From One Millennium to the Next - From Polynesia to Aotearoa to NZ
To celebrate the new millennium, Jil of Aotearoa was commissioned to paint a mural for our school. This is the story of the design as told by Jil Sergent...
"About 260 hours of painting ago I began my millennium challenge - to
paint the history of my country - Aotearoa - from one millennium to the
next. Beginning 800 AD with the arrival of the Polynesians - Kupe and
his wife Hine Te Aparangi and the 12 waka. Through much discussion,
much study and even more worry, I made decisions about what was and
wasn't significant in the last 1000 years. Of course a lot cannot be
depicted within 18 metres and the budget. Decisions were based on my
ideas of the children's level of understanding and interest. Positive
and significant events rather than specific people - though some people
have been depicted and several disasters. New Zealand and New
Zealanders have been through a lot, in a hurry over the last 2
centuries. And if the past wasn't hard enough to decide upon, try
predicting the future - 2 square metres of it!
The first 16 metres speak for themselves - Kupe and Hine te Aparangi,
Abel Tasman, Captain Cook, Whalers, Missionaries, Settlers, Trade, land
wars, felling our primeval forests, developing farm land and social
structures and economics.
The two metres of 'future' is more symbolic and open to interpretation. I wanted this section to focus on education and growth of people and planet - communication, tolerance and understanding of our ever increasingly diverse cultures.
The sunrise 2000 - a bright outlook for a new day, a new millennium, a new beginning. A less than clear Hei Tiki is in the sun plus three times earlier in the mural because Hei Tiki is a very ancient symbol of the sun god from many cultures including New Zealand's first culture - the Waitaha. Hei Tiki is now entering his third millennium.
A male from the older generation holds the youngest generation up to the sky to reach for the stars (Southern Cross) - a gesture of support for the future. Whilst reaching for the future this youngest generation also fishes up New Zealand with a giant fish hook as Maui did so long ago. This multicultural child rediscovers and redefines New Zealand, built on a sound understanding of past generations and their beliefs, successes and failures
Over the sunrise flies a gannet carrying a pohutukawa branch in her beak - a NZ version of peace - one world, one heart.
The long white cloud of Aotearoa travels along the entire 18 metres.
Below the horizon we see the flame of 'human rights' symbol and the shaking of hands in a paua patterned ocean. This is about culture vs culture vs culture. ALL cultures need to unite to create one future, a unified future. No single culture in Aotearoa should be shown more importance, preference or favouritism than any other. Our small and precious country is perhaps the last place on earth to stir the 'melting pot' of cultures - let's do it with a grateful attitude and a happy heart.
Then to the Oystercatcher approaching the book stack of knowledge - 'the world is my oyster'. A computer mouse on top of the stack is just another means to obtain knowledge. Old versus new, script versus screen... Doesn't matter how you obtain good knowledge as long as you learn and grow and balance past with present, people with planet.
The DOC symbol in the native bush is about preserving our natural treasures, which still remain. Conservation needs to be a priority. The rock drawing pebble - something old. The wee alien - something new (maybe).
The final totem depicts the five main cultures that have and will be Aotearoa - Ancient NZ Celts, Waitaha, Maori, European,19th Century Celtic (Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English), Asian, Pacific Island - our multi-cultural stack of past and present. The base stone of the Waitaha with the spiral of eternal life, eternal growth. The female Poutokomanawa of the Maori to convey strength, status and dignity, is painted here by me representing my hope for a more female, child, family orientated future, moving away from the male, war, money, profit of the past.
Oak leaves, symbol of Frimley School. Knowledge is power. Education is the future.
Many people have shared with me their knowledge of NZ and their personal experiences in NZ history. Even the children had a lot to share, especially their lunches - with my good guard and company, Ruby, the hefty white moon dog.
This has been my largest and most intense mural to date. I had very little NZ history in my school education. This crash course of not only information, but priorities, has been a wild ride of me against time, weather, budget, conflicting facts, relevance, order, extremely close and talkative children and a very exciting and meaningful conclusion to my millennium.
P.S. And always in the background - where, when, how to fit the Waitaha and Ancient Celts, without being too 'culturally insensitive' to those who would deny their existence". - Jil of Aotearoa, 2003.
Artist: Jil Sergent, Jil of Aotearoa