November 29, 2005

Picasso and Flax

Did you know Picasso came to NZ and visited a Maori village? He saw their wood engravings and got down on his knees and said "You are the masters of the curved line". He himself loved curves and lines in painting but was stunned to see something so beautiful on the other side of the world. The style are patterns comprised of no straight lines at all. They are intricate, sometimes reflected and amazingly suited to the shape they are set in. The tattoos traditionally (and painfully) etched into the faces of the head tribesmen, shape the mouth and lines around the eyes. Today, many have tattoos on their arms that flow so fluidly with the contours of the shoulders, biceps and elbow.

I tried out a workshop at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, a college in Te Awamutu just a few minutes away. With a lot of help, I made a purse, woven with flax leaves. The complicated process has been passed down for generations and was an essential skill to make everything the Maori's needed to find food (fishing), prepare food and contain food for serving. Looking at my final, clumsy bag, I definitely have a much higher appreciation for the people who can do this well! P

November 27, 2005


Deprived of movies over the past months, I just watched 2 really inspiring stories back to back. Whale Rider is a prized NZ film, starring a seven year old girl who had been a member of one of the art houses! I love these films portraying "power to women", even a child who can prove herself against her grandfathers strict principles of a male role. But she proves her worth and saves the whales and almost dies, but hey, now everybody loves her!

World's Fastest Indian, a new NZ film now in the theaters, is a true story about Burt, an old guy amazingly played by Anthony Hopkins. His character was so special, an honest man, using every scrap available to create the world's fastest record. And he did! Making the long journey, half way around the world, to a remote salt lake in the US, on a weak budget. Gliding by all the odds and peoples doubts and crazy obstacles, his positive and gratious attitude won him that one thing he had always wanted in his life. Including the honour of each and every person he met along the way. P

November 25, 2005

The Conference

I love to see how excited people get talking about their own country. Every time it happens, I realize there is never enough time anywhere to see everything.

The NZ sky has so many variations at once. Even though the landscape is so mountainous, everything above seems much more vast than anywhere else. It can start as a solid gray mass on one side and stretch into streaky, white brush strokes up high and a mass of dark mist raining below to the ground. Blue patches on the other side with puffy white clouds lined with a bright, sunlit lining.

Today was the beginning of the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education and the children had their imaginative creations displayed in the Town Hall. Artwork came from various art houses in the county. Children were awarded for thier special talents. Some spoke about themselves as an artist and how art and children are so important for creativity in the community and for the future. I am completely astounded at how capable these kids are and what they have accomplished with these art houses. Being involved with the dedicated people who have made and continue to make it happen has opened my eyes up to a whole other world I had ignored as I focused on my own personal goals. More important is to see where other people can move forward and helping them will help me in the process. P

November 16, 2005


Met Jenny who is the talented River Weaver in Hamilton. Her house has a sunlit corner window that looks over the river. She weaves colourful combinations of New Zealand wools into scarves and shalls. She excitedly explained all the different grasses and leaves and roots she used to make baskets out of these extrodinary dead materials she found on her travels. Made spontaneously on the spot, their organic forms were non symmetrical and took on the shapes of birds, tents and bowls. Sometimes a bit of greenery hung from the woven branches, or the rough edges sprouted in a spiral around the rim. The grated sinues of the flax looked like a bird's nest of feathers. The three of us walked by the river in the cool afternoon, keeping warm wrapped in her garments. We heard the chants of a Waka rowing down and I got a quick video. A wonderful, stimulating evening and I am inspired. P

November 13, 2005


The bus dropped me off on the side of the road in one of the tiniest towns I've ever been and one of the guys who had no idea what I was doing asked "You're getting off HERE?". Yup, and here I am woofing for Shona who is the most amazing woman in the world. I can't believe her energy at 60, I'm having troubles keeping up with her speed (at exactly half her age to the month!). She has started up 30 Art Houses around the whole country for children to do their art for therapy. So far we have pulled marigolds from her garden, replanted them in Bob's garden, pulled weeds from his garden and from the garden around the Children's House. I have finally seen Kiwi birds and they are so cute, right there with the Koala. A nocturnal bird with no tail or wings, the longest bird's beak and feathers that look as soft as fur. Their large (as big as a chicken!) bulbous bodies wobble around curiously.

We live in a cute little cottage in the middle of pure country side. There are tonnes of photos from all the places she's travelled, each piece of artwork with a unique story behind it, the largest and brightest roses ever, tea cups with flowers and face cloths with lace. Cole the cat is black with green eyes that match the lawn. A large, orange, run-away rabbit with a cotton-white tail is slowly befriending me. I have my own little 1 room guesthouse in the back which is pure luxury. We drink tea about 10 times a day and eat delicious veges from the garden on a table of roses from the front yard. Noisy chooks live next door and are always in the middle of the road when we drive through. Cows moo from across the street and the entire herd stops to eye me with worry when I stop to take their photo. The sheep baa with various noises and pitches that could be laughing or booing. There are mountains over there and a volcano down there, farmland all around and the cleanest, clearest, freshest air you couldn't find anywhere else on earth. This is apparently the reason I have noticed all the colours being so much brighter. The horses trot up to say hello and I really can't believe I'm here. P

Haiei & Raglan, one of my best days ever

Left Auckland for one last time with a brief stop at Mount Eden, another volcano that surrounds the city. New Zealand lies along a fault line which means the entire country is basically made up of volcanos and their lava that is the beautiful grass-covered rolling hills I constantly see around me. Eden attracted the cows into the bottom of it's crator to eat the dark, nutrient rich greens inside. Drove towards the beach through Thames and saw a twister forming straight ahead! The long dark cloud was far from the ground and disappeared--into thin air :) Took a walk along the coastline to Cathedral Cove but ran out of time and didn't quite make it. Glanced at a couple girl's digital pics who had just been there, ooed and awed at the gorgeous scenery we would not see and ran back to catch the bus to Hot Water Beach. Dug some holes in the sand and sat down in the holes filled with really hot water warmed from a volcano. Very exciting to have our top parts cold from the spring weather, bottom parts red hot from the thermal water, and watching the cold tides slowly come towards us just on the other side of our little pool's wall.

Onto Raglan, right on the West coast of the Northland where Lion's Tail grass sways by the coastline and the setting light casts them aglow. I am really loving the late afternoon light when every colour gets brighter and richer. The shadows become more contrasted against the objects and I feel extra inspired and warm this time of day. My walk along the beach from the city back to the hostel took the whole afternoon (although it should only take a couple hours!). I savoured every second and had one of the happiest days of my entire life. I don't know what brought it on, if it was the perfect glass like water on the beach, or the tunes I was listening too, or being completely on my own on this huge beach on this tiny, isolated country. Maybe I needed a really good day to make up for the last couple of weeks of displacement. But I felt like I was in love with the land! I skipped and walked backwards and smiled and sang and did all my taekwondo forms in the sand... oh and there was a revelation there... the marks from the forms created patterns that looked like Chinese characters! I was so amazed to see these tracks for the first time after making them for so long. Anyway, that was my day and I celebrated with a bottle of $5 NZ Shiraz. P

November 06, 2005


Took a couple days to be as far North as I will be going in NZ. The landscape was totally green with sheep and cows nibbling away on the smooth, rounded hills. The pine trees have a very tall centre peice which makes them look very spiky from a distance. They pointed into the bright blue sky that reflected into the bright blue water.

Paihia is across the bay from Russell which was the original capital of this country. Not exactly central, but it sits amoung the 144 Bay Islands which make for some pretty scenery and the waters are filled with dolphins. The top of the string of islands is Hole in the Rock, which is a rock, with a hole in it. Our boat sailed right through it and I got it all on video, along with the fault line showing where it will eventually break and collapse one day.

Pia and I took advantage of the hostel's free bikes and slowly biked quite a few kilometers. Slowly, because it only had 3 speeds and the front wheel wasn't great at going straight. As well, we seemed to only go uphill to get to Haruru Falls. After Mount Bledislow, the scenery got even better and the hills started sloping down which was a pleasant reward after all that pedalling. Riding down, wind through the hair, camera in one hand to take a pic of Pia ahead of me, green golf course around us, looking down on the blue ocean below, I felt like I was in the Butterfield and Robinson catalogue!

My 2 green watercolour pencil crayons (these seem to work better than paints for travel sketching) are getting used up REALLY fast :)

6 months done, 6 to go! P

November 03, 2005

New Zealand!

Wow, so here I am in Auckland. Not the most special city ever but that's ok for spending a bit to get in touch with wwoofers and sort out plans for the next few months. I went over to Devonport to check out the trendy gallery/cafe atmosphere. They turned out to be crafty shops for grandparents so I focused on taking many pictures of the enlarged mushrooms on top of Mt. Victoria. It is a volcanic cone which is cool.

The Auckland Art Gallery had a display on Michael Smither's who did well from painting rocks. He painted lots of rocks. Whole square canvases covered in big rocks to small rocks. I liked his screened prints the best, but there were no postcards of these, just the rocks.

Oh Oh Oh!!! Just had my Australia pics after Alice Springs burned, so that's exciting! P

November 01, 2005

The Eve before I Leave

If anything does happen for Halloween in Australia, it was over ridden anyway by being the eve of the Melbourne Cup. All week, events and parties and elaborate outfits made me feel I was in 1920's England. And the people who found out I was leaving were in disbelief that I wouldn't be around for this holiday. I've never paid much attention to horse racing before and I wasn't about to start!

I did get to enjoy a relaxing evening with an artistic couple I met back in Sarawak. Mr. J. and Mrs. V, I think they wanted to be referred by!? It was so refreshing to be with great company, delicious home made laksa soup and 1 or 2 or 3 glasses of South Australian wine. We discussed his art and her art and my art and the art they've collected. Watched Bako wildlife on video which I missed in real life. Looked at various tribal carvings from the exciting countries they have traveled. Admired white painted figures on cow-dung-coloured paper by an admired artist they tracked down in India.

Half done, half to go, I have started to feel something I would call people-sickness. It's not home sickness but my friends and family who I want to see right now. And this amazing unexpected happening came along to occur at just the right time. Thanks V and J, you were the perfect company! P