Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Peace on Earth

May the peace of Christmas cease-fires last throughout the year.

Wishing you all a relaxed and peaceful Christmas, with a little song about Snoopy and the Red Baron, Snoopy's Christmas.

From the internet:

ARTIST: The Royal Guardsmen
TITLE: Snoopy's Christmas
Lyrics and Chords

[Capo 3]

The news it came out in the First World War
The bloody Red Baron was flying once more
The Allied Command ignored all of its men
And called on Snoopy to do it again

/ D A7 / - D / - G / A7 D /

Was the night before Christmas and forty below
When Snoopy went up in search of his foe
He spied the Red Baron and fiercely they fought
With ice on his wings, Snoopy knew he was caught

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring out from the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

/ GA D / / GA DBm / GA D /

The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sights
He reached for the trigger to pull it up tight
Why he didn't shoot, well, we'll never know
Or was it the bells from the village below

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out "Merry Christmas, mein friend!"

The Baron then offered a holiday toast
And Snoopy our hero saluted his host
And then with a roar they were both on their way
Each knowing they'd meet on some other day

{Refrain twice}

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Dedication Required on the Road to Peace

The world will never have lasting peace as long as men reserve for war their finest human qualities.

Peace, no less than war, requires idealism, self-sacrifice, and a righteous and dynamic faith.

- John Foster Dulles

This quotation says it all. Our finest human qualities are needed for peace, to bring an end to war. Peace is more than the absence of war; if we all use our finest human qualities in educating for a culture of peace we have a much better chance of succeeding.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Another Point of View

I make no secret that the paint brush and the pen are my weapons of choice in the quest for peace. Occasionally I struggle with the concept of using weapons that kill in this important and huge battle. Peacekeeping is an admirable occupation, but how far can one go with the definition of a peace-keeping army? When do peace keepers become oppressors and killers? I am not sure that I have a definite opinion on this; I do not like force at all, and am afraid of guns in any situation, yet I have many friends whom I respect who are in uniform and carry weapons. Their choice is not my choice, but our aims are the same.

This Ted speech, by the Chief of Defence of the Netherlands Army, is a clear and logical explanation of why some choose the gun as a weapon in the fight for peace. (The video runs for 18 minutes. If you don't have time to listen to all of it right now, I suggest you let it run through and then watch from minute 8 onwards). The gun, as explained by Peter van Uhm, the highest military commander in Holland, can also be seen as a weapon of peace. He supports his argument with some interesting statistics.

Peter van Uhm, Chief of Defence, Netherlands, from 2008 to present. (Photo from internet, Nato image).

What weapon do you choose? And are you an active campaigner for peace? If, like me, you do not choose the gun, then have you chosen a weapon that suits you, and are you using it in what is the greatest battle of all, the battle for peace, for freedom from oppression, for a more equitable distribution of the world's resources?

I urge you to be active, making positive change in your every day lives. Don't wait for special occasions, for commemorations and other events. Every day we have opportunities to make a difference. If we change, those around us change.

Change in the family and community, no matter how small, is positive change for a positive future. Just as each little drop of water can meld with others to form a puddle and then a lake, each peaceful community can join with others to form a peaceful nation. Each nation can join with others...

In this era of instant communication we CAN make a difference. But only if we act. Choose your "weapon" for peace, be it as personal as your smile or as public as the internet, and use it every day.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Ripples Across the Water

In 2010 Ronda Turk travelled to Cassino with her mother, Mary Howan, and other New Zealand artists and supporters, to exhibit with Legato, to visit Italy, to learn more about the Battle of Cassino, and of course to enjoy the wonderful countryside. Ronda and Mary made the most of their time here walking the picturesque hillsides, exploring the villages, enjoying being "local", experiencing as much of Italian culture as they could.

Using her photographs from this trip Ronda painted her impressions of Italy back in New Zealand. She recently won an award for her "townscape" of Roccasecca, this scene being near the Bed and Breakfast L'Ortica where she stayed.

Ronda's research prior to painting for Legato included interviews with veteran Don Hutchins, who served time in Italy. Don was a private with the 25th Battalion and his job was a Dispatch Rider; he also was a runner for about 4 days during the battle in Cassino. He spent two years fighting in Italy with around five months in Cassino. He was wounded later in Rimini, but returned to battle when he was fit enough.

Thanks to the social media of Facebook Michele Di Lonardo of Cassino saw the photograph of Ronda with her winning painting, and contacted her to interview her via Skype. The newspaper article above, published in Cassino in time for Remembrance Day, is the result of this connection.

Thanks to the internet art can certainly make ripples from one side of the world to the other.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veteran's Day

(Image taken from Wikipedia)

The clock on my computer has just flicked over to 11/11/2011 and a Facebook photo from New Zealand showed a clock at 11.11 11/11/11.

Today is Remembrance Day for many around the world. It is a day marked by the Commonwealth countries, but also recognised by many other countries throughout the world. It marks Armistice Day, the official end of World War I.

I often think of Australia on this day. Shortly, at the 11th minute of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the eleventh month a ray of sunlight will touch the poignant statue at the Shrine of Remembrance, the War Memorial in Melbourne. Five Australians lie in the cemetery in Cassino. One was a journalist; all were doing what their country asked of them.

Whatever we call it, Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veteran's day or Poppy Day, it's time to reflect, to remember.

It is also time to look ahead. Now, as much as we ever did, we need to educate for a culture of peace. Here in Europe I hear disquietening rumblings, of movements that are threatening, of strongly nationalist and militant ideology. We can't relax and ignore them, but must be proactive in reaching out to the young people, making links that will bind countries in peace, not divide them in oppressive actions.

Legato is a small movement, but it is one of many. Together we are a positive force. We never know who we reach, or how we do make change. But change does happen, and positive change through any medium is to be supported and applauded.


Works from Legato 2010 are still finding their way home. Today I packed works that were shown again in the 2011 Cassino Legato, and these will travel to New Zealand shortly. The permanent display in Italy is changing slightly as these works are returned to their owners and new ones are added to the collection.

I visited New Zealand works in the Sora school last week, where the teachers and children were overwhelmed by the generous donation of work that didn't go back to New Zealand. I am delighted to be involved in planning the best placement and use of these works so that they form a central part of peace studies in the school.

Follow-up work from 2010 continues, while planning for new events stretches out to 2014. At the moment the Legato collection is being enjoyed by Polish visitors, and these essential links with Poland are being consolidated as I don't speak Polish and need help with the Polish Legato negotiations.

The Polish cemetery on Monte Cassino is undergoing extensive maintenance work. The trees have been removed and will be replaced, and the damage caused by tree roots repaired. While is appears stark in comparison to when the trees were still there it is also now highly visible, and reminds us of the real cost of war.

One thousand young Polish men did not go home from Cassino. Poland suffered terribly during and after the war. I look forward to working with Polish artists for commemoration and peace.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

First Canadian Work for Legato

Legato (Italy) May 2011 included this small painting by Bernadette McCormack, who responded quickly to my initial inquiries to artists in Canada. Next year Legato will focus more on Canadian and Italian art.

This work has since been on display in Roccasecca with other works and the small but growing Legato permanent collection. It draws comments from adults and children and is one of the most popular new additions on display. Children seem to know almost instinctively that there is much to read in the work, and find symbolism in it that escapes most adults.

Bernadette McCormack

Sono cresciuta in Canada, una nazione tranquilla. La mia sola esperienza di guerra erano le storie raccontate dai miei genitori del tempo in cui erano bambini a Manila e, per sfuggire alle bombe, durante la seconda guerra mondiale, dovevano inerpicarsi su per la montagna in cerca di un posto sicuro. ll mio secondogenito ha sempre avuto un grande interesse per la storia militare fin da quando aveva sei anni, quindi ha iniziato ad introdurmi agli orrori, alle strategie, ai sacrifici occorsi durante la seconda guerra mondiale. Recentemente siamo stati in Normandia per soddisfare la sua curiosita' e abbiamo visitato le spiagge e I luoghi dello sbarco. Sono rimasta impressionata nel vedere i cambiamenti prodotti dagli anni. i campi verdi, le spiagge ben tenute, pronte per I turisti. Ma so che la terra, cosi' come la gente, ricordano le tragedie della guerra. Questo e' cio' che voglio simbolizzare nei miei quadri usando l'innocenza dei fiori che crescono dentro all'elmetto dei soldati caduti.

I grew up in Canada, a peaceful country. My only experience with the war was the stories my parents told of their time as small children in Manilla, where they had to escape the bombings of the second world war by climbing the mountains to a safer location. When my second son was born, he started to show an intense interest in military history at the age of six years old, and he started to educate me further of the horrors, the strategies, the sacrifices that occurred in the second world war. As he grew, he started to beg me to take him to the province of Normandy to satisfy his interest in the D-Day Invasion. Just recently, in order to fulfill my son's wishes, I found myself accompanying him to the landings and beaches of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. I was impressed with the way the land had renewed itself. The fields were smooth and green, the beaches were clean and flat and ready for sunbathers. But I know that the land, as well as the people, all remember the tragedies of war. I wanted to depict this notion in my painting by using the innocence of flowers growing in a fallen soldiers helmet.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Abstract Work Colours Vibrate

Italian artist Francesco Nardi balances the three primary colours on a stark white background, creating a tension that resonates but also allows space for calm reflection.*

He writes:
La sintesi operata nel mio lavoro pittorico riguarda soprattutto gli artisti che nel primo dopoguerra operarono negli Stati Uniti con l influenza dei pittori europei. Mi riferisco a Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Sam Francis, insomma alla New York School in generale. Le problematiche affrontate sono le stesse ed il messaggio di pace nell opera esposta resta immutato e latente.

Francesco Nardi


*The photograph above does not capture well the dazzling interaction of the chroma intensity used by Nardi in this work.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Return of a "Penny Diver"

Images from Legato, 23 May 2011.
One of the 28th Maori Battalion "Penny Divers," Aubrey Balzer shares his memories of Italy and his message of peace with family and visitors to Legato.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sala Pietro Malatesta, Biblioteca, Cassino.

Lunedi 23 maggio 11.00 invitiamo tutti voi a Legato, incontrare con l'artista Regan Balzer e suo zio, soldato veterano Aubrey Balzer.

Legato is in the old picture theatre in Cassino, the building which now houses a Tribunale and a library as well as the Sala Pietro Malatesta, an exhibition space and conference room.

The building is also known as Arcoboleno, which means Rainbow, and was the name of the picture theatre. Visitors used to the subdued palettes of the Italian artists might well think that they have walked under a rainbow when they enter the space these days. Collectively the paintings in Legato bring light, brightness and energy into the space. A different culture shines through.

Legato has already hosted many interested visitors and at least one very interested gathering of professional people meeting in the space. Monday is the official "launch" where you can meet with artists Lois Wine, Kay de Lautour and Regan Balzer, and Regan's uncle Aubrey Balzer who is a veteran who served with the Maori Battalion in Cassino.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Featured Artist: Regan Balzer

Legato is now open at Sala Pietro Malatesta, Biblioteca Comunale, Cassino, Italy.

Ore/opening times: 8.30 - 13.00, 15.00 - 17.45.

Featured artist: Regan Balzer (NZ). Also included are works by other artists from New Zealand, Italy, Canada and Germany.

Regan Balzer

Il mio lavoro come artista e' centrato sulla mia esperienza di donna Maori che vive in Aotearoa (nome originale Maori della Nuova Zelanda n.d.t.)

Oggigiorno e che viene ispirata dal passato degli avi.

Esibire i miei quadri in "Legato" ha molto significato per me perche' i miei antenati sono molto importanti per me. Derivo da loro, sono sangue del loro sangue, il mondo in cui vivo e' stato forgiato da loro. E' un onore prendere parte a un evento in cui loro vengono riconosciuti e le loro azioni del passato vengono valorizzate.

Mio nonno era il maggiore di tre fratelli, perse il fratello piu' giovane, Oswald, in Italia durante la seconda guerra mondiale, mentre lui rientro' In Nuova Zelanda dopo essere stato gravemente ferito fuori Cassino. A causa delle conseguenze delle sue ferite la qualita' di vita cambio' drasticamente per lui.

Ormai mio nonno e' deceduto, ma ho la fortuna di aver passato del tempo con suo fratello, mio zio Aubrey Balzer, ormai novantenne. E' incredibile la sua capacita' di ricordare gli eventi della campagna di guerra italiana, come fosse oggi! I miei quadri sono stati ispirati dai suoi ricordi, momenti che non posso comprendere fino in fondo, momenti in cui sono stati persi dei cari e una intera generazione di capi Maori.

L'antica tradizione maori della scultura su legno ci ha tramandato con le immagini, con il linguaggio visivo, la cultura maori. I miei dipinti incorporano l'immaginario, la narrativa e le forme della tradizione scultorea maori tradotti sulla tela. I colori della regione geotermale dove sono cresciuta (Rotorua n.d.t.).
Sono diventati la base della dia tavolozza. A causa dell'effetto dello zolfo sull'ambiente circostante, i colori sono fortemente contrastanti, verde lussureggiante e giallo intenso, blu glaciale e rosso acceso con un risultato assolutamente affascinante. Quando creo un quadro uso di proposito colori forti, contrastanti, li stratifico creando un ventaglio di sfumature. Gli strati di colore e le forme scolpite dall'immaginario sulla tela trasportano la mente dello spettatore.
Cosi' come le voci di un coro muovono l'animo, il proposito del mio lavoro e' quello di muovere l'animo verso la rivitalizzazione della conoscenza tradizionale Maori, verso la tramandazione della narrativa storica, attraverso una sinfonia visuale di colori e forme.

Nel momento in cui l'immagine comincia a danzare nell'interazione di linee, luci e colori so che il quadro e' finito.

Uso il pennello e incido con la pittura, abbracciando la nostra ricca storia maori e condividendone con gli altri il significato che ha nella mia vita.

Le grandi cose cominciano a piccoli passi e il successo si conquista con la forza che mettiamo nel raggiungere i nostri obiettivi.

'Whaia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei'

Regan Balzer

The themes in my work are related to my experiences as a Māori woman living in Aotearoa and a modern world.

Inspired by my ancestors...

Exhibiting in Legato is meaningful to me because my ancestors are important to me. It is their blood that I carry within me and it is their deeds that have shaped the world I live in today. It is an honour to exhibit in a show that acknowledges them and the actions of their day.

My Grandfather was the eldest of three brothers. I lost my great Uncle Oswald (the youngest) in Italy during World War II. My grandfather, severely injured just out of Cassino, returned to New Zealand, the injury changing his quality of life forever. Although my grandfather has now passed away, I have been lucky enough to spend some time with the sole surviving brother, Aubrey Balzer, now 90 years old. It is amazing how Aubrey has been able to recall the events of the Italian campaign with such clarity, as if he was there only yesterday (not the 70 years ago that it actually is). My paintings have been inspired by his recollections of a time, a time that I cannot comprehend, but a time when we lost not only family, but we also lost a generation of Maori leaders.

Customary Maori woodcarving is an ancient practice that has been responsible for retaining a wealth of imagery and visual language in the Maori culture. My paint work incorporates imagery, form and narrative from Maori woodcarving and translates these onto a two dimensional surface of paint The geothermal district, of which I was raised, becomes a base for my colour palate. Through the effects of the sulphuric environment, contrasting colours constantly appear side by side, lush greens with titillating yellows and chilly blues with fiery reds, all of which look absolutely stunning.

When creating a painting, I purposefully select bold, contrasting colours, building this colour in layers, creating a symphony of shades. The layering of paint and carved form imagery on the canvas allows the viewer to go on a journey. Just as the voices of a choir stir the soul, the ultimate goal of my work is a stirring of the soul that speaks to the revitalisation of customary Maori knowledge and the retention of historical narrative, through a visual symphony of colour and form.

Once the painting begins to dance through the interaction of line, colour and light I know it is then finished.

I use my paintbrush and I carve with paint, embracing our rich Maori history and sharing its significance in my life with the world.

Great things begin with just a single small step and success comes from the drive to move forward to reach your goals.

‘Whaia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei’

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Watercolour Works for Italy

Italian-born New Zealand artist Margherita Giampietri continues to challenge with her work for Legato. For the New Zealand edition of Legato Giampietri painted "Lambs to the Slaughter" (in the spotlight area of the photograph below) and has created a very different image for Cassino.

Cassino work:

This work expresses universal emotions and allows viewers to interpret the scene according to their own experiences.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

New Artworks Arrive in Cassino

Ero una bambina quando scoppio' la guerra, ma ricordo con precisione i momenti in cui sedevo di fianco ai miei genitori mentre ascoltavano le notizie dal fronte alla radio.
Ricordo la lunga lista di nomi che veniva letta: chi era morto in azione, chi era rimasto ferito, e peggio ancora chi era disperso.
La mia mente bambina si chiedeva se questi poveri giovani provassero la paura e se sarebbero mai stati ritrovati.

Da adulta ho trovato e letto la poesia "To the fallen" ( "Ai caduti") di Lawrence Binyon e la forza di quelle parole mi ha commosso profondamente.
Si puo' solo sperare che forse in un futuro gli uomini giungano alla conclusione che la guerra non e' "la soluzione".

Lois Wine (2011)

Fabric artist Lois Wine has arrived in Italy with her quilt commissioned especially for Cassino 2011. Lois has hand-painted the silk used in this work. Around the borders are scenes from the Cassino area, and the poppies well known in memorial works feature in the centre.

Lois writes: I was only child when war broke out, but I vividly remember sitting beside my mother and father as they listened to the war news on the radio. The long list of names being read out, those who were killed in action, others wounded but worst of all were the ‘missing in action’ names. I wondered in my childlike way if those poor men were really scared and if they would ever be found.

When I was an adult I found the poem ‘To the fallen’ by Laurence Binyon and the poignancy of that poem brought tears to my eyes. One can only hope that maybe in the future, mankind will eventually come to realise that war is not the answer.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Another ANZAC Day Passes

The poppies are in bloom again, growing tall and free in the fields or tightly bound in their plastic bases in memorial gardens. The difference is striking. So too is the difference between a young man full of the joy of life and one lying forever in a foreign land.

This year the New Zealand Embassy hosted the Anzac Day service at the Rome War Cemetery. The day was damp and overcast, fitting the mood in the small but interesting cemetery. There are not many New Zealand soldiers buried here, but those who are there had many visitors and were remembered along with those who are still risking their lives fighting in conflicts today.

Masters of Ceremonies were Wing Commander Ian MacPherson, NZDF and Chief Petty Officer James Dew, ADF. Prayers were led by Father Paul Martin SM and Canon David Richardson and the reading was given by His Excellency David Ritchie, Australian Ambassador. His Excellency Dr Trevor Matheson, New Zealand Ambassador-Designate (pictured below), gave the address.

The service was traditional, and wreaths were laid by representatives of 19 countries and organisations. The singing, unaccompanied as earlier rain prevented the use of a sound system, was both prayerful and patriotic.

From the opening prayer in Rome on Anzac day 2011 comes this hope for mankind:
"We ask that the liberty, truth and justice which [the fallen soldiers] sought to preserve may be seen and known in all the nations upon this earth".

One phrase in the closing prayer (Canon David Richardson) struck a particular chord with me, praying for "peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts".

The Prayers of Intercession (Father Paul Martin SM) are copied here:

Let us pray for leaders of nations, and for all who are working to promote understanding between peoples, that their efforts may bring about justice, freedom and lasting peace.

Let us pray for those who suffer today as a result of war, terrorism and all forms of violence, that through their suffering we may learn to resolve conflicts without bloodshed.

Let us pray for the men and women of all our countries who have died in war, especially for those who are buried in this place, that their self-sacrificing courage may inspire us to face the difficulties in our time with integrity and goodwill.

Let us remember especially those who this day commemorates, and the contribution they have made to the growth of our nations. May we never forget the ideals for which they have died.

Let us spend a moment in silent prayer asking God for the gift of peace; for ourselves and our families, our communities, and our world.

As I looked at the young piper standing alone behind the cenotaph I wondered how long it would be before he too had to decide where he stood as a peace maker.

Music, like art, is an effective weapon of choice. Music unites and inspires us to seek greater things. It can also be used to unite to draw strength to attack a perceived enemy. I recall a poster from many years ago: "There are no strangers in this world, only friends I have yet to meet". Let music and art always be used to educate, to forge friendships, to promote harmony, to bring about a lasting peace.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Peace - an Uncommon Concept?

A people sacrificed for peaceful principles recovers its identity and leads by example even in these troubled times:
So deeply committed to their pacifist beliefs and their covenant of peace, that just over 170 years ago, they deliberately refused to abandon their principles in the face of unwarranted aggression, with horrendous consequences. The last "full-blooded" Moriori died in 1933. The Moriori story and Nunuku's covenant of peace, provides a vital message for today's turbulent world.

Peace is not a new concept in the world, just an uncommon one.
(Source: http://www.education-resources.co.nz/)

My next blog post was to be about education for a culture of peace, with particular reference to the nations who have historically claimed to be peace keepers rather than active aggressors in times of war. I watch daily the events unfolding in Libya, and more particularly recently the involvement of peace loving nations who have somehow become caught up in acts of aggression despite their best intentions. Their citizens are quite rightly expressing their concern at what is happening.

It was timely, for me, to receive a comment in response to an earlier post, which brings to the fore this very issue.

As a child going to school in the 1960s I learned about the Moriori people, the peaceful early inhabitants of New Zealand. We were taught that the Moriori people had all but died out, but that their peaceful legacy was to be admired and upheld. The Moriori people, like many other peace makers, suffered for their principles. They were to be remembered and praised, but was left thinking that as a people they were, sadly, doomed. Their recovery as an identifiable ethnic group with a modern identity which still adheres to these principles is a wonderful example of steadfastness in holding to principles, determination to survive as a people, and of how one can successfully educate for a culture of peace.

This is the comment that came in response to the blog post showing Rachel Olsen's work.
Tena ko, I applaud this article as historically accurate. However, the author and indeed all NZers need to know that 500 years before Te Whiti o Rongomai, the Moriori people of Rekohu (Chatham Islands) had observed an ancient peace covenant that remains unbroken by Moriori to this day. Te Whiti would have been aware of the Moriori pacifist doctrine as it was his kinsmen (from Te Atiawa) who had invaded Rekohu and killed/enslaved Moriori in 1835.

Moreover, Moriori had been taken to Taranaki as slaves in the 1840s and 1850s. Moriori also wore albatross feathers in their hair as a symbol of peace and bales of albatross feathers were sent from Rekohu to Parihaka in the 1860s - too many coincidences for there not to be a direct connection between Te Whiti's pacifist doctrine and that practiced by Moriori for many centuries.

It would be nice for folk to acknowledge not just Te Whiti and Tohu as NZ leaders in Pacifism, but acknowledge that they in turn were most likely influenced by the ancient Moriori peace philosophy and practice.

Me rongo (in peace), Maui Solomon, (grandson of Tommy Solomon and GM of Hokotehi Moriori Trust - www.moriori.co.nz)

The Moriori website is a comprehensive one, and by following the links you can find useful education resources. The introductory paragraphs on the home page explain the ties with the Maori tribes which are not always understood as we glance over the past, sometimes making sweeping generalisations about passive and aggressive people in our own nation's history.

Remembrance is a useful place from which to develop and promote peace initiatives. The ancient philosophies of the Moriori people are behind the Parihaka International Peace Festival, a movement born from some of New Zealand's darkest days of bloodshed and horror.

Underlying the work of the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation, and Campagna della Pace, Cassino, under whose wider umbrella the Legato exhibitions evolved, is the Latin maxim "Pax in Spinus", translated into "peace from thorns". It doesn't matter what country you are in, or how bloody the history is, we strive to make peace a common concept. Remembrance is only the starting point; collectively we must educate for a culture of peace.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Looking Back, and Moving On

This week Legato in New Zealand draws to a close. It is still several weeks until the Cassino, Italy (2011) version of Legato opens.

Unlike the first exhibition in Italy, the Wallace Gallery exhibition in New Zealand was partially selected, and had a striking variety of works included. Works too big or too heavy to send to Italy last year took their deserved places and added to the power of the display. The diversity reflects our nation, and the soldiers we are commemorating.

The decision to make the first Legato open to all comers rather than a selected exhibition came from the desire to raise awareness in New Zealand of the stories soldiers have held within them all these years, providing an avenue for communication between the generations. Soldiers returning to Italy make it clear that there is a time when these stories need to be told, when they need to make their peace and calm the images and memories they have carried with them for so long.

Research for Legato became a place where stories could be shared, unspoken questions answered, and history brought into families.

The variety of artwork that travelled to Italy was interesting, presenting a very satisfying challenge to pull it into a cohesive exhibition, and the result was a space for contemplation as well as for feeling another culture on foreign land. Entering past peaceful, reflective works the viewers were then drawn in to the personal, challenged to put themselves in the place of the soldiers and their families, and then drawn out again past paintings of the physical scars, recognisable and less haunting perhaps because they were tangible objects rather than personal stories.

But more interesting perhaps, certainly from a sociological point of view, were the emails that accompanied many of requests to be a part of the exhibition. Many families were seeking to understand the men who had returned to New Zealand, the fathers and the grandfathers who were tough, were aloof, or were in some other way unreachable.

Researchers now seek answers from diaries, from oral histories, and from memorabilia. We seek to understand how our nation has been shaped by this generation of silent, and sometimes violent, men. We don't often talk about the suicides, survivor's guilt, or the problems of rehabilitation. We ask about what it was like, being in the war. We hear selected memories, incomplete memories, white-washed memories. At times we hear stories that we know are untrue, where the pain has been so great that a new memory has been constructed, compensating for what cannot be faced. Nothing, however, can tell us what it really was like fighting this war.

Today, while researching a New Zealand Battalion for information for visitors coming to view the battlefields I came to this section:
That was the last day in this place. The two companies marched back to Sant’ Elia Fiumerapido, where the Rt. Hon. Peter Fraser, meeting the battalion on an informal visit, spoke about the 2 NZEF and rehabilitation plans. A few nights before this a battalion man had been yarning about prospects in a new job that was waiting him back home. Three or four comrades were sitting about in the calm dusk of an Italian evening. The conversation had drifted to news of home. This man pulled out his wallet and handed round photographs of his young wife and small baby, of his parents, and the new home which was waiting his return. ‘Somehow,’ writes Padre Sullivan, ‘we came to know the people he spoke about, and began to share something of their lives, and his.

‘The next morning at 7.0 a.m. we buried him. There were only three people at the grave, which was dug out on the top of a mound and overlooked a valley below, with whole fields of red poppies blowing gently in the breeze.

‘Just as the simple service began, up staggered one of his friends, who was en route to the front line. He stood there, a big, hulking fellow, heavily accoutred as for war, tin hat on his head, rifle in one hand, and in the other he clutched half a dozen wild red poppies. He was dumb and inarticulate, but this tribute he felt he must pay. There could not have been a simpler cortege. It is doubtful if there could have been a more splendid one.’

(From Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, Volume: 22 Battalion by Jim Henderson, Chapter 10, Cassino. Available at: http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-22Ba-c10.html)

Perhaps most powerful in any story is that which is left unsaid.

One of the unexpected things that has been achieved through Legato is that the Italians here now understand the importance of the poppy to New Zealanders and others. They know well that it is important to the Polish, but often questioned me about why we wear the poppy, and leave so many of them at the Commonwealth cemetery.

Several artists wrote and asked "is it being too obvious if I include a poppy in my painting?" No, it is not too obvious. The poppy which blooms so freely here is always going to feature somewhere. And usually the artists who asked the question were the artists who thought most deeply about their work and, whether they used the poppy symbol or not in the end, their works carried the message of remembrance well.

Prior to writing this blog post I had been sitting on the hillside above the Liri Valley, twenty minutes drive from Cassino, wondering how many land mines had been cleared from the garden below me. One killed the owner of what is now my apartment. He was on his way to assist a farmer down below, injured by another mine. I heard yesterday that he died under a fig tree. Was it the tree in my garden that I gather figs from every season? It probably was.

The scars of this war are far closer to the surface here. Some stories are told over and over, few remain hidden. Some injustices are still very much to the fore of people's minds. But back home in New Zealand, where noone else could understand what sights and smells and fears had been endured, where soldiers didn't want their loved ones to know how terrible the fighting really was, our soldiers simply buried these images and memories inside.

A favourite quote is from Michael Shepherd. I make no apology for having used it before.
…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.

History is not confined to the pages of the books, the official records, the memorabilia in the museums. History lives within us, generation after generation, as we struggle to pick up the pieces left by war, and to find peace.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Ceremonies for Commemoration and Peace

From Cassino to London, sharing the message of peace:
Italian Torch Party with cultural group on the steps at the Main Entrance, Westminster Abbey. (Photo: Kay de Lautour)

Wednesday 2 March was the Lighting of the Benedictine Peace Torch at Westminster Abbey, the beautiful Gothic cathedral originally established by the Benedictine monks in the tenth century.

From the Westminster Abbey website:
02 Mar 2011

A Service of Blessing for the Benedictine Torch took place at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 2 March at 12 noon.

In 1964, when Saint Benedict was proclaimed Patron of Europe, it was decided that the lighting of a torch would take place as a symbol of European heritage. The torch is now known simply as the Torch of Saint Benedict. Every year it has been the main feature of a pilgrimage beginning from the city chosen to light the torch and ending in Montecassino at the Shrine of St Benedict.

Westminster Abbey was the first non-Roman Catholic Church to host the lighting of the Benedictine Torch.

The service, in English and Italian, was conducted by the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding: ‘The Benedictine community of monks, who built this great church to the glory of God, whose worship of God echoed around these walls and whose tombs and memorials surround us, flourished here for at least 600 years.

‘Four hundred and fifty years after the dissolution of the monastery, their prayers and example continue to encourage us as daily we worship almighty God in the opus Dei of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and as we celebrate the sacraments of our salvation, above all the sacrament of the Eucharist, of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘It is a particular joy here in the coronation church, so central to the religious and secular life of our nation, to light the Torch of Saint Benedict that symbolises the light of Christ that shines at the heart of British and European civilisation, the light of peace and goodwill for all men and women in these islands, in Europe, and in the world.’

The Dean and Archabbot Pietro Vittorelli OSB of Montecassino washed each other’s hands as a symbol of welcome and hospitality.

Field Marshal The Lord Inge KG GCB PC DL read 2 Corinthians 4: 1-6 and the Right Reverend Timothy Wright OSB read Matthew 5: 1-16.

The Addresses were given by the Right Reverend Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield and Chairman of Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome; and the Archabbot of Montecassino.

Prayers were led by the Revd Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon of Westminster.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by Robert Quinney, Sub Organist. The organ was played by James McVinnie, Assistant Organist.

Westminster Abbey, atatues above main entrance. Personal photographs are forbidden within the abbey. For more about the architecture click here. (Photo: Kay de Lautour)

Prior to the torch ceremony I had the privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to remember the Commonwealth soldiers who fell in WWII. This was on behalf of the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation. This Foundation, like others, sees Cassino as an international meeting place where friendships have been, and are being, formed in the spirit of reconciliation and peace.

The following photos of the wreaths and the ceremonies inside the abbey are from the Facebook album by the tireless organiser, Michele Di Lonardo.

Later in the evening at an international conference for Peace and Reconciliation I was invited to speak and shared the vision of Legato with guests including veterans from Germany, Poland, England, and Italy. Thanks go to Michele Di Lonardo (Cassino) and Richard Wassell (Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation) for this opportunity.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Legato Research Awards

Two artist research awards were announced at the opening of Legato at the Wallace Gallery.

Merv Appleton is the first recipient of the Legato residential research award. Merv was awarded this opportunity for his contribution to Legato in Cassino 2010 and for his empathy and generosity to veterans in New Zealand.

TV3 captures a very special painting made by Merv for veteran soldier Watty McEwan.

The 2011 award goes to Regan Balzer (click for video link). Regan will travel to Cassino in May 2011 where she will be the featured artist for Legato, Italy, 2011. Regan's paintings honour the Maori Battalion in particular. Regan's invitation to make works for Cassino was the direct result of a request to me from the people of Cassino to see work by a Maori artist. Memories of the Armed Services Maori Culture Group performance in Cassino in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino are strong.

I selected Regan because her personal research was very much in accord with social areas that concern us today, and could be considered to be a direct result of the losses suffered by New Zealand as a nation during WWII. Regan is currently developing works that explore the loss of potential leaders for Maori. One of my personal aims for Legato is to raise consciousness of some of the social issues that have impacted on societies even as far away as New Zealand as a direct result of our involvement in war.

Regan also writes: "...in regards to Legato, my great grandfather (Aubrey Balzer) is one of the last surviving officers of the Maori Battalion. He has told me many stories about his time with my grandfather and his younger brother in Italy during the WWII and remembers everything like it was yesterday. His younger brother died at Sangro River. It would be an honour to be able to represent on behalf of my grandfather and his brothers, by being involved in Legato. It would also be perfect timing for me in terms of my own work and having pieces that will be informed and relevant to the Legato exhibition".

The Legato Research Awards offer the selected artist three weeks accommodation for two in an historic village near Cassino, guided battlefield tours and access to an artist studio.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Legato in New Zealand 2011

The Wallace Gallery is the venue for the 2011 New Zealand exhibition of Legato. The Gala Opening (click here for link) was held on Friday 18th February and was enjoyed by a "full house" of enthusiastic visitors. The exhibition fills the Main Gallery and Legato works by Morrinsville born Sarah Scott spill over into the Matamata - Piako District Community Gallery.

The curator's presentation in the Wallace Arts Trust Gallery outlined the background to Legato and the future plans for its growth. Photographs and explanations gave further insight into selected pieces and the talk included an indepth look at works which remain in the permanent collection in Italy or which have been retained to show again in Cassino 2011.

New exhibitors include artist Gilmore Wall, sculptor Dave Roy (guest exhibitor), illustrator-artist Lisa Allen, writer Glenda Kane, poet Robert Sullivan, quilt artist Lois Wine, and artist Regan Balzer who is the guest artist at Cassino 2011. Regan has preliminary paintings for her Cassino works in the Morrinsville exhibition.

An evening of live Italian music was provided by Alison Ham of Papamoa (keyboard) and Garry Osborn of Tauranga (clarinet). Service clubs and volunteers served canapes and drinks and all three adjoining galleries were used for the evening. Extra seating was provided by service clubs and sports clubs to accommodate all the guests in the adjoining Wallace Gallery for the presentation. This was concluded with the viewing of Nicola Blackmore's "Legato at Cassino".

Guests from the Italy Star Association saw a different presentation which included more photos of Cassino and the surrounding area on the Saturday.

The exhibition continues in its present form until 16th March. Gallery director Charlotte Giblin and her assistants are available to discuss the works. Curator Kay de Lautour has returned to Italy to finalise details for Legato (Cassino) 2011.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Poppies for Peace

"Remember" (watercolour)
Sarah Scott, New Zealand portrait artist based in America, has chosen to represent the human aspect of war in her works for Legato. Sarah writes:
Both of my grandfathers served in the war and fought at Cassino. One of them lost his leg when serving in a tank brigade at Cassino, and the other, while sheltering in a dug-out behind Mt Trocchio, the Allied Observation Post, was buried alive. It's amazing to think of not only what strangers have gone through, but of what my own flesh and blood has endured.

The exhibition is in effort to remember the damage caused during the war and to continue forth with a message of peace. While it's very hard to imagine what the men and women went through at the time, I think it's very important that we try, and that we learn from our history.

I have submitted two works to the (Cassino) exhibition, 'Flowers From Rain' and 'Remember'. Rather than focus on a strong narrative background for my portraits I wanted to convey a story simply through facial emotion. The model I used was very different from my original concept but once I saw how expressive and haunted his eyes were, I knew I had to paint him. Of course I have included poppies in each work, to represent hope and peace, two things we must cling to whenever the world is dark and stormy.

"Flowers from Rain" (Watercolour)
For the New Zealand version of Legato at the Wallace Gallery in her home town of Morrinsville Sarah has painted a third portrait. She invites the viewer to join the young soldier in contemplating the bigger picture of the loss of life in battle, represented by the bed of poppies. This contrasts with the earlier work which references personal loss, and the first work which challenges the viewer to think about what he has seen, and to always remember those lost and the need for peace.

Rest in Peace

The mixed media works by Sally Blyth invoke images of the thousands of tombstones in war zones.

Sally's works, incorporating her own photographs, contain an irridescent paint that shows up only in certain angles. In the second exhibition (Roccasecca (FR) Italy) these works were surrounded by red cemetery memorial candles and this caught the gentle glow of the work. Combined with some spirtually evocative music by Hirini Melbourne this added a very special and haunting place of reverence at the end of the long gallery space.

Below: "Remembering" and "Remembrance"

Of her works in general Sally writes: Inspired by countries, their cultures and various eras of time, I love sourcing new ideas and materials, and devising innovative ways of interpreting and using them. I often incorporate my own photographic images into my work.

My aim is to evoke a sense of actually being in a particular place and time, rather than recreate an image which can be captured on camera. A symbol, a colour, a word, an image, an impression, a mood ... if the viewer can recall the feeling of being in that place; gain the desire to be there; experience that moment in time again ... then the art has done its work.

I use acrylics, oils, inks, woodstains, metallics and all sorts of mixed media in my work, on canvas and board, as well as more unusual backgrounds. Colour, texture and iridescence are important elements in my work, and by adding subtle touches and embellishments, I hope you will look beyond your first glance.

Interestingly enough the evocative nature of Sally's work in the ancient gallery space was itself almost impossible to catch by camera so is not recorded in images here.

Soldiers and Italian Civilians Remembered

Award-winning glass artist Lisa-Jane Harvey contributed three works to the Legato exhibitions. These are her works and text below:
In War we find Peace” (White cross with red angels)

Even in war Humanity can exist. During the battle of Monte Cassino in the third attack, the evening of March 16 1944 soldiers witnessed an evening of sheer terror and open war fare. The following day March 17th German and Allied forces put down their weapons and observed a temporary cease fire to assist the wounded and honour the those fallen. During the window of peace in such a savage battle soldiers shared cigarettes, exchanged stories and placed wagers on who would win the war.

The Red Cross is the symbol of humanity and peace in any war, it seeks respect for those fallen and wounded. Angels who guide those who have fallen and protect those who are wounded choose no sides, they offer compassion, they give us a message of Peace and Commemoration.

“In war we find Peace” seeks to invoke a sense of respect.

White cross fashioned from the Medal of St Benedict to honour the destruction of the Abbey
The Red Angels form the Red Cross symbol of humanity
The Red poppies honour the fallen soldiers on both sides from the battle
The Centre Angel is a Message of Peace and commemoration

Hand-crafted glass lamp-work rosaries:
Pray for our souls” (Red Rosary with Glass Cross)

Inspired by the beauty and significance of the Holy Rosary, “Pray for our Souls” seeks to honour and commemorate the thousands of women and children that were raped in the aftermath of Monte Cassino.

Montecassino was captured by the Allies on May 18, 1944. The next night, thousands of Goumiers and other colonial troops swarmed over the slopes of the hills surrounding the town and in the villages of Ciociaria (South Latium). Over 2,000 women, ranging in age from eleven to 86, suffered from violence, when village after village came under control of the Goumiers. Civilian men who tried to protect their wives and daughters were murdered without mercy. The number of men killed has been estimated at roughly 800.

The mayor of Esperia, a comune in the Province of Frosinone, reported that in his town, 700 women out of 2,500 inhabitants were raped and that some had died as a result. According to Italian sources, more than 7,000 Italian civilians, including women, children and some men, were raped by Goumiers
“Pray for our souls” seeks to not let this be forgotten

Our Father who art in Heaven” (White Rosary with Angel)
In prayer we find solace. “Our Father who art in Heaven” is a tribute to all soldiers throughout the history of time that have lost their lives and passed over. The Rosary is symbolic of the power of prayer and the Angel seeks to send a message to God to end all war and protect our future. This is a tribute to my Great Grandfather Samuel Cash, who fought in BOTH World Wars.

World War Two connections
Lisa-Jane’s great grandfather, Samuel Cash fought in World War and was present at the Battle of Dunkirk and part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Samuel was sent home with injuries after being evacuated. His stories of bravery, fear and loss from the high casualties in the war are a reminder of the many men who gave their lives in the fight for freedom and human rights.