Robert L. Peters

14 November 2007

Wanganui, Whanganui…

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Wanganui, New Zealand

I’ve spent the past five days here in and around the far-flung, remarkable community of Wanganui (or Whanganui, as preferred by the local Maori), acting as an external moderator (re: graduating Masters and Bachelors students, along with Sherry Blankenship from VCU/Qatar and Rex Turnbull of Lino magazine, Australia) at the Wanganui School of Design. This remarkable school punches far above its weight (consistently out-pacing other NZ design programs re: student awards won, etc.) thanks in no small part to the inimitably dynamic Hazel Gamec (an ex-pat U.S. citizen from Minneapolis who jump-started the program here 20 years ago).

Aside from reviewing student work (very talented, very intelligent), I was able to take in a day of New Zealand farm-life with Hazel’s guy (tough ex-Navy Seal, diver, ardent hard-man hunter, deer expert), and I spent a day “up the river with Riki,” a cool Maori artist dude (working at the school) who took me to his ancestral land, introduced me to some of his relatives, welcomed me to his marae, and gave me some insight into the fascinating cultural milieu of the Maori (and the polemic relationship between these native peoples and the pakeha, or white folks). Fascinating, and something I’ll be looking into further…

A hearty “kia ora” and thank you(!) to everyone at the school who made me feel so welcome!

Photos above: The design school; awesome Hazel; tattoo-specialist Riki; a cool vernacular sign on the edge of town; freshly ironic graffiti (Maori accused of being “terrorists” headlined in daily news…); and sheep-herding Harvey’s way.

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