A Short-Wavelength Wonderland

It's pretty cool when the lights go out and the lasers come on

A girl paints a rock with luminous paint, surrounded by purple lightThere are lasers painting a multi-coloured constellation on the atrium ceiling. Red and purple light bathes the room. I get into the swing of things, offering up my arm to be an invisible ink test subject. The crowds press into the foyer as outside the stars disappear.

Soon the rain is coming in horizontally, but everyone’s safe indoors. With ultraviolet torches in hand they explore the darkened museum. Into Te Rangi Whenua the children flow, in search of hidden secrets. Before long they’re camped out in Manawatu Journeys, examining the evidence around the caravan table. An eerie blue light is the only illumination.

Outside Te Awa it’s almost bright as day. The paint flows like a river and fluoresces in a fantastic display of yellow, pink and green. As much ends up on faces as it does on the rocks – having Mum and Dad painted too becomes de rigeur. Some people show more paint than skin, looming out of the dark like the ghosts of Manawatū past.

Sarah the Scientist, goo-maker extraordinaire, has people around her table three deep. One girl, about eight years old, hears from her dad about this demonstration. Wide-eyedly she declares “I love science!” and tears off goo-ward without further comment. As the song goes: the kids are alright.

“It looks like snot!” declares one child as Sarah kneads and smooshes the glowing dough.

“If your snot glows in the dark, you should see a doctor,” she advises.

“It doesn’t, I can show you!” the child replies but for some reason the group demurs. “We believe you!”

The rain has cleared by the time the fog lifts and the lights come back on. There are tears as some express their displeasure at having to leave the building’s short-wavelength wonderland. We all bear the marks of the night, whether they’re beautifully painted cheek-flowers or, in my case, the word “banana” in glowing scribble across my forehead.

I am assured it washes off.

See more photos of the Nightlight event on our Facebook page.

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