New Zealand: no ordinary sun
South Pacific sun light is incredible. It is the same in Australia, New Zealand and the surrounding Islands; everything is illuminated in brash clarity. Living in this part of world feels in many ways, like spending your life in the glare of a camera flash. Shadows don’t exist in the same way they do elsewhere and everything appears in sharp relief. There are several causes to this phenomenon, one of which is a hole in the Ozone layer, directly above the area. The world wastes drift south through the sky and cause this opening that gives the south Pacific sun this strong and dangerous light. As New Zealand poet Hone Tuwhare phrased it: it is no ordinary sun.
New Zealand is a country approximately the size of the UK with a population of 4million.Rivers and lakes run wild; the furthest point from the sea is 186KM. Two Islands run north to south, the northern tip the same distance from the equator as Morocco, and the southernmost as Normandy.As one would expect, landscapes range from tropical to southern European, from rainforests through desert, to woods, plains and great open lakes.
The country was named Aotearoa or “land of the long white cloud”, by the Maori who arrived by canoe from Polynesia in the 13th century, bringing with them a deeply rooted connection to land and sea. Their culture is rich in legends and myths which turn the shapes of rock, the curves of rivers and the cuts of shoresinto stories. They explain the bounty of nature. The Maoris fearsome traditional welcome, the Haka – think the rugby All Blacks before a match, hides a generous spirit and communal way of living. Although the Maori population of New Zealand is now only just above 15% it seems their deeply relaxed and understanding way of being has been taken up by New Zealanders as a whole, differentiating them from other descendants of Anglo-Saxon heritage.
New Zealand was officially colonised by the British in the 18th century who, in a very rare precedent, signed a treaty with the Maori at Waitangi in 1840, thus beginning the British rule of New Zealand. The New Zealand Company was quickly established in London to transport eager hopefuls to this untamed land.
Unlike Australia, which was originally populated by convicts, New Zealand’s population grew from second sons, farmers, nomads and explorers. In the world of intense scientific exploration, initiated in the latter part of the 18th century, New Zealand presented an exciting and wild prospect for those willing to risk the two month voyage from London. However, the harsh landscape which greeted them was enough to shatter the hopes of many an aspiring entrepreneur.
After decades spent clearing the country of native forests, New Zealand is now best known for its large free range farms and numerous sheep. Although many areas have been reclaimed as natural parks and reserves re-planted with native vegetation, the obvious advantage of such a large farming sector is exquisite and incredibly fresh food. A diverse mix of migrants adds to this culinary culture an abundance of cuisines: Malaysian, Thai and South East Asian. New Zealand is a country of the flesh, a country of sky diving, climbing, walking, canoeing, eating, drinking and coffee – my god, the coffee!
It is not, traditionally a country of style and chic. Fashion did not really arrive in New Zealand until the late 50s and early 60s and it was concentrated only in the main cities. In the last 20-30 years however, design and the fine arts have exploded into the popular consciousness. Alongside the increasingly vast selection of fine wines, meat and cheese, designers such as Karen Walker, Rebecca Taylor and David Trubridge (featured by Parisian department store Le Printemps several years ago) have been embraced by the country as a whole before gaining international recognition.
New Zealand may have been extremely difficult place to live in, in the 19th and early 20th century but it also one happy to embrace change – New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote in 1893. The country has moved forward ever since and reasonably isolated from the Global Financial Crisis, New Zealand has maintained a bubbling creative milieu which has continued to grow over the past few years.
And – the best news for creative graduates – unpaid internships do not exist in New Zealand!