inscribed in her book at the author signing afterwards, “Hang in there!” – perhaps that’s a parenting style too?
Right on the back of National Poetry Day last week, we were privileged to have British poet Hollie McNish appearing at the festival at several sessions, including this one. Hollie writes of the shared unspoken experiences of pregnancy and motherhood and read a poem from her book on these themes, Nobody Told Me. The poem, Megatron, was inspired by her first post-birth date-night where her then partner took her to see the movie Transformers and after they had argued about who was the best Transformer, she realised she had become the ultimate transformer herself after giving birth – rib cages moving, hips widening, breasts becoming milk machines. Hollie only read one poem in this session and I would have loved to have heard more. Hollie became well-known for her poem about the stigma of breastfeeding in public, entitled Embarrassed, which got quite a reaction when it was published – both positive thanks as well as hate mail. Hollie wondered where this hate came from in the world – literally – so she checked the analytics on her website and saw a lot of abuse came from the United States – especially places like Texas where in fact, she discovered, there is a secret breastfeeding club of mothers too embarrassed to breastfeed in public or face religious vilification.
Watch the well-directed video for Hollie’s poem Embarrassed:
Hollie has noticed, while touring, that it is easier to be a parent in Europe in places like Sweden or France and that a lot of urban design isn’t made with parenting in mind (eg. don’t put sweets at the checkout counter!) Hollie was jealous that in France mothers get a year’s worth of free physiotherapy to help them regain their pelvic floor strength after birth. Hollie joked that she was doing her pelvic Kegel exercises “right now” in her chair on stage. Hollie and Emily are very open about ‘taboo’ subjects and they touched on things we don’t talk enough about like post-birth prolapse, sex after birth or even resorting to using our children’s nappies for ourselves in dire moments. It was perhaps apt that I accidentally pulled out my ticket for the WORD ‘Mortification’ show instead of my ‘Motherhood’ ticket when I went to enter the session. Sometimes society makes us feels as if these two go hand in hand but Hollie’s point is, they absolutely shouldn’t! Hollie wondered if people found pregnant women or breastfeeding confronting, in part, because people – like her grandparents – “could finally see I had sex.” In her grandmother’s day she said women weren’t allowed to talk about their vaginas or bleeding and sometimes didn’t even know where they had given birth from.
Regarding the disdain directed at mothers, likewise, Emily said that after giving birth she suddenly felt unwelcome in places she used to go, like cafes. Emily suggested we need to do away with the ‘half-human’ view of babies – and that we should view children as active members of society instead of waiting until they are fully-formed or until they become “tax-paying units” to consider them of equal worth in society. She also questioned the double-standard that happens when a guy goes out-and-about with a baby and onlookers are full of praise for what a wonderful dad he is whereas a mother with children is looked at in worry for when her kids might be an annoying disturbance. However, Is it Bedtime Yet? honours dads as well with their perspectives and author Brannavan Gnanalingam joined the session to read his chapter about dads not just being seen as ‘the babysitter.’
Q & A
In answer to the moderator’s question to the authors: “If you can change one thing … ” Emily joked/not joked: “Smash the patriarchy and destroy capitalism” – there was plenty of applause at this rally cry (although my spellchecker changed ‘applause’ to ‘applesauce,’ appropriate for parents perhaps). Brannavan wished there was more information given to parents from the start and Hollie specified “more government money into care and support for parents.” Lucky for New Zealand, they concurred, that we have a current government sympathetic to parents. (In fact, at the book launch for Is it Bedtime Yet? in Auckland, Emily said it was heartening to see a certain Prime Minister had popped in with her new baby).
A question from the audience followed on from this theme: “How do we get the government to change?” or as rephrased: “How am I going to go back to work to afford avocados?” For some, becoming a mother immediately politicises them and they become an instant activist wanting to fight for change but as their children grow, their priorities for what they want to fight for the most also changes – eg. do you give stretched energies to supporting midwives or supporting teachers? How do we get traction when needs change as our children grow? Emily said that the only way we can make change is to make heaps of noise! “Protest, hikoi, engage in conscious-raising – talk to people around you about what’s important to you” – like publicly praising why teachers need a raise or the importance of midwives (who saved her life) and just generally “combat bullshit.” Emily closed the session impassioned: “We need to be noisy and use our voice!” At this, there was enough applause from the audience to wake a baby!
Special thanks to the the Christchurch Art Gallery for offering free ‘babysitting’ (aka a kid’s art workshop) – while parents were attending this Motherhood session at WORD. More of this kind of thoughtfulness for parents in society is needed! Check out the art gallery’s monthly Parent & Baby tours (Prams welcome).
I must admit I have not yet read Driving to Treblinka, but I am on the long list of library customers who have reserved it to read. I have, however, read all The Listener articles that were the precursors for this book.
The moderator for this session was Philip Matthews, former colleague of Diana Wichtel, but now writing for The Press. He opened the session with some lines from Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan: “It’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded.”
Matthews suggested that Driving to Treblinka was a contribution to world history, but Wichtel demurred. She said that her father’s side of her personal history had remained in silence with a lot unsaid for many years until she reached a certain age. She was spurred by one of her daughters and a niece who said she must find where her father was buried.
When Wichtel was asked to provide a memoir piece and recipe for a book called Mixed Blessings, she was reluctant, but eventually wrote a piece. This was another spur to start researching the life of her father who was a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust by jumping from a train bound for the Nazi death camp, Treblinka. He was sheltered by partisans for the rest of the war. He ended up emigrating to Vancouver, Canada, where he met her Kiwi mother who was on her OE and ended up working at her father’s business.
When Wichtel was 13, her family migrated to New Zealand. The children believed that their father was to follow them after tying up the loose ends of their lives in Vancouver. He never did and she discovered her parents’ marriage had been disintegrating. As fate would have it, her mother met another man in Auckland who was also from Vancouver. He became Wichtel’s stepfather. When Wichtel was 19, her actual father became ill, but she could not afford to return to Canada to see him.
But once Wichtel’s own children had grown up, she was freed to follow the impetus to research her family’s Jewish heritage with her father as the pivotal identity. Wichtel was approached by Mary Varnham of Awa Press and, over four years, with some welcome assistance from her Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship, she researched and wrote Driving to Treblinka.
Wichtel realised that from the outset the book had to be a personal story. She reasoned that if she was exposing her family, she had to expose herself. She stresses to the audience that it is her story and her version of the family’s history as honestly as she can portray it. She found that when she committed to writing the book, many of her own memories were recalled that she had imagined were lost to her.
When she interviewed Daniel Mendelsohn, author of The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, he told her that “you have to open the door to the past, knowing you won’t shut it again.” And while working on the book, she felt that she had entered “the stream of history” which unkindly spat her out once her book was published. Worried about her wider family’s reception of her book, Wichtel had three months of anxiety after publication, but then realised to her delight that the family welcomed the book and were pleased she had written it.
Matthews joked that she had been a pioneer of what is now called “dark tourism” and she recounted some of the uncomfortable feelings she had experienced in Poland and in Israel. On a guided tour of Treblinka, she felt it was wrong that there was a cafe on the site. At Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, she saw a guide, himself a survivor, posing for pictures with school children. Another guide was adamant this was not allowed, but Wichtel felt that if the man had survived the Holocaust, then he should be the judge of its appropriateness. She encountered contentious displays of pre-war Jewish life in Krakow and she felt that it airbrushed the anti-semitism that had been present in Poland before and during World War Two. She joked that many people referred to this display area as “Jewrassic Park”.
She read an extract entitled “Snowing in Vancouver” about the last times she had spent with her father in 1964 before migrating to New Zealand at age 13.
Wichtel said the chapter called “Shouting at the Newspaper” was all too relevant with the many falsehoods being spread in the media about Jewish society, Jewish culture and the Holocaust and also the rise of the far-right in Europe and America.
She moved me to free the moths from my wallet. To paraphrase Jane Eyre: “Reader, I bought the book.”