The Wahine Disaster took place fifty years ago. Today we reflect on the loss of fifty one people on the 10th of April 1968. This tragedy resonates strongly down the decades.
The Wahine Disaster played out across the nation’s television in grainy black and white, and the newsroom brought the story to our living rooms. The ferry’s proximity to shore where people watched helplessly certainly added to our sense of powerlessness in the face of tragedy.
The storm affected many parts of the country including Canterbury. It tore of the roofs of houses on Canon Hill and forced many homes in Sumner to be evacuated.
I recall my parents pointing to the wreckage, which was still visible for many years, as we neared Wellington on our ferry voyage. Each time there is a rough ferry crossing, the fate of the Wahine ferry is remembered and our thoughts are once again with those who died and with the survivors of that ill-fated voyage.
I love weather, (especially fine sunny weather!) but being a Wellingtonian I experienced storms on a regular basis, including the Wahine storm, against which every weather event is now measured, in my head anyway.
I then lived in a very sunny small town for 26 years. I would often think that what people needed was a good southerly storm to blow away the cobwebs; appreciation of lovely weather needs some experience of the opposite. My advice to my children, when they left town was, “always bring a jacket, there’s weather out there!”
So now Christchurch provides just enough weather to keep me on my toes, something to talk about and which does not allow too much complacency about saying “come over for a barbecue”. Take this morning: we planned a day at the beach, it’s already poured with rain, now the sun is shining and the wind is increasing in intensity. Alternatives must be discussed and explored. Life is never dull when weather has to be factored in to every activity outside the house.
So I love to read about weather-related incidents, since coping with weather is almost a full-time job.
Dr Patricia Te Arapo Wallace was involved in one of Christchurch City Libraries’ most significant cultural taonga Pūawaitanga o te Ringa – Fruits of our busy hands, a series of tukutuku panels that were specially woven as a community project for the Ngā Pounamu Māori Centre.
She is widely respected for her knowledge of Māori material culture:
When Dr Patricia Wallace wanted to piece together the mysteries of traditional Maori dress, she found inspiration in an unconventional form – modern-day plastic Ken dolls. With the help of ‘Barbie boyfriends’ she was able to reconstruct how early Maori traditionally wore large kaitaka (cloaks) wrapped around their bodies.
Last month Dr Wallace became the first Ngata Centenary Doctoral Scholar to graduate from Canterbury with a PhD in Maori. While the department has previously awarded four doctorates, Dr Wallace is the first Maori person to do her doctoral study solely in the Maori department. Her achievements are even more remarkable for the fact that she only embarked on a university education in her fifties. Research throws new light on traditional Maori dress.
Whetu Marama Tirikātene-Sullivan passed away in July. She is renowned as the first Māori woman cabinet minister. But she also had a major influence in the world of fashion and design, as this article Snapshot: A Māori Fashion Designer in the Berg Fashion Library reveals:
She commissioned a large number of garments incorporating Māori motifs by contemporary Māori artists, such as Sandy Adsett, Para Matchitt, Cliff Whiting, and Frank Davis. She wore these at her many public engagements, and they were generally regarded as her signature style. For many New Zealanders this was the first time they had seen such traditional elements in a new context.