Kiwi Women Lead Cultural Renaissance
Once upon a time New Zealand cultural values were based on the unholy trinity of rugby, racing and beer. Then the marketing concepts – clean and green; 100% Pure – were added to the mix. This year, an international hedge fund published a map of the world based on investor perceptions. At the bottom, where it always is, lay our land.
But it was titled “Middle Earth”. Could have been worse; Australia was called “China Echo Bubble”. It illustrates how foreigners perceive this country: All Blacks, haka, clean and green, hobbits.
Global perceptions of New Zealand, however, are changing, argues Toby Manhire, the son of exceptional poet, Bill Manhire, in The Guardian.
In a piece titled “the joy of being a Kiwi,” Manhire says that a cultural renaissance is underway, as evidenced by the headlining twin-female artistic success stories of Lorde and Eleanor Catton, the youngest winner of the Man Booker prize for literature and the global teenage music phenomenon.
Indeed, it is the nation’s women who are building a fuller, richer portrait of New Zealand for an international audience, he says.
“Alongside Catton and Lorde stand the celebrated film-maker Jane Campion, whose most recent work, the darkly entangling TV series Top of the Lake, has won critical acclaim in the US and Britain,” Manhire writes. The 16-year-old golfing prodigy Lydia Ko and Helen Clark, now the third most senior figure at the United Nations, complete his list.
Manhire, who is now a Listener staff writer, mourns the New Zealand predilection for sport over culture, quoting Prime Minister John Key: “While our literary heroes may never challenge the glory and respect given to our All Blacks, we still need role models.” Ouch.
But the success of Catton and Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) and the extraordinary photograph of the pair together in a New York hotel room, which was published across all New Zealand media and social media, signalled a sea-change in Kiwi attitudes to the arts.
The picture was taken by expatriate culture writer Gemma Gracewood: “As the Ella/Ellie photo was shared and shared again, I watched happiness and delight spread across Twitter and beyond. We forgot for a few minutes about what else was leading the news. We celebrated Ella and Eleanor’s successes.”