Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Word of Mouth - and a Challenge.

Legato continues to spread its message. Despite the extensive newspaper, internet and television advertising in the province in April and May, the ongoing interest in Legato continuing into August proves that the best advertising is always word of mouth. Visitors are continuing to book appointments to see the exhibition over the relentlessly hot summer, and I am sure that is not because the gallery is a cool oasis in a scorched land. Recently while in New Zealand I received a phonecall from Italy, from a repeat visitor who had requested another viewing of Legato and wanted to comment on the different emotional power of the exhibition in the new venue.

Here in New Zealand three veteran soldiers looked at the exhibition photos and remembered, chatted, discussed many aspects of their time in Italy, and expressed their appreciation of the Cassino exhibition. Fingers lingered on the photograph showing Merv Appleton's work, the grave marked with the rifle having personal meaning for each of them.

A caller from Wellington shared with me comments from the Maori community who were grateful that their fallen were remembered in the exhibition. And so it goes on. It is now almost three months since the opening and it is still being discussed both in New Zealand and in Italy.

Another visit, where friends were talking about an article in the Waikato Times featuring Sarah Scott's contribution to Legato, saw a very animated and wide-ranging discussion about war, peace, and the current situation in Afghanistan. Dave Fowell's work was the most appropriate to discuss in that context, and it continues to spread its message from its lofty home in the historic Italian village. The conversation was passionate, and the word that stays with me from that conversation is "avarice". Our hostess very emphatically attributed the power struggles causing conflict to greed, unequal distribution of resources and love of power.

Now that New Zealand has lost a soldier in Afghanistan on active duty it is timely to remind ourselves that commemoration and respect is not enough. To truly honour our fallen we must not allow their sacrifices to be in vain. Those artists who choose to work for peace must make that step, from the exhibition at Cassino, to "making work that reflects today's conflicts, today's victims, today's political status." (author, Legato depliant, 2010). One "artist" doing exactly this is Lucy Adlington, in her novel for teenagers based on the Battle of Cassino, Burning Mountain. Others include New Zealanders Glenda Kane and Lisa Allen with their sensitively illustrated and poignant story, Anzac Day Parade. These artists and writers are using their time, talents, skills and creativity with real purpose, and in doing so are truly making a difference.

Another book that must be mentioned is Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. One person with drive and vision really can change lives.