NZ's dark chapter showcased

Tauranga Art Gallery's powerful exhibition ‘Number One Field Punishment' by Wellington-based artist and book illustrator Bob Kerr showcases a dark chapter in New Zealand's involvement in World War I.

It shows the abuse endured by Archibald Baxter (the Father of poet James K Baxter), as well as 13 other New Zealanders, who were all shipped to WWI against their will, for refusing to carry out war work.

Painting by Bob Kerr shows Archibald Baxter enduring field punishment.

'They were punished, tied on to poles, strapped so firmly their circulation was cut off and then left out in the freezing cold,” says Tauranga art gallery director Penelope Jackson.

The artworks, small and large, include portraits of the entire group of men, images of them strapped to poles and 'The Waitamata” - the ship that took them to WWI.

Each painting is accompanied by a quotation from Archibald's autobiography ‘We will not cease'.

Penelope says it's not just an 'art on the wall type of exhibition,” but there's a sound scape too.

'You get the harrowing sounds of bleakness of what it was like to be actually strapped to one of the poles. You get this eerie wind noise around you.”

Those who visit the exhibition can walk along 'The Duckwalk” - a chaotic assemblage of planks where the conscientious objectors were daily dragged to be tied to the poles.

The emotional exhibition, which finishes June 8, has been very popular amongst locals and some weren't aware this cruel punishment happened, says Penelope.

'People were also very taken by the beauty of the works and the sound scape really makes it an all-round experience.”


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