Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Monday, 29 March 2010

First Works Arrive

These charcoal works by Eleanor Wright are the first to arrive here for the exhibition. Eleanor is studying in Florence and was able to deliver her portrait of her grandfather and another two works in person and have a brief tour of the Liri Valley.

Eleanor writes:
My Grandfather (Poppa) was 2nd Lieutenant William Hastings Johnston of the New Zealand 18th Battalion and Armoured Regiment. He joined the Battalion in the very early days of the war in 1939 and served until leaving from Venice at the end of the war in 1945.

"Butch" as he was nicknamed served in the armoured tank division and saw active duty in North Africa and Italy. Prior to rejoining his Division in early 1944 he had spent 8 months at Sandhurst Military College at Officer Training School.

Butch rejoined his tank division and was present with the 18th at the battle for Cassino town and at the battle of Montecassino. The 18th joined with the Maori Battalion in the battle of Montecassino. My grandfather always said that the Italians and the Maori should not have been fighting against each other as they shared many of the same characteristics, a love of music and food, good humour and strong family ties. My grandfather died soon after I was born but he was always remembered as a passionate believer in the rights of every human and a larger than life personality.

I am proud to be involved in this exhibition and to present a portrait of my grandfather.

Mio nonno era 2ndo tenente William Hastings Johnston nel 18mo Battaglione e Reggimento Corazzato. Si era unito al Battaglione all'inizio della guerra nel 1939 e vi e' rimasto fino alla sua partenza da Venezia alla fine del conflitto nel 1945.

"Butch" era il suo soprannome. Ha fatto il suo servizio nella Divisione Corazzata e ha combattuto sul campo in Nord Africa e in Italia. Prima ri riunirsi alla sua divisione all'inizio del 1944 ha passato 8 mesi al Sandhurst Military College nella Scuola Ufficiali.

"Butch" si riuni' alla sua divisione corazzata e fu presente con il 18mo alla battaglia per Cassino e alla battaglia di Montecassino, a cui partecipo' anche il battaglione Maori. Mio nonno usava dire che gli Italiani e i Maori non avrebbero dovuto combattere gli uni contro gli altri perche' avevano molte caratteristiche in comune: l'amore per la musica, per il cibo, per l'umorismo e per i forti legami familiari. Mio nonno mori' poco dopo la mia nascita , e' sempre stato ricordato da chi lo circondava come un uomo appassionato per i diritti umani e con una grande personalita'.

Sono orgogliosa di partecipare a questa mostra e di esibire il ritratto di mio nonno.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Thoughts on Peace (In Italian and English)

Beate Minderjahn is a German-born artist who emigrated to New Zealand in 1999. Among many other beautiful things she makes tee-shirts with peace messages on them. Believing that she was not eligible to contribute to the exhibition she offered to donate a large number of these shirts for us to distribute to children here in Italy. On hearing from another artist that Beate is also an artist I invited her to be a part of the exhibition and to contribute her thoughts about peace along with her works. This is what she wrote (first in translation and then in English below):

Il concetto di Pace

Nel 1997, prima della sua scomparsa a causa di un cancro, mia madre mi racconto' molti dettagli della sua infanzia. Le sue storie, di cui non avevo mai sentito parlare prima di allora, mi hanno fatto improvvisamente capire molto su di lei, delle sue decisioni, spiegandomi il motivo per cui e' sempore sembrata ai miei occhi una donna timorosa degli altri e della vita.

Nata nel 1931, la prima di sei figli, e' cresciuta nel bel mezzo della Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Sua madre era molto spesso malata e suo padre aveva visioni politiche differenti da quelle del regime in Germania.

Certamente l'infanzia di mia madre ha influenzato la mia cresita, la mia vita e la mia personalita', cosi che adesso sto insegnando a mio filgio I valori che imparato e in cui ancora credo.

La pace e' uno di questi valori. Da quando ho iniziato a dipingere, e' un tema molto ricorrente nei miei lavori. Ho creato una serie di opere chiamate “Circoli di Pace”, ho scritto molte poesie sulla guerra, sulla pace e sulla liberta' da un punto di vista di un bambino, ed ho creato una linea di vestiti per bambini che riportano messaggi di positivita' , a dimostrazione di questi valori.

Credo che noi, come genitori, abbiamo il dovere di insegnare ai nostri figli il vivere in pace gli uni con gli altri. Dobbiamo insegnare loro con il nostro esempio, il modo in cui si interagisce con gli altri, nel modo in cui ci comportiamo con gli animali, cosi come nel modo in cui rispettiamo l'ambiente circostante e la natura. I nostri bambini osservano le nostre azioni e ci imitano, e sono loro I responsabili per la pace futura.

Possiamo insegnare l'amore, il rispetto, l'empatia e la compassione ai nostri bambini, aumentando in loro la conoscenza e la sicurezza nel fare la differenza nel loro mondo, dimostrando cio' in modi genitli e sensibili.

Possiamo creare un ambiente casalingo pacifico, possiamo insegnare loro il modo di ascoltare attentamente gli altri, come prendersi responsabilita' delle proprie parole, delle proprie azioni e conseguenze, come scusarci quando sbagliamo, come essere onesti, coraggiosi e affidabili. Se non siamo noi genitori a mostrare tutto cio' ai nostri figli, chi altro puo' farlo?

The Concept of Peace
In 1997, before my mother passed away of cancer, she told me many details of her childhood. Her stories, which most of them I had never heard before, suddenly made me understand many of her characteristics, decisions, and it also explained the fact that she seemed to be afraid of people all of her life.

Born in 1931, as the oldest child of six, she grew up in the middle of World War II. Her mother was often sick, and her father did not agree with the political situation in Germany.

Of course my mother’s childhood and her up-bringing influenced my childhood, my life and my personality very much, and now I am teaching my son the values that I learned and still believe in. PEACE is one of them. Since I started painting, it is a re-occurring topic in my work. I created a series of paintings called “Peace circles”, I wrote many poems about war, peace and freedom from a child’s point of view, and I created a line of children’s clothing with positive messages, which show off the values.

I believe, that we, as parents, must teach our children to live in peace with each other. We must teach by example, by the way we interact with others, by the way we treat our animals, as well as by the way we respect our environment. Our children observe our actions and follow our lead as they are the ones responsible for future peace.

We can teach love, respect, empathy, and compassion to our children, empowering them with the knowledge and confidence to make a difference in their own world, and show them that kindness still matters.

We can create a peaceful home where they want to be, we can show them how to listen carefully to others, how to take responsibility for our words, actions and consequences, how to apologize, how to be honest, courageous and trustworthy. If we as parents don’t show our children the concept of PEACE, who does?

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Something to think about

Why Wear A Poppy?

"Please wear a poppy," the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head,
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;

But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free feet.

His smile was full of joy and fun,
"Lady," said he, "may I have one?"
When she'd pinned it on, he turned to say;
"Why do we wear a poppy today?"

The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered; "This is Remembrance Day.
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war.

And because they did, you and I are free -
That's why we wear a poppy, you see.
I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.

He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird, he would race about.
As the years went by, he learned and grew,
And became a man - as you will, too.

He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he'd seemed with us such a little while
When war broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day.

When he smiled at me and said, 'Goodbye,
I'll be back soon, Mum, please don't cry.'
But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.

His letters told of the awful fight
(I can see it still in my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.

Till at last, at last, the war was won -
And that's why we wear a poppy, son."
The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said: "Thanks, lady, I'm glad to know.

I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me, you'd have done the same:
For our thanks, in giving, if oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought - and thousands paid!

And so, when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country's call
That we at home in peace might live.
Then wear a poppy! Remember - and Give!

by Don Crawford

Blog author's footnote: One of the things provided with the funds raised in New Zealand through poppy sales was/is "stump socks". My late father-in-law lost a leg at Cassino, and required the fine seamless socks to cover the stump of his leg where it fitted into the artificial limb. The original purpose of such funding overseas was to provide the essentials of life for the widows and children of those who did not return.

Wikipedia link for Poppy or Remembrance Day.
There is a movement to establish a white poppy as a symbol of peace. Click here for the story of the White Poppy.

Painting above: Untitled watercolour and acrylic, 300gsm paper glued onto canvas, afternoon light catches a poppy growing in an olive grove in Caprile, Roccasecca, 2008.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Rural Italy

Most artists will be staying in Roccasecca. This link, to the beautiful palazzo where the reconstruction is almost finished, has little videos of the area.

The palazzo itself was home to first the German soldiers and then the New Zealand soldiers on rest. Last year I painted a watercolour of the palazzo and the view, and as I work with the restoration team I imagine what it might have been like for the soldiers resting there after their time at the front line. I was very reluctant to paint over traces of a stencil that reminded me of the markings on a wool bale as I was quite sure they could have been put there by Kiwi soldiers.

Locals told me that the German soldiers had painted a large sun on the ceiling, although I saw no trace of it; they would have occupied the village during the winter, while the Kiwis enjoyed it in the warmer months and could dance and sing in the garden and piazza.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

An Interesting Point

An email this morning asked the question "When has there ever before been a group of 42 New Zealand artists exhibiting together in another country?" I doubt that there has been, I can't think of any other. (We are at 41, last count).

Isn't it exciting, how a common theme can unite and inspire us?

This exhibition is a little different from most curated exhibitions, as the entry qualification was that artists be exhibiting artists with a link to the war in Italy or with a demonstrated passion for working as peace advocates. First preference was given to artists with a connection to the Battle of Cassino.

Many of the works will be about remembrance, but much of it is also about peace. In my email in-box last night was another artist's statement, and she chose to write about what peace means to her and her family. I look forward to sharing it. When we write or paint about the things we know, we have experienced, or things we are passionate about, we do it so much better.

The diversity of the work coming to Italy is fantastic. Not only is this an exhibition for peace and commemoration, but will also be a showcase of the diversity of New Zealand art. That is the unexpected, delightful side of this exhibition. (It might just prove to be a challenge when I come to hang it all, but challenge is what makes life interesting!) I am really lookng forward to receiving the works here in Italy.

Thanks to the team of translators half the artist biographies have been translated into Italian already. We are well on our way...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Views of the Abbey

This photo was taken with my little camera on maximum zoom from a higher point behind the abbey. If you look carefully you can see the outline of Monte Trocchio, the Allied Observation Post, framing the abbey.
Here in peaceful gardens we see the reality of war. Every time I stand in these places I think "every one of these soldiers had a mother..."

This photo shows Monte Cassino after the fire in 2004. The Commonwealth Cemetery in the foreground is beautifully maintained, now by second generation caretakers from the same family. Temporary war-time graves were exhumed and all 4,271 Commonwealth soldiers, airmen and an Australian journalist killed in this wider area are buried here in Cassino. New Zealand airmen are buried alongside their crews in the British section of the cemetery. The large panels in the centre hold the names of all the unidentifed and the missing presumed killed who still lie in the hills nearby. This link shows other Commonwealth war graves in Italy. It is in Italian, but has many photographs and designs, well worth scrolling through.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Monte Cassino Burns Again

On Sunday evening there was a spectacular fireworks display atop Monte Cassino (to celebrate the saint's day, which is held on the anniversary of his death). Monday (yesterday) saw a large part of Monte Cassino and neighbouring hills burning again.

The last big fire there was in August 2004, although there have been smaller ones since then in our hot dry summers. These fires explode mortars left lying there after the war, and clear the undergrowth, so in the next few days military collectors will be out in force again looking for relics.

Artists travelling to Cassino for the May exhibition will see a more "war-time landscape" than they would have seen had the exhibition been last week.

It was a similar fire in 2004 that gave me the photographs that I later turned into works for my exhibition in 2005. That was the first time I had used photographs in my artwork, taking them into the computer, layering, altering, and finally drawing into them to form some of the layers of memories in the small pieces.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

St Benedict and the Abbey

Today is the festa of San Benedetto, the anniversary of the death of the monk who founded the Benedictine Abbey on Monte Cassino. St Benedict was a man of peace.

The English version of the official website of the abbey has a wealth of information about the life of the founder, St Benedict, and the history of the abbey itself. I don't find the website particularly user-friendly, and the legal note warns that images and text cannot be reproduced, other than for personal use, so I wont reproduce any of it here. However, if you have time to spend and don't mind lots of clicks, you will learn much about the abbey and St Benedict through the site.

The Catholic Online site has no copy-right warnings that I could find, so I have reproduced an extract about St Benedict from the Saints and Angels page:

In the fifth century, the young Benedict was sent to Rome to finish his education with a nurse/housekeeper. The subject that dominated a young man's study then was rhetoric -- the art of persuasive speaking. A successful speaker was not one who had the best argument or conveyed the truth, but one who used rhythm, eloquence and technique to convince. The power of the voice without foundation in the heart was the goal of the student's education. And that philosophy was reflected in the lives of the students as well. They had everything -- education, wealth, youth -- and they spent all of it in the pursuit of pleasure not truth. Benedict watched in horror as vice unraveled the lives and ethics of his companions.

Afraid for his soul, Benedict fled Rome, gave up his inheritance, and lived in a small village with his nurse. When God called him beyond this quiet life to even deeper solitude, he went to the mountains of Subiaco. There he lived as a hermit under the direction of another hermit, Romanus. After years of prayer, word of his holiness brought nearby monks to ask for his leadership. He warned them he would be too strict for them, but they insisted -- then tried to poison him when his warning proved true.

So Benedict was on his own again -- but not for long. The next set of followers were more sincere and he set up twelve monasteries in Subiaco where monks lived in separate communities of twelve.

He left these monasteries abruptly when the envious attacks of another hermit made it impossible to continue the spiritual leadership he had taken.

But it was in Monte Cassino he founded the monastery that became the roots of the Church's monastic system. Instead of founding small separate communities he gathered his disciples into one whole community. His own sister, Saint Scholastica , settled nearby to live a religious life.

After almost 1500 years of monastic tradition his direction seems obvious to us. But Benedict was an innovator. No one had ever set up communities like his before or directed them with a rule. What is part of history to us now was a bold risky step into the future.

Benedict had the holiness and the ability to take this step. His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict -- still directing religious life after 15 centuries.

In this tiny but powerful Rule, Benedict put what he had learned about the power of speaking and oratorical rhythms at the service of the Gospel. He did not drop out of school because he didn't understand the subject! Scholars have told us that his Rule reflects an understanding of and skill with the rhetorical rules of the time. Despite his experience at school, he understood rhetoric was as much a tool as a hammer was. A hammer could be used to build a house or hit someone over the head. Rhetoric could be used to promote vice ... or promote God. Benedict did not shun rhetoric because it had been used to seduce people to vice; he reformed it.

Here is Wikipedia's entry, lengthy, interesting, but not so lyrical! Another interesting link is this one, from the Benedictine Sisters in Indiana, where the writer links the teachings of St Benedict to society today.

The question I pose, to you and to myself, is what are we, as artists, doing to put into practice what we are happy to preach? Probably living as a hermit in a cave is not the best option today, but the message of love and peace begins, I believe, with us in our personal lives. As dedicated peace worker Bruno Picozzi said to me, we can't change the world, many have tried and failed. But we can change ourselves, and as we change, so do those around us, and so it can spread, each of us becoming the best we can, and serving in our own small corners. (See blog link here).

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Strong NZ - Italian links .

From "The Coromandel Peninsula Post" 11 March 2010 page 4, Number 102. Copied from the section Artspace with Sheenagh Gleeson.
(See the edition as referenced above for the article with photographs of the three artists).

Art all the way from Mercury Bay to Monte Cassino
By Sheenagh Gleeson

Margherita Giampietri used to play under the table during her Italian family’s long lunches at times like Christmas and Easter. But when the meal neared its end, she and the other children would gather round to hear their family’s war stories. Some were tragic, some were touching and some were funny. The children knew them all and would plead with the adults to tell them their favourites ones.

Last year Margherita went back to Tuscany in Italy and heard her uncle’s war stories again. She wrote them down and brought them home to Whitianga. Not long after she’d returned she learnt about an exhibition of New Zealand artists being organised at Monte Cassino. Artists with connection to the World War 11 battle of Monte Cassino or the war in Italy were invited to take part. The timing seemed like magic to Margherita. She applied and was accepted and is now working on two paintings she’ll take with her to the exhibition, which opens on May 15. Two other Mercury Bay artists, Rachel Olsen, from Cooks Beach, and Dave Fowell, from Flaxmill Bay, will also take part.

Margherita’s connection to the war is through her father and other family members, including her uncle and grandfather. Her father , who was in the Italian navy, was badly injured during an air strike while he was on shore leave. He ended up lying on top of his dead friend under a tone of rubble. He was rescued, his shattered leg rebuilt and he was sent home to recover. When the Italians changed sides, he and his father, along with all the men in their village in Massa-Carrara, were taken to a prisoner of war camp in Germany.

One day an Italian escaped and the Germans picked out 10 men to shoot in retaliation. Margherita’s father was chosen but his father managed to replace him in the line. At the last moment, the escapee was found and the men weren’t shot. Margherita’s father was so shocked, he was struck dumb for a time.

She says her father was puzzled by the war. “The thing I remember is ‘why’. That’s what he would say.”

She’d like to capture some of that feeling in her paintings and is planning to take one work in watercolour and one in acrylic. Although she’s always loved art, she didn’t paint seriously until she came to Whitianga 14 years ago, following her husband Giorgio Allemano.“I was so homesick … I saw a sign for the Arts Centre and I thought if I’m going to stay here, I am going to do some art.”

She joined the Whitianga Art Group, learning much from people there and trying to fit in her art around raising two children and helping develop Villa Toscana into luxury accommodation and an event venue.

Two years ago she began studying art at The Learning Connection and is loving the correspondence course. “It’s very demanding but it has changed my mind. Now I do what I like not what I think someone else will like.”

She has joint New Zealand- Italian citizenship and will take part in the Monte Cassino exhibition as a Kiwi, although she’ll be helping with translation. She’s delighted that Dave Fowell and Rachel Olsen are taking part. “I know Italians are very critical, so it will be nice to hide among my Kiwi friends.”

Sculptor and painter Dave Fowell will create his exhibition entry in France. He’s leaving Flaxmill Bay at the end of this month to try his luck living and working as an artist in Europe. His connection to the war in Italy comes through his wife.
Denise’s Italian father was drafted into the army when he was 17 and was engaged in clearing bombs in the Genoa area. When Italy sided with the Allies, he joined the Partisans and fought the Germans. He too had his share of horror.

Dave is planning a piece of sculpture which will combine the suggestion of a war-ravaged building with the colour and fun of the Pacific.

Painter Rachel Olsen isn’t sure yet whether she’ll go to Cassino but will at least send a painting. She too has heard lots of war stories from her father, who spent 18 months in Italy during the war in New Zealand’s 21st infantry battalion, number 9 platoon, A company.

He fought along the Gothic Line, the German’s last major line of defence in Italy. He survived being buried under the remains of a bombed Italian farmhouse and being injured crossing the Senio River. In 1975 he revisited a town called Morro in the Marche region which he’d visited on leave during the war.

Rachel is still thinking through some ideas for her entry in the exhibition, which has a theme of peace. Thirty seven artists are presently listed as taking part in the show, which marks the 66th anniversary of the liberation of towns around Cassino.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Monday 22nd, World Water Day

This time a serious blog post about water. In wartime Cassino there was too much water, at times, leading to terrible problems with trench foot as men were in wet boots and clothing for months. There was frozen water, snow, and ice, and some died frozen in the trenches where they fought. And later there were bomb craters filled with water that supported the malaria mosquito. There were many times soldiers and civilians were also without water. A German veteran tells of the time that the fighting on Montecassino was so intense that they could not go back to the abbey to get their water supplies. Instead they drank from a puddle, only to find in the morning that there was a dead mule in the water they had been drinking.

Water is a resource that many of us take for granted. But water is a profitable and essential resource, and like all resources the equitable distribution of it is essential for world peace.

Today's newsletter from the International Medical Corps has some sobering figures:

This Monday, March 22, is World Water Day, a day to call attention to the scarcity of clean water and sanitation in the developing world.

Currently, 20% of people around the world lack access to safe water and an additional 5 million die each year from waterborne illnesses, such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea. That adds up to more than 6,000 people, mostly children, dying every day from preventable diseases.

We believe that clean, safe water, access to sanitation and knowledge of good hygiene practices are necessary components to public health and we’ve worked to include water and sanitation into our community development programs around the world. To learn more about these types of programs, as well as World Water Day, click below to watch our video:

World Water day 2010

In the wake of January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are displaced from their homes and living in makeshift camps outside Port-au-Prince. The sanitary conditions in these encampments are abysmal, and the lack of access to clean water creates the potential for a second humanitarian crisis in Haiti. In order to prevent this type of tragedy, we deployed our water and sanitation expert to Haiti immediately after the earthquake.

Recently, International Medical Corps partnered with UNICEF to build latrines in camps in Petit-Goave, Carrefour and Boloisse, preventing harmful waste contamination. We are working with the Haitian government to promote good hygiene through public education efforts. We’ve also been educating local health workers on the importance of sanitation and teaching them how to recognize and treat symptoms of waterborne illnesses.

We believe that access to clean water is a right, not a luxury. We hope you recognize World Water Day this year and join us in the fight to prevent a global water crisis.

All the best,
International Medical Corps UK

Room for one more...

We have 39 contributing artists. I like round figures :-)
There's room for one more; this is Italy, where everything is possible!


How many minutes later? Not more than ten or fifteen minutes later I checked my emails.

Artist number 40, who had to pull out earlier because of other committments, is back in again!

Now (excluding myself) we have Kiwis from Italy, USA, and Australia (that I know of) as well as Italians and a German artist from New Zealand. All networking for peace. Excuse the informality, but I feel like shouting out loud "ARTISTS NETWORKING ACROSS THE WORLD FOR PEACE. HOW COOL IS THAT??" (and, a little more softly, ARTISTS ROCK THE WORLD!)

Now, Kay, this is a serious blog. Sensible hat back on again...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Another artist article

Mosaic artist Janice Corbishley featured in a Napier newspaper recently.The exhibition will include a very diverse range of art and promises to be very interesting from both the artistic and the philosophical point of view. Now when I wake my thoughts are not "What stories will be in my in-box this morning?" but "How can we progress this so that every artist who is working for this peace project can turn this passion into for peace into something tangible to touch others, to educate, to be proactive about changing that aspect of mankind which wants power and resources beyond the common good?"

If organising this exhibition has skipped a stone across the water, causing ripples that touch many people, how can I progress those far-reaching ripples so that they gain strength in their journey and don't diminish once the initial splash has disappeared?


Below is a timeline I made when trying to get some sense of how things evolved before and during the war. It might be interesting to help put the Battle of Cassino in a much wider context. (I have included a disproportionate amount of detail for Cassino).

I am a little ambivalent about posting it, as I would rather post about peace than war. Peace is more than the absence of war. But for every war there is a background, a history, and if we look at all the trouble spots in the world today each one will have a similar story. That is why we must be proactive, educating for a culture of peace, working with children, schools, families, teaching respect and love and ensuring that they are not just empty words.

World War II Timeline

Hitler becomes the Chancellor of Germany
Germany becomes a National Socialist State under the leadership of Hitler and the Nazi Party
Italy under the leadership of Mussolini is allied to Nazi Germany
With Japan, these countries form the “Axis” powers


August 19 Hitler becomes the Führer of Germany


March 16 Hitler violates the Treaty of Versailles by introducing Military Conscription.
September 16 Nuremburg Race Laws remove the tights of the German Jews

February 10 German Gestapo is placed above the law
March 7 German troops occupy Rhineland
May 9 Mussolini’s Italian forces take Ethiopia
July 18 Civil War in Spain
October 1 Franco head of Spanish State


June 11 Soviet leader Stalin begins purge of Red Army generals
November 5 Hitler reveals war plans during Hossbach Conference


March 12/13 Germany announces union with Austria
August 12 German military mobilises
September 30 British Prime Minister Chamberlain appeases Hitler in Munich
Czech government resigns


May 22 Nazis sign “Pact of Stealth” with Italy
August 23 Nazis and Soviets sign Pact (Nazi Soviet non-aggression pact, this paving the way for WWII as Germany then has only one front to fight)
August 25 Britain and Poland form the Mutual Assistance Treaty
August 31 British fleet mobilizes, Civilian evacuations in London
September 1 Hitler invades Poland
September 3 Great Britain, followed by the countries and Dominions of the British Empire, declares war on Germany


France falls to the Axis powers, Italy declares war on Britain
July 23 Soviets take Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia
August 3-9 Italians occupy British Somaliland in East Africa


Germany invades the Soviet Union
Japan attacks the US fleet at Pearl Harbour

1942 Allies agree to give priority to the defeat of the German forces

1943 North African war ends
July 10 Allies invade Italy landing at Sicily
July 25 Benito Mussolini deposed; new Italian government established under leadership of Marshal Pietro Badoglio
September 3 Units of British 8th Army land on Italy’s Calabrian coast
September 8 Italian armistice with Allies is announced
September 9 United States 5th Army lands at Salerno
September 12 Mussolini is freed by German Paratroopers

January 17 American Forces commence first attack on Cassino
January 22 American Forces land at Anzio in an attempt to go beyond the Gustav Line
February 5 American Divisions are replaced by 2nd New Zealand Division and 4th Indian Division at Cassino
Feb 15-17 2nd Battle of Cassino New Zealand (Maori) Battalion at railway station, Indian Division at Cassino
March 15-16 3rd Battle of Cassino (New Zealand and Indians )
May 11-18 4th Battle of Cassino (Polish Division captures Abbey). Germans withdraw to avoid being cut off by the French breakthrough in the Aurunci Mountains and British forces now in the Liri Valley
June 6 Second front in France

May 2 German forces in Italy surrender
May 4 German forces in North West Germany surrender to Allies
May 8 V-E Day (Victory in Europe). Far East war continues.
August 15 V-J Day (Victory over Japan)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Sharlene Schmidt e' un'artista contemporanea autodidatta, che vive a Shannon, Nuova Zelanda.

Sharlene ama creare diversi stili di opere con una vasta varieta' di tecniche. Principalmente dipinti ad olio e acrilici, i suoi lavori sono ispirati dai territori che la circondano e da il suo amore per la natura e la famiglia.

Sharlene ha venduto arte intorno alla Nuova Zelanda e internazionalmente, e' stata coinvolta in molte mostre e raccolte di fondi. Sta attualmente studiando per una Laurea in Arte, ed e' stata recentemente selezionata per trasformare alcune sue opere in gioielli per la Compagnia Americana Bajidoo.

La famiglia di Sharlene sta ancora combattendo contro gli effetti della battaglia di Cassino, essendo uno dei loro cari stato sepolto qui, durante quel periodo.
“E' importante ricordare quelli che non sono riusciti a tornare, tanto quanto celebrare quelli che sono tornati a casa, che hanno visto cose di cui nessuna persona merita di fare esperienza.”

Sharlene e' onorata della possibilta' di partecipare alla mostra e poter visitare questa bella terra, non solo a nome della propria famiglia, ma anche di tutte le altre centinaia di persone le cui famiglie sono state affette dalla guerra.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Liri Valley

The beautiful Liri Valley in peace time. This photo is taken from the ruins (now an archaeological park) above Roccasecca in the general direction of Cassino, and shows the beautiful village of Caprile, frazione di Roccasecca.

Artists will be visiting and exploring Caprile where Kiwi soldiers are well remembered... good walking shoes, cameras and sketchbooks absolutely essential!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Pax (Latin), pace (Italian), peace (English).

Ronda Turk's painting of the Pax (peace) door at the abbey on Monte Cassino shows the past and present, with the rubble from the destruction of the abbey encroaching on the present, "just as memories still stay with us after we have rebuilt our lives and buildings after war".

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Today in Rome

Approximately 4000 people have been evacuated during the removal of an undetonated 250kg bomb lying undiscovered near the railway lines for 66 years. How unstable will that be?

The Abbey on Montecassino remains to this day the one building that has taken the biggest tonnage of bombs in the history of all wars.

When the town of Cassino was bombed, an area of approximately 400 x 1400 square metres received an estimated 1000 tons of bombing. Historians have calculated that for every German defender in the town, 4 tons of explosive was used.

A beautiful town was reduced to rubble, tanks could no longer use the roads to proceed up the Liri Valley, and the town was still not secured by the Allies.

The legacy? Poverty, hunger, malaria thriving in the water-filled bomb craters, and a town rebuilt with post-war apartment blocks. In this once thriving, beautiful place only one stone building remains.

A glimpse

... inside the Benedictine Abbey on Monte Cassino.

15 March 1944

The Battle of Cassino was, in effect, four battles. The third battle, involving the New Zealanders, began on the 15th of March when the town of Cassino was bombed. Here is a summary of the battles, with New Zealand involvement highlighted in bold. (The Gustav Line stretched from coast to coast, and passed through Cassino. Montecassino was the peak that commanded views and control of the Liri Valley, through which passed the road to Rome.

The four battles of Cassino, 1944:
January 17 American Forces commence first attack on Cassino.
January 22 American Forces land at Anzio in an attempt to go beyond the Gustav Line
February 5 American Divisions are replaced by 2nd New Zealand Division (including 4th Indian Division) at Cassino.

Feb 15-17 2nd Battle of Cassino New Zealand (Maori) Battalion at railway station, Indian Division at Montecassino.

March 15-16 3rd Battle of Montecassino (New Zealand).

May 11-18 4th Battle of Montecassino (Polish Division of Allied Forces). The German troops withdraw to avoid being cut off by the French and British forces now in the Liri Valley.

In the third battle the aim was to take Rocca Janula, or Castle Hill, a defensive position above the town on Monte Cassino. The previous attacks involving New Zealanders were in the town itself.

15 March NZers (D company of 25th Battalion) came via Parallel Rd and Caruso Rd. Because the town had not been cleared of Germans the NZers had to change plans, and come up via a ravine north of Castle Hill.

In its attack up the cliff face, McNiece and Stockwell went ahead and surprised the German sentries, throwing grenades into the pill box to take out the Spandau and bring about the surrender of 25 paratroopers. Two were killed. Both NZers were awarded the Military medal for this attack. From this attack, the Germans came to life. Involved then were also the Essex regiment, the Rajputana Rifles and the Ghurka rifles.


The German history books talk about three battles of Cassino. Most other nations refer to four battles. I maintain that there were in fact five battles; I include one that lasted until 1947 and is scarcely touched on in the history books.

The fifth battle at Cassino: Malaria.

When the front moved on at the beginning of June, 1944, and the civilians who had survived the battles and those who had been evacuated returned to their homes, they found a new and deadly enemy, malaria, had occupied the entire area of their town.

Conditions resulting from war damage suited the spreading epidemic: the earth left uncultivated and abandoned, the thousands of craters filled with water, the lack of hygiene and the roaming domestic animals, conditions which attracted the harmful mosquito “anophele”.

This became known as “the other battle of Cassino”, fought by the common people who had been left with nothing and who thought that now the fury of war was over they could concentrate on rebuilding their homes.

In the period between 1943 and 1946 45,000 people would contract malaria. This battle was fought mostly thanks to the contribution of Doctor Alberto Coluzzi, who with the massive use of DDT succeeded in controlling the disease in 1947.

(Malaria text from a panel for the Cassino War Memorial Museo, translated by blog author).

Italian-New Zealand artist for Italy

Francesca Gallo
“Ci sono molte che continuano a stupirmi, in quello che era cominciato solo come un viaggio verso la Nuova Zelanda, nel 2007, e che e' poi diventato una residenza permanente, e quindi molte cose a tenermi qui.

L'ultima sorpresa e' stata la possibilita' di una visita a Cassino per la mostra sulla Pace e la Memoria, dopo venti anni dall'ultima volta. Si, proprio venti, avevo dodici anni l'ultima volta che ho seguito i miei genitoi a Sud, a Cocuruzzo, il paese natale di mia nonna, e il luogo dove molti miei parenti ancora vivono.

Ed avevo solo sei anni quando mi portarono in visita all'Abazia di Montecassino, ma e' come se fosse un momento piu' vicino, dato che e' difficile per un bambino, dimenticare tutta quella infinita distesa di bianche pietre tombali anonime

Come posso rappresentare al meglio il mio ricordo di questo posto e la mia esperienza? Sotto quale “abito” posso ritornare come artista neo zelandese?

Non sapevo del coinvolgimento di truppe neozelandesi e giovani Maori nella battaglia di Montecassino. Ho scoperto tutto arrivando ad Auckland e visitando il Museo del Domain.

Sono rimasta cosi colpita dalla connessione tra la citta' in cui avevo deciso di venire a vivere e i territori di origine di mia nonna, che ho quasi pensato che questo fosse il reale motivo della mia scelta, anche se ne ero inconsapevole. Mia nonna Filomena si ricorda benissimo della fuga sotto i bombardamenti, e degli aiuti dei giovani soldati, che parlando Inglese, lei ha sempre pensato provenire dalla Gran Bretagna, non certo dalla Nuova Zelanda, un Paese di cui probabilmente lei come altri, non ne aveva neanche mai sentito parlare. Mi sento adesso io in dovere di rendere il favore, celebrandone almeno l'identita'.”


Francesca e' nata a Livorno, dove ha conseguito il Diploma d'Arte. Dopo aver frequentato ed ottenuto un Certificato sull'Immagine aziendale e culturale, ed un Certificato di Grafica e serigrafia, ha lavorato come Graphic Designer dal 2000 al 2005.

Ha poi iniziato un lungo viaggio in Australia tra il 2005 e il 2006, che le ha aperto la possibilita' di esprimere la sua arte altrove. Tornata in Italia per qualche mese, e' poi ripartita una seconda volta per l'Australia e la Nuova Zelanda, diventandone residente nel 2007.

Ad Auckland dove vive, Francesca alterna lavori come grafica, ad altri piu' convenzionali come commessa, e come comparsa nell'industria televisiva e pubblicitaria.

Dipinge con l'utilizzo di foglie secche e materiali naturali, resina ed acrilici su tela, e fotografa, soprattutto collezioni di moda.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The view today

This photo is from amongst ancient ruins near the top of Monte Trocchio, the Allied observation post, looking towards Cassino, with Monte Cassino and the Abbey behind. The highest mountain in the photo is Monte Cairo, which was under heavy snow during the battles of Cassino.

A visiting veteran soldier once told me that from Trocchio they thought they could see everything, but after the bombing when he stood in the ruins of the Abbey he was astounded at how much more the Germans had been able to see from Monte Cassino and Point 593.

Point or Hill 593 is the map name assigned to the hill behind the abbey. Today, while still giving 360° views, is the site of a particularly poignant Polish monument.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

In the news today

More explosive devices from WWII have been located, this time in central Rome. There will be major disruption to services on Sunday as the area is closed off for the removal of the device. The area is Scalo Tiburtino, so I wonder if it is from the bombing of the railway lines 65 years ago.

It is not so many weeks ago that a collection of mortars was located during excavations near the abbey on Monte Cassino.

In far away New Zealand it is hard to imagine what this area was like when it was occupied and the frontline was stalemated in this region for 5 months. This region took more than its share of pummelling.

On a beautiful sunny day it is hard to picture, even here, until you go tramping and find a mortar wedged between the rocks, or placed carefully in a very visible cleared spot, awaiting disposal. Less frightening are the remains of the ration tins near a fortified look-out post that suggest that soldiers were camped in that spot for a while, but even near some of these friends with metal detectors find live mortars and small bombs.

The headlines like that of today, "Ordigno della seconda guerra mondiale scoperto allo Scalo Tiburtino" (Explosive from the second world war uncovered at Scalo Tiburtino), remind us that even 65 years on we can't assume that we are safe from the perils of that campaign.

Suo padre avevo combattuto a Cassino

Nata a Helensville nel 1965, Katherine Batchelor e' un'artista di tecnica mista, diplomata nel 2006 in Arte e Artigianato presso la Hungry Creek Art and Craft school e che oggi lavora nello studio di casa a Red Beach.

Le esperienze personali, i problemi socio-ambientali, si mescolano nella creazione di opere espressive e suggestive.

Lyall George Taylor, D.O.B 29/3/1920
Service No: 408459
Rank Private
Seconda Guerra Mondiale NZEF 24th Battaglione - Italy
Durata del servizio - 3 anni

Lyall George Taylor, marito, figlio, zio, nonno, nipote e amico di molti e padre di quattro figli, Frank, Denise, Quinton e la sottoscritta Katherine, non ha mai parlato molto con noi della guerra. Ma noi abbiamo sempre percepito l'effetto che questa ha avuto sulla sua anima. Lui era orgoglioso di difendere la propria patria e deciso a morire per il compagno che combatteva accanto a lui, ma c'era una profonda tristezza nelle cose di cui ha fatto esperienza. E questi effetti negativi sono stati tramandati a noi, ai suoi figli, nel suo modo di esserci padre.

Prego per la pace nel mondo.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

press release

37 NZ artists entered in Italian event

Media release – March 10, 2010

37 NZ artists entered in Italian event to mark Kiwi involvement in the Battle of Monte Cassino

Thirty-seven Kiwi artists have entered in the Italian art exhibition to commemorate New Zealand’s involvement in the World War Two battle of Monte Cassino.
(Photo: Ira Mitchell Participating Artist)

Entries have closed for the May 15 to 29 event at Cassino. Organisers Kay de Lautour (in Cassino) and Auckland’s Sophia Elise said the exhibition would be the biggest single New Zealand art event ever held in Italy.

Most of the artists have grandparents, uncles and relatives who fought in World War Two, or who fought in Italy and some have grandparents and relatives who were at the Battle of Monte Cassino. A number of artists are heading to Italy for the exhibition in May and staying at nearby Roccasecca, a town over 1000 years old where the Kiwi soldiers are well remembered.

The commemoration art event has been labelled the Legato exhibition. De Lautour said legato in Italian meant intertwined, like strands of rope, giving it strength.

"Of course it is also a great song, and in that context the image is beautiful; and so it is with Italy and New Zealand, with so many friendships formed between families during WWII and maintained after the war.

"Now, two generations later, the grandchildren of the Kiwi soldiers are returning to Italy to visit these families, and young Italians are moving to New Zealand. Every year hundreds of New Zealanders visit the graves of their countrymen who remained here.

"The horror of war has passed into memory, but the friendships are alive and vibrant. Nationally this connection may feel stronger in New Zealand where almost every family has a direct link to Italy, whereas in Italy there are many areas where other nations played a similar role and have these same ties.

"Legato means tied together. The legacy of war is part of our common heritage. Now it is our task to make a lasting peace the focus of that heritage. Kiwis are held in high regard around here. They are remembered for feeding the children, providing clothing, stealing army blankets for the cold,’’ de Lautour said.

The NZ art exhibition will be held in Cassino’s public library complex in the centre of the town with a formal gala opening on May 15.

New Zealand Art Guild manager Sophia Elise said the guild was overwhelmed with interest from artists to take part in the special event.

2005 Peace and Remembrance exhibition

Tracciando L’Ombra -Tracing the Shadow
Exhibition by New Zealand artist at Cassino War Memorial Museo, Cassino, Italy, 2005.


…every time an action passes there is a memory
and thereafter the memory is about the memory of the action.
And slowly we have this fine silt, the stuff we call history
Michael Shepherd, New Zealand Artist.


Visiting a war cemetery is a privilege: a time for reflection, remembrance of historical events, and contemplation of the legacy of war.

Reinterpreting this legacy a generation later, I use my photographs as source material, filtering these images through memories much-edited by soldiers, historians and time.

I am a generation removed from this war. I see only the traces in the landscape and the lives of the people 60 years on. Just as memory edits and reconstructs history, so I pare back and reconstitute my image. Images are manipulated, overlaid, printed, painted, assembled, sanded, glazed, lovingly worked until they become a personal simulacrum, holding only shadowy traces of the reality of war.


The red flower known as the Flanders Poppy has been associated with death on the battlefield since the Napoleonic wars. There it was noted that the poppies were the first plant to grow over the graves of soldiers. This link was recorded in poetry during WWI when Canadian Medical Officer Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918) wrote In Flanders Fields.

Inspired by McCrae’s poem, Miss Moina Michael (1869-1944) of New York campaigned successfully to have the red poppy adopted as the national symbol of remembrance. This was formalized by the American Legion in September 1920. Subsequently, Frenchwoman Madame E. Guérin established groups to manufacture artificial poppies to raise funds for the widows and children of war veterans. She and her supporters promoted the adoption of the red poppy as the international symbol for peace. The first official “Poppy Day” was Armistice Day, 1921.

Reference: de Lautour Scott, J Kay (2005). Tracciando L’Ombra. www.version, Artist Exhibition Catalogue, Morrinsville, New Zealand. Available at www.kayscott-artist.com

Monday, 8 March 2010

An artist's blog

Today I added to this site a link to the art blog of Jon Stevenson, Letters to Cassino.

He writes: The battle of Monte Cassino was one of the bloodiest engagements of World War II and it remains one of the most controversial. 'Letters to Cassino' is the working title for a body of artwork under development. The aim of the project is to piece together from family recollections, letters and official records the experiences of one ordinary New Zealand soldier at Monte Cassino. Through an imagined correspondence between Mac and a Cassino citizen over 65 years I aim to reflect on both the fragile nature and the tenacity of life. Universal and timeless themes, no more important for us to remember than today.

His blog also gives background information about the battle of Cassino, and his reactions as an artist and a parent to this part of our history.

Stevenson's comment that "There are strong connections between places of conflict and our national identity" reminded me of the permanent exhibition at the Auckland Museum, Scars on the Heart, which documents the emergence of New Zealand as a nation through the strife and scars of war. The Auckland War Memorial Museum is both a museum and a site of commemoration for New Zealanders lost at war.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Artist text in translation for Italy

Le opere che Cath Sheard ha creato per la Mostra per la Pace e la Memoria, che si terra' a Cassino nel 2010, commemorano la Seconda Guerra Mondiale e le vite di quelli che combatterono, celebrando la pace in cui tanto hanno creduto.

Le quattro opere sono profondamente personali, ognuna e' la commemorazione di una persona con la quale l'artista ha una connessione, in un modo o in un altro, qualcuno che e' stato direttamente coinvolto nella Guerra. Queste persone sono: Alan McLeod, Roy Lehndorf, Jack Robinson e Mansel Barker.

In tutti i lavori il processo artistico si rivolge al tema della commemorazione e della pace, alle molte sfaccettature e alla natura parziale dei ricordi.

Ogni opera e' eseguita su carta acquarellata, impermeata con colori acrilici. Fotografie e documenti fotocopiati formano un collage sulla carta, in modo da coprirne e sbiadirne i dettagli, allo stesso modo in cui la memoria e il tempo cancellano gli indizi.

Cath lavora con colori acrilici, per rappresentare le storie che sono state narrate, come ad esempio, quella che descrive la luce particolare del deserto in Egitto. Vengono poi aggiunti simboli astratti di guerra e pace: l'astrazione rappresenta il modo in cui le vecchie immagini con il passare del tempo perdono nitidezza. Come processo finale, Cath riproduce a mano testi che documentano la vita del dopo guerra, un tributo alla vita, che ritorna con il tempo di pace.

Anche questi scritti restano in qualche modo nascosti proprio come, le esperienze che questi uomini hanno vissuto sulla loro pelle, sono state nascoste nei dettagli alle loro famiglie.

(Note from blog editor: excerpts from artist information will be published randomly for the interest of Italian blog followers).

From a previous series

This work, "After the Battle", is from an earlier exhibition with theme of peace. It was purchased by another who came to Italy working for reconciliation and peace, and is now in Germany.

"After the Battle" (Kay de Lautour Scott 2008, watercolour on absorbent ground over canvas, finished with UV protective varnish).

A strange music story

Working towards this exhibition has been a very moving experience. The stories that the artists are sharing, and that the veterans are sharing with the artists, are very personal and special.

But this story is a little different. Make of it what you will, but I write only what really happened!

Artists have sent to me their biographies and a little information about their links to the Battle of Cassino, or the war in Italy and in general. Occasionally these arrive in a form that I can't open on my computer, so I request a cut and paste into an email.

One of the more recent biographies arrived, and I opened it to find a photo of the artist and a page of music notes. Puzzled, I emailed the artist.

Hi Pam... it's a very beautiful page of bio... all music? Do you have some words too? I opened the doc but there was only the one (very attractive) page...

Best wishes

She replied: Hi Kay

Sorry I am a little confused. I haven't sent any music. The page I sent was my personal bio as an artist and in the body of the email I wrote about my father in law Henry Tapp and what my work will represent. I am doing a painting, a mixed media piece and an installation piece. I havent yet finished them so have not included images of them.

Kay to Pam: How strange is this! Your bio arrived with colour, a photo, and a page of music (without the staves). When I copied it to send back to you in this email it turned into words. Somehow it had become encrypted! So I will paste it into an email to myself and all will be well.

How odd! But it really is a very pretty page!

Thanks for your speedy reply,

But that wasn't the end of the story! I then tried this:

Just for fun... let's see if you get what I got... I have saved it onto my computer and re-attached...

and Pam replied: omg no music on that page just my original bio i sent you LOL

To cut a many-emails story short, I photographed my computer screen to convince Pam that I was really seeing music in her emails. She then tried sending the attachment from three different email addresses, and two computers. Each time she sent words, I received music. I sent her music, and she received instead her own words back. Finally I printed what I had saved on my computer, scanned the print, and got the page of music to Pam.

The music has no staves, and seems to be short value notes. Is it a code?

I emailed a musician friend, asking only: What do you make of this? It's a long and interesting story... very keen to know if this means anything to a musician.

She replied: can't make sense of the attachment...perhaps it's some sort of code with different durations representing a syllable or a thought or simply the alphabet...?

The mystery remains.

As I typed this blog post the heater cord across my desk was bothering me. I unplugged the heater, and the computer, which is on a completely separate power point, turned itself off. When I turned it back on again the homepage, BBC news, had updates of more bloody clashes and deaths of young people in today's war zones.

Yes, we are looking back to the Battle of Cassino. But war continues all around us. Let's not be blind to it.

I choose to believe that the strange message in the music is a call to work harder, to unite in our efforts for peace. Artists can be seen and heard.

Footnote: Just to add to the mystery, in our rapid exchange of 80 quick emails over two days, Pam and I discovered that our own histories are linked. Our fathers-in-law were in the tanks together at Cassino, and were friends. Equally surprisingly, for a short time before I moved to Italy, we lived in the same country road, attended the same meetings for a new gallery in the town, and didn't connect until linked by a cryptic piece of music.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Art critic

Yesterday the internationally famous Italian art critic, historian, writer, politician and television star Vittorio Sgarbi visited Roccasecca. Here he is at his book presentation at the Comune and being interviewed for television in the dining room at La Locanda del Castello. The New Zealand artists will be hosted in both places in May, following generations of very famous feet as they negotiate the cobblestones and steps.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Another perspective

Merv Appleton writes of this work: Reflections
"In this painting I have tried to depict the terrible destruction of war and the effect it has on our lives. Here as the dust settles, a mother and her children who have lost everything stop at a young fallen soldier’s grave to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice he has given for peace".

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Early images

Among the first emailed images received in Italy was this beautiful work, "Last Post", by Levin artist Sharlene Schmidt.

Painted in oil the work features the music of the bugle call Last Post and Red Poppies on Monte Cassino.

From another blog


January 24th, 2010

By David Wright (reprinted with permission from the writer's blog)

Snap is not a particularly impressive word. It’s too short and clipped to mean anything important. Words like parliament, serendipity and monarchy are impressive words. That’s why the Queen is a monarch and not a snap. For me however snap is personally significant. Its meaning was reconfirmed this week when I noticed an interesting article on a New Zealand news website (infonews.co.nz) describing what it called “possibly the biggest art event ever to be held in Italy”. It interested me because the event was being held in Cassino, Italy on May 15-29 to commemorate New Zealand’s involvement in the Battle of Monte Cassino 66 years ago.

It went on to say that “Kiwi artists who have a connection with soldiers who fought in Cassino will be first invited to take part. The dates mark the liberation of towns in the area during World War 2 and are Cassino’s “busy time” of the year with veterans groups, commemoration services and unveiling of new memorials.”

It would be stretching the truth to say I was a “Kiwi artist”. The truth is I was excused art at Wairoa College in favour of going to the gym to do weights. I thought my pictures of a dagger with a snake twisted around the blade were not too bad. I drew pretty good trees as well. I don’t know how many trees they’ve got at Monte Cassino but I’m sure I could do a fair job of putting their image on paper. Probably not good enough to merit an invitation to the Monte Cassino art show though.

However if my pictorial skills aren’t up to standard; does writing count as art? I’m not the best writer in the world. There are dozens of writers that drive me mad with their easy word skills. Roger Robinson’s writing is a rare example of classic prose. Jane is better than average too. Most Swimwatch readers will have picked that up already. Quite often I try and copy her sentence construction, grammar and vocabulary skills. Roger and Jane would certainly count as “artists”. But, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume I’d make an invitation to the final, albeit in lane eight.

You will notice that the other criterion to join the exhibition is to “have a connection with soldiers who fought in Cassino”. Here, I am on firm ground. My Dad was at Monte Cassino in a tank. Actually he wasn’t in a tank for very long. A German shell shot up his vehicle shortly after he arrived there. In Ron Crosby's book called “Albaneta – lost opportunity at Cassino” is my Dad's description of his exit from the war.
It was while looking at the possible route that we were hit. Regaining consciousness I saw that my arm was bleeding heavily and must have a tourniquet quickly. I looked up to see Joe Costello gazing through the turret at me. How he wasn’t hit is a mystery. Steve was slumped over his 75mm, bleeding badly from his back and head. Tom Middleton was lying on the floor, having fallen off his seat by the wireless. With difficulty I managed to traverse the turret by hand to enable Jack to scramble through to apply the tourniquet.
This applied I told Jack to try the motors. It was with a prayer on our lips he pressed the starter. The left engine roared into life to be followed by the right immediately afterwards. With his head out of the driver’s hatch, the better to see and get maximum speed Jack drove out through our own tanks, which were still pounding away at the enemy, to the forward Casualty Station.
Repairing the damage cost my father his right arm and eye.

Forty five years later a lot had happened. My parents had married in a pretty elaborate ceremony in New Zealand’s First Church. I was born and my parents had divorced. My mother remarried and I lost contact with my father. He did pay for me to spend my senior year at high school in Thorp, Wisconsin and to attend New Zealand’s Outward Bound School. When Jane was twelve our swim team decided to have a summer training camp in Blenheim. My father lived there; it was time to re-establish contact. It was time for him to meet his granddaughter.

Just before we left for the camp I had an accident with a knife and cut two of the fingers on my right hand. It wasn’t all that bad but did merit eight or nine stitches and an impressively large bandage. Two days later we arrived in Blenheim. A barbeque had been arranged at my Dad’s home with his second wife, my half brother and sister and their families, all of whom I had never met. Jane seemed fine but I was pretty nervous as I walked up to the front door and rang the bell.

My Dad opened the door and paused for a moment studying the oversized bandage on my right hand. Ever so slowly he extended his only arm, his left arm to my left arm, gripped it firmly and said, “Snap”.


Many of the artists will be staying in Roccasecca, an historic town near Cassino where New Zealand soldiers are well remembered.

Our sincere thanks go to sponsors and hosts at Felicetta, the beautiful agriturismo on the outskirts of Roccasecca at the entrance to the Melfa Gorge, and La Locanda del Castello, a quality and historically interesting restaurant and hotel overlooking the town.

Exhibition venue

The exhibition venue is the Pietro Malatesta, Biblioteca Comunale, Cassino. The building was a former picture theatre and is seen here (pink building at the end of the street) with Monte Cassino and the Abbey in the background.

work in progress

South Taranaki artist Cath Sheard features in her local newspaper and is photographed with a work in progress:

artist links

(list to date)

Artist websites:
Eleanor Wright
Ira Mitchell-Kirk
Dave Fowell
Jon Stevenson
Lisa-Jane Harvey
Merv Appleton
Ann Fletcher
Ronda Turk
Sharlene Schmidt
Gidon Bing (see also Gidon Bing)
Sarah Scott (see also Sarah Scott)
Janice Corbishley
Gail Boyle
Sophia Elise
Helen Moore
Francesca Gallo
Jenny Bennett
Angela Laby
Katherine Batchelor
Linda Dickens
Lorraine Beattie
Pamela Tapp
Richard Zajkowski
Sally Blyth
Susan Edge
Theresa Cashmore
Margaret Piggott
Chrissy Brook
Kay de Lautour Scott
Rachel Olsen
Cath Sheard
Margherita Giampietri
Frances Rookes
Beate Minderjahn
Gilmore Wall
Kari Lindsay-Beale
Priya Makwana
Sue McPhee
Stan Blanch
Averill (Ave) Stuart-Head
Lisa Taylor-King

Blog posts by contributing artists:
Letters to Cassino - Jon Stevenson
Dave Fowell
Ronda Turk
Sharlene Schmidt
Cath Sheard
Sophia Elise
Sarah Scott

Photo from the battlefield, 65 years on

Youth is the first victim of war; the first fruit of peace.
It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man;
it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.

King Baudouin I, King of Belgium

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Newspaper articles

Contributing artists Ronda Turk and Sharlene Schmidt feature in their local newspaper:

Hold on to Peace

The promotional image for the exhibition is "Hold on to Peace" by Ira Mitchell-Kirk (acrylic on stretched canvas, 30x30inches).

Many thanks to Ira Mitchell-Kirk for permission to reproduce this work.

Media release – January 19, 2010

Media release – January 19, 2010

Big New Zealand art exhibition to mark Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy

Selected New Zealand artists will take part in a major Kiwi art exhibition to be held at Cassino in Italy on May 15-29 to commemorate New Zealand’s involvement there 66 years ago.

The event may be the biggest Kiwi art exhibition ever held in Italy. The dates mark the liberation of towns in the area during World War 2. Italian-based Kiwi organiser Kay de Lautour Scott said it was their "busy time" of the year in Cassino with veterans groups, commemoration services and unveiling of new memorials.

The NZ art exhibition will be held in Cassino’s public library in the centre of the town with a formal gala opening on May 15. De Lautour Scott said the exhibition was a way of passing on the message from the veterans of all nations that she meets, that war must end.

``I also see it as a great opportunity for NZ artists to exhibit in Italy; I appreciate that side of it as I had a similar chance in 2005, but more important to me is keeping the peace message alive. I see museums showing the military side of things, but it is the emotional pain and suffering recorded in photographs and told in the stories that touches me most.

``I think that artists have a responsibility to reflect what is happening in society, and in fact they do that whether they are conscious of it or not. Here I live in a country that was destroyed. The battle front stayed in this area for five months. It is unthinkable how the people suffered, and still do live with this history in their daily lives.

``However, the immeasurable, unrecorded history is that of the returned soldiers, the waiting families, the changed lives in far away New Zealand. If giving artists this opportunity gets them talking to their family and friends then I think that the movement towards understanding and peace has already become stronger.

``We see Anzac Day parades growing in strength. I believe the time is right for artists to reinforce the peace messages coming from the soldiers who fought in this battle. To share time with veterans and have them say, often in tears, that it must never happen again, and then to see what is happening still all over the world, leaves me feeling that I must try to do something, however insignificant it might seem.

``If we all do a tiny part in a move towards peace we must eventually reach a tipping point where we can change nations and governments,’’ de Lautour Scott said.

New Zealand Art Guild organiser Sophia Elise said the guild was helping organise artists in New Zealand and they wanted artists who have a connection with Cassino to contact them as first preference selections.

Why Legato?

The title of the exhibition is "Legato".

Why Legato? It is an interesting word. In music, legato is playing smoothly, but not necessarily slurring the notes together. In Italian it means "tied together". In one of my favourite songs, Non Ti Scordar Di Me, (Don't Forget Me) it is used as an adverb, and becomes "legata" as it refers to "la vita" life, which is feminine. "Tied" can have negative implications, but linked, intertwined, joined does have appeal. The strands of a rope are intertwined, giving it strength. When I first asked an Italian friend to translate the song for me he explained the word "legato" in those terms, the parts of a rope intertwined, joined together. In the context of the song that image is quite beautiful. Your life, and mine, entwined. And so it is with Italy and New Zealand.

The musical definition resonates with me. Notes are played close together, but with careful fingering are not lost in one another. Maybe that is how our cultures should be. Each has a space, there is no supremacy, but together they make beautiful music.

Italy and New Zealand are truly tied together, with so many friendships formed between families during WWII and maintained after the war. Now, two generations later, the grandchildren of the Kiwi soldiers are returning to Italy to visit these families, and young Italians are moving to New Zealand. Every year hundreds of New Zealanders visit the graves of their countrymen who remained here.

The horror of war has passed into memory, but the friendships are alive and vibrant. Nationally this connection may feel stronger in New Zealand where almost every family has a direct link to Italy, whereas in Italy there are many areas where other nations played a similar role and have these same ties. The New Zealand Division was heavily engaged in the fighting on the Gustav Line and so has a lasting place in the history of Cassino.

Legato, tied. The legacy of war is part of our common heritage. Now it is our task to make a lasting peace the focus of that heritage.

Who, What, Why, When, Where?

New Zealand artists will be exhibiting in an exhibition for peace and remembrance in Cassino, Italy, 15 - 29 May 2010. The venue is the Pietromalatesta rooms, Bibilioteca Comunale, in central Cassino, and the exhibition will be hosted by the Cassino Comune.

Here, in tourist destination Italy, I live in a country that was destroyed. The battle front stayed in this area for 5 months. It is unthinkable how the people suffered, and still do live with this history in their daily lives. I see museums showing the military side of things, the strategies, the equipment, but it is the photos and stories of emotional pain and suffering that touches me most.

I work as a volunteer with visiting veterans groups, with memorial museums and as a battlefield tour guide. Many veterans share their stories, and all say sorrowfully that we must never let such events happen again. To share time with these old soldiers, and then see what is happening still all over the world, leaves me feeling that I must try to do something, however insignificant it might seem.

I see curating an exhibition with peace and commemoration as a theme as a way of passing on the message from the veterans that I meet, that war must end. I also see it as a great opportunity for NZ artists to exhibit in Italy. I appreciate that side of it as I had a similar chance in 2005, but more important to me is keeping the peace message alive.

We see Anzac Day parades growing in strength. I believe the time is right for artists to reinforce the peace messages coming from the soldiers who fought in this battle. I think that artists have a responsibility to reflect what is happening in society, and in fact they do that whether they are conscious of it or not. The immeasurable, unrecorded history is that of the returned soldiers, the waiting families, the changed lives in far away New Zealand.

How far did the events in Europe ripple through our culture, contributing to the society we have now? What effect did the trauma of battle have on the young men returning home to families who could not begin to understand what they had been through? What was the effect of the waiting, the pain of loss, on the families that remained behind? If giving artists this opportunity gets them talking to their family and friends then I think that the movement towards peace has already become stronger, and this movement will be recorded in their future works.

If we all do a tiny part in a move towards international peace we must eventually reach a tipping point where we can change nations and governments. One British veteran talks about "pax in spinus" (peace from thorns) and I see that as being appropriate here. If we let this continue, never learning, then there is no sense in sending soldiers out believing that they are contributing to peace. While I believe that no war ever brought real peace, we can't ignore what has happened either. Peace comes from a different place, but war history and commemoration is a place where we can start to talk about peace.

Cassino was completely destroyed and is recognised as a martyr city. It has a lasting place in New Zealand history, so where better place is there to call NZ artists together to work for peace? It is my hope that these artists will continue to learn more about what happened here, and in other places, and continue to produce works that further the work of peace movements throughout the world.