Mo Te Empepaea - For the Empire

JULY 3, 1916: Part of MoTe Emepaea (For The Empire), an exhibition that centres on Maori Pioneer Battalion serviceman Tawhai Tamepo’s 100-year-old war diaries, is a striking lino cut by painter and printmaker Gabrielle Belz who has based her imagery on extracts from the diaries. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

EVOCATIVE entries in Maori Pioneer Battalion serviceman Tawhai Tamepo’s 100-year-old war diaries provided rich material for a range of artists to create works for an exhibition that opens tonight at Tairawhiti Museum.

Called Mo Te Emepaea (For The Empire) — a play on Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener’s finger-pointing reminder to the Commonwealth “your country needs you” — the show includes works based on Tamepo’s diaries as well as works that take war in general as their theme.

“The exhibition came out of an idea from my father Ereatara (Eric) Tamepo,” says the show’s curator Erina Tamepo.

When Ereatara Tamepo received his father’s World War 1 diaries, he wondered what to do with them. After a discussion with his art teacher Ruth Cole, he and Cole decided to create an exhibition based around them.

Tawhai Tamepo never discussed the war with his family, says Ereatara in his exhibition notes.

“When I read his words it opened up all of that aspect of the war that he hadn’t talked about. Suddenly it all became real.

“I began to think how appropriate it would be to base an art exhibition on his diary entries. It was never to be just about my father, but for all of those who went across to the Pioneer Maori Battalion.”

At the entrance to the exhibition is a pou, the last carving artist Cliff Whiting was working on before he passed away in July. The desk and seat Erina Tamepo’s grandfather used when he transcribed his war diaries from small exercise books to the diaries he left for his whanau also feature in the show, as do typed up transcriptions of some of Tawhai’s well-written entries.

Painter and printmaker Gabrielle Belz’s two striking lino-cuts are based on incidents described in the diaries.

Puha for Lunch is an illustration of an incident Tawhai described on May 29, 1916, when he and other men in his work detail broke for lunch. They found the cook had prepared for them a feed of puha seasoned with fat stolen from the company QM.

“We even had beautiful plates and cups to decorate our table.”

The other print illustrates a scene in which, accompanied by Sergeant Rota Waipara of Gisborne, Tawhai tossed a couple of grenades into a river. The hundreds of stunned minnow or herrings that floated to the surface provided “a rare and welcome entry on our menu.”

“The method we adopted of obtaining these delicacies had to be kept undercover for fear of a court martial. Fish appeared on the menu for several days afterwards.”

Contributors to the exhibition are June Grant (Te Arawa), Jean Stewart (Te Whanau a Aotearoa), the late Dr Cliff Whiting(Te Whanau a Apanui), Sandy Adsett (Pahauwera), Derek Lardelli (Ngati Kanohi, Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata), Gabrielle Belz (Ngapuhi, Te Ati Awa), Steve Gibbs (Ngai Tamanuhiri), Baye Riddell (Ngati Porou), Grant Hall (Te Whanau a Aotearoa), Ruth Cole (Te Whanau a Aotearoa), Linda Pirimona (Te Ati Awa, Taranaki, Ngati Maru), Hoana Forrester (Ngati Porou/Tuhoe Great Granddaughter of Tawhai) and Ereatara Tamepo (Te Whanau a Iritekura).

The last word here belongs to Tawhai in this poignant, beautifully written, diary entry from November 1, 1918.

Armistice Day.
“La Guerre fini. News comes through that the war is over. No one seems to be excited. The distant roar of exploding mines could be heard. We had no pub near so there was no place to go and celebrate. I saw a few old French couples going to a church nearby. I followed them into the church and knelt with them, thanking God that all was over and peace had come.

“In bigger centres and cities there was rejoicing but in our little village there was no yelling or jubilation. An extra rum ration was dished out to everyone in the company.”

EVOCATIVE entries in Maori Pioneer Battalion serviceman Tawhai Tamepo’s 100-year-old war diaries provided rich material for a range of artists to create works for an exhibition that opens tonight at Tairawhiti Museum.

Called Mo Te Emepaea (For The Empire) — a play on Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener’s finger-pointing reminder to the Commonwealth “your country needs you” — the show includes works based on Tamepo’s diaries as well as works that take war in general as their theme.

“The exhibition came out of an idea from my father Ereatara (Eric) Tamepo,” says the show’s curator Erina Tamepo.

When Ereatara Tamepo received his father’s World War 1 diaries, he wondered what to do with them. After a discussion with his art teacher Ruth Cole, he and Cole decided to create an exhibition based around them.

Tawhai Tamepo never discussed the war with his family, says Ereatara in his exhibition notes.

“When I read his words it opened up all of that aspect of the war that he hadn’t talked about. Suddenly it all became real.

“I began to think how appropriate it would be to base an art exhibition on his diary entries. It was never to be just about my father, but for all of those who went across to the Pioneer Maori Battalion.”

At the entrance to the exhibition is a pou, the last carving artist Cliff Whiting was working on before he passed away in July. The desk and seat Erina Tamepo’s grandfather used when he transcribed his war diaries from small exercise books to the diaries he left for his whanau also feature in the show, as do typed up transcriptions of some of Tawhai’s well-written entries.

Painter and printmaker Gabrielle Belz’s two striking lino-cuts are based on incidents described in the diaries.

Puha for Lunch is an illustration of an incident Tawhai described on May 29, 1916, when he and other men in his work detail broke for lunch. They found the cook had prepared for them a feed of puha seasoned with fat stolen from the company QM.

“We even had beautiful plates and cups to decorate our table.”

The other print illustrates a scene in which, accompanied by Sergeant Rota Waipara of Gisborne, Tawhai tossed a couple of grenades into a river. The hundreds of stunned minnow or herrings that floated to the surface provided “a rare and welcome entry on our menu.”

“The method we adopted of obtaining these delicacies had to be kept undercover for fear of a court martial. Fish appeared on the menu for several days afterwards.”

Contributors to the exhibition are June Grant (Te Arawa), Jean Stewart (Te Whanau a Aotearoa), the late Dr Cliff Whiting(Te Whanau a Apanui), Sandy Adsett (Pahauwera), Derek Lardelli (Ngati Kanohi, Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata), Gabrielle Belz (Ngapuhi, Te Ati Awa), Steve Gibbs (Ngai Tamanuhiri), Baye Riddell (Ngati Porou), Grant Hall (Te Whanau a Aotearoa), Ruth Cole (Te Whanau a Aotearoa), Linda Pirimona (Te Ati Awa, Taranaki, Ngati Maru), Hoana Forrester (Ngati Porou/Tuhoe Great Granddaughter of Tawhai) and Ereatara Tamepo (Te Whanau a Iritekura).

The last word here belongs to Tawhai in this poignant, beautifully written, diary entry from November 1, 1918.

Armistice Day.
“La Guerre fini. News comes through that the war is over. No one seems to be excited. The distant roar of exploding mines could be heard. We had no pub near so there was no place to go and celebrate. I saw a few old French couples going to a church nearby. I followed them into the church and knelt with them, thanking God that all was over and peace had come.

“In bigger centres and cities there was rejoicing but in our little village there was no yelling or jubilation. An extra rum ration was dished out to everyone in the company.”

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