Thursday, March 10, 2005


I flew to the South Island to ChristChurch on March 4th and in many ways landed in a different country. ChristChurch appeared to be distinctly different from the other towns I had visited in the North Island. Many say CHCH has a more British influence and I agree, yet I would also say it doesn't look exactly like the towns I have seen in England. The South Island has about a million of the 4 million total New Zealand population. ChristChurch has about 400,000 of the one million living in the South Island. By comparison, I think there are about 40 million sheep here and perhaps as many as 20 million cows.

Click here to view some pictures of Christchurch and Akaroa.

Akaroa is a town about an hour drive from CHCH and located in a beautiful setting on the water. It is tucked away in a cove created when the local volcano blew its lid many, many years ago. It has a strong French feel and appeal. Word has it the French occupied the area with the Maori people and were having such a good time, they forgot to post a flag. When the English arrived to this paradise, they proudly placed their flag in the soil and immediately explained to all the area residents that this was now Crown-country and ordered them to stop their painting, collect their baguettes and move on as it was high time we had tea and scones to replace the crusty old french bread and moldy brie.

My trip to ChristChurch and Akaroa was thoroughly and thoughtfully coordinated by Graeme and Jenny Robinson. Graeme was a NZ Eisenhower Fellow and traveled to the United States in 1984. They could not have been more kind or helpful to me during my four day visit.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


An Art Show Celebrates Breast Cancer Survivors

My timing in ChristChurch could not have been better or more rewarding as I met with artist Lynne Lambert and viewed her exhibition in a tribute to breast cancer survivors that is as remarkable as it is unusual.


The solo show features works created entirely from bras donated by breast cancer survivors and supporters. The major work is a stunning walled installation of 668 survivors' bras. Lynne has also painstakingly hand-sewn hundreds of supporters' bras into sculptural forms that celebrate strength, courage and new beginnings.

Lynne celebrated her tenth anniversary as a breast cancer survivor in November 2004. It was this milestone that prompted her to plan LIVLIF. Lynne says "I wanted the show to be a life affirming celebration".

Cancer Society Centres throughout the country enthusiastically collected bras on Lynne's behalf. Breast Cancer Network (NZ) helped her reach the wider community, as did articles in numerous local newspapers and the New Zealand Woman's Weekly. There followed a spot on the TV evening news. Lynne also set up a website. The support snowballed as word spread wider and wider.

Between February and June 2004 Lynne traveled throughout the country to speak to breast cancer support groups. "I met many wonderful women," she recalled, "All with a very positive attitude and a desire to make the most of life. Those visits were a special part of the project."

In all, 1480 bras have been donated, many accompanied by letters from survivors who wanted to share their stories and offer words of love and encouragement.

Lynne has exhibited regularly in solo and group exhibitions since 1996. This will be her third solo exhibition at CoCA. Her work is also part of the permanent collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery. Lynne won a merit award in the 2002 NCC Recycled Art Awards and was a finalist in the Wallace Art Awards the same year.

Born in south London, England, Lynne emigrated to New Zealand in 1973. She graduated with honors from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 1999. She currently teaches Practical Art and Art History courses at Risingholme Community Centre and Burnside High School under their Adult Education Programme.

Of the LIVLIF project, Lynne adds "It has taken me on a wonderful journey into the unknown and I have been privileged to participate, for a short time, in a sense of comradeship born of shared experience. I look forward to sharing that positive energy in the finished works."

I was also able to share with Lynne information and history of the breast cancer button chair and the Breast Health Project. I gave Lynne a box of blank note cards featuring the breast cancer button chair. Lynne said something to me that I am not sure I had considered or thought about before. She loved the button chair and said that a chair is such a strong symbol to a breast cancer survivor as so much time is spent sitting, waiting, thinking, praying, crying, worrying, visioning...etc. as you move though the stages of treatment. She confirmed the chair is a powerful symbol and a powerful part of the process.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Kapiti Island was our final day in the Fulbright program and the pre-program materials described this as a day dedicated to a kiwi style tramp. The wise among us learned early on that kiwis are sports people and outdoors people and as such they are well trained for rigorous anything including hiking. Lets not forget, the first man to successfully climb Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary, is a New Zealander. It's in their history, their heritage and therefore it's in their blood.

Note to self: consider it words of warning when the kiwi park ranger tells you--this will be a nice tramp, a lovely day, get about yourself, good on you and give it a go, no worries. Trust me, there was nothing easy about our two-hour hike up the mountain and it was harder on anyone who was brave or hungry enough to want to eat something. Kapiti Island is a bird sanctuary--it sounds so nice, bird sanctuary, but I am now convinced "Kapiti" must be New Zealand for vulture or birds of prey. Or better yet, hungry birds of prey that will come out of nowhere at the slightest exposure of food and will swoop down, land on you, grab at you, peck at you and the second before the moment that your food reaches your mouth, these birds have snatched it out of your hands and shazam, the food is gone. I have no use for food in an environment like this but unfortunately I forgot my good governance skills and did not call for the consensus vote with my tramping mates on the pack that we'd rather starve than encourage a bird attack. I don't think we were 30 minutes into this walk when someone thought it would be a good time to pull out an unwrap a huge wedge of quiche from her backpack. You know I love the food here, but honestly, where is the line in the world when trail mix, m&ms, fig newtons and apple slices are no longer acceptable backpack food and triple cheese, spinach and sun dried tomato quiche becomes standard fare for human fuel when out in the bush? This lady takes out her quiche and in seconds we're staring in the remake of the "Birds". The fat man never showed up but it was a great opportunity for Alfred Hitchcock to walk on by.

We all survived the near bird attack and made our way to the half way mark...actually there was never any mark or posting of distance covered versus distance to go--but every single time someone walked past us we yelled or gasped--"how much further?". Finally we settled into a good pace and reach the summit--even Edmund Hillary would have been proud of us...well, maybe not. But it was a jolly good ole jaunt if I must say so myself and we even made it back down the mountain in time to catch the ferry back...we had to or somebody was going down if I had to live with those birds all night.


A significant and special part of our indoctrination into the Maori culture was our visit to the Waiwhetu Marae outside of Wellington in the Hutt Valley. If you're already confused as to what's a Marae, pause here and go to Blockbuster and rent Whale Rider.

Welcome back, as you now know, the traditional carved marae, in this case, the Te Ati Awa serves as a special meeting place for the Maori. Our evening included a miki (greeting), a powhori (welcoming), a hui (meeting) a hakari (feast) and an after dinner discussion from the respected elder, Terry. We all slept overnight at the Marae. Twin mattresses are a generous description of our beds that were lovingly placed on the Marae floor and lined up side by side for about fifty people. If you are someone with a must need for personal space, let me recommend here, this is not your idea of a Holiday Inn. Don't get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I don't care all that must about my personal space and appreciated this as being a very special experience. Most people started settling into to their ramdomly selected bunk around 11:00 PM. It became really interesting around 3:00 AM when you had the harmonizing of snoring, snorting, breathing, wheezing, whistling, tossing and talking. Lets just say if Snow White were being remade by the emerging New Zealand film industry, they would have had a perfect opportunity to audition an interesting cast of sleeping characters.

I’ve found that some traditions in New Zealand are common across all cultures. For example, eating seems to know no boundaries whether you identify with being Maori, Pakeha, or anything in between. So it was understandable that food would also be and integral part of our visit to the Marae including dinner, tea, pausing for five hours of breathing noises to start up again with breakfast followed by tea. It is important to know that “tea time” has less to do with sipping and more to do with indulging and typically in an assortment of goodies, sweeties and delicious desserts. I have somehow lost all willpower during these moments and foods that I would normally never considering having before I know it I have happily piled onto my plate. I think it’s my hands that are failing me—they seem to know no boundaries during the 30 minutes that are dedicated to tea-time twice each day.

I spent the second day visiting the community based Primary Health Organization (PHO). The PHO model is fairly new in New Zealand but already has a particiaption rate of about 95% of the general practitioners. The vision for the PHO is to have a holistic approach to treating people for their well-being and health care needs. This type of model has very strong parralle to how the Maori iwis (tribes) have been caring for their people throughout history. The PHO, Te Runanganui O Taranaki Whanui of Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt, is adjacent to the marae, made a decision in 2000 to expand a previously existing part time marae health clinic service. A new medical centre was opened in 2000 and has continued to increase in size since then. The good relationship between the local community and medical centre has created an excellent working environment for medical centre staff, all of whom are employed by the Runanga.

The practice has a large proportion of Maori patients, most from the local Waiwhetu area. As well as this original group of patients, the expansion of the practice has meant that it has become a significant community health centre for patients from Wainuiomata, Waiwhetu and Lower Hutt, now numbering over 5000. The medical centre forms an integral part of the Waiwhetu Marae/Runanga community operations with the meeting house, kohanga reo, Atiawa Toa FM radio station, Tamaiti Whangai centre of learning and gymnasium in close proximity.

The doctors have access to both Tamariki Ora nurses and Maori disease management specialist nurses. They walked us through their various initiatives and also shared with us their tools for data collection and monitoring participation and outcomes.