Welcome Back Zealandia

30 AprCommunity / Exhibitions

Programme developer Tony Rasmussen explains the origins of Farewell Zealandia

Farewell Zealandia is an exhibition of New Zealand songs from the Great War. Originally exhibited at Te Manawa in 2015, it has returned to the museum and is now on display alongside Balls, Bullets & Boots.

Tony Rasmussen, programme developer at Te Manawa, recalls how he and music historian David Dell began creating the exhibition in 2013.

“We wanted to look at songs written during the war, and what those songs would tell us about New Zealand and our experience of the war as a people,” he says.

“Many of us don’t associate the music of that time with New Zealand, but there is a significant body of local music. People would write songs, get a couple of dozen copies printed and then circulate them amongst their friends.”

One or two of the songs “went viral” and entered the public consciousness, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

“A lot of the songs in Farewell Zealandia were not particularly well-known, we think,” explains Tony. “We suspect that some were never performed publicly. Many were performed in homes or maybe in the local hall, in local areas.”

The songs were recorded at Radio New Zealand, specially for the exhibition. Each one was installed in its own custom-made listening device, beautiful objects of stained wood and burnished brass. Visitors can use them like an olden-days telephone to hear the songs as they’d have sounded a hundred years ago.

Farewell Zealandia can be found in the main Te Manawa building, upstairs with Balls, Bullets & Boots and downstairs in the Atrium corridor. It is open until 22 June and is free of charge.