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Back in My Day – 1970s When Dad was about 23, a friend set him up on a blind date with my mother. Every weekend there was a dance at either Stratford, or New Plymouth’s Star Gym. Dad was between girlfriends (being somewhat of a “Casanova” and a great dancer he was in high demand every weekend) and Lynne Hitchcock, a shy academic girl four years younger was convinced to go along to one with him. They hit it off immediately and shared their first kiss that night. It was, in my mother’s words, “like something out of a Mills and Boon!” My parents were engaged six months later and married within a year. Despite my father having been brought up by a very domineering and chauvinistic father, dad had none of these qualities, which was just as well given my mothers feminist views. My parents were very close and, unusually for the time and place, dad was a very affectionate man. My mother also expected him to be involved in his children’s lives, which dad was more than happy to be. Though I never saw my parents argue their biggest disagreement occurred over dad’s favourite sport - Rugby. Mum hated the prevailing culture surrounding rugby, where women were not allowed at after match functions, men would drink copious amounts of beer and general sexism and abuse would inevitably occur. Another contentious issue was the Springbok Tour of New Zealand in the early eighties. Mum was anti apartheid and Dad was pro rugby, Mum protested in her student days against the All Blacks going to South Africa while Dad had always played, coached and enjoyed watching rugby. He and his friends believed that sport would end apartheid. In an interview with one of Dad’s friends, he stated dryly that mum and he used to have ‘good discussions’ about politics and sport. Apparently, rugby and politics do not mix. During the Springbok Tour of New Zealand in 1981 my father was relegated to the couch for his view that the tour was not supporting apartheid and in the end my father gave up rugby for running. In general, before the Springbok protests (which divided families and split New Zealand down the middle regardless of where you lived), most social unrest, protest and problems appeared to come from the urban areas of New Zealand. There seemed to be a large disparity between rural New Zealand culture and urban New Zealand, which to a much lesser extent still exists today. It seemed to me, looking back, that Taranaki cannot have changed very much at all from the 1940’s to the 1980’s - it seemed very old fashioned, resistant to change and rather a bit of a backwater compared to the larger cities and urban areas. New Zealand was considered one of the cleanest and safest places in the world to grow up in. However this ideal New Zealand, this Real New Zealand only exists in Rural New Zealand - our urban landscapes rarely feature - as the clean, green, 100% pure mantra does not extend within our city boundaries. There seemed to be an inconsistency and unease that existed in New Zealand, and it was an unease that we were scarcely aware of. However, as New Zealanders began its soul searching in the late 1960s, we began to gain a sense of who we were. With this emerged ways of viewing and examining New Zealand culture. A unique New Zealand Literature style surfaced, giving voice to the myth of the Man Alone, the unquestionably masculine, stoic and emotionally repressed Kiwi Man. New Zealand film makers during WWII, with the support of the New Zealand Government, began to produce films on New Zealanders at war and at home and about our landscape; these short films which were shown prior to screenings of Hollywood feature films helped to shape our perception of what it meant to be a Kiwi. Slowly, we began to feel a sense of our own identity that was not attached to any imperial notions of the British ‘Home’. As our Kiwi awareness gradually grew, New Zealand documentary photography grew with it - and it enabled us to see ourselves from another point of view. Janet Bayly wrote of this phenomenon - “documentary photography in this country paralleled the growth of a self conscious determination… of what it was to ‘be New Zealand’” (p. 9).

First Son: Memory and Myth, an adjustment of faith  

First Son is an exploration of cultural change in New Zealand from the 1940s till the 1980susing textiles as medium for communication. It ai...

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