Pukeahu: An Exploratory Anthology

A place-based anthology of waiata, poems, essays, and fiction about Pukeahu / Mt Cook, a small hill in Wellington, Aotearoa-New Zealand that rises between two streams.

Preface / He kupu whakataki

Welcome. Here two of the editors introduce the anthology and reflect on some of the thinking behind the project. Read more.

Embodied Archaeologies / Excavation Songs

Hinemoana Baker wrote the lyrics for a haka/waiata that names the mountains, iwi and hapū who occupied Te Aro Pā, in central Wellington and those who are still mana whenua today. It was first performed by several Wellington choirs at the Cuba Dupa Festival in 2014 celebrating the history, diversity and energy of Cuba Street. Read more.

When the National Museum and Art Gallery in Pukeahu were closed down in anticipation of the shift in 1998 to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, a temporary storage space in Buckle Street housed some of the objects waiting for their new home. Photographer, Aberhart was given access to this storage space where he took a series of haunting photographs. ‘Orca skull’ is from Aberhart (2007). Aberhart's photographs meditate on our culture and the passing of time and observe those things that remain. View image.

Angela Kilford, Te Whānau A Kai, Ngāti Porou, Ngati Kahungunu, is an artist based in Wellington. Her practice investigates memory, memorialisation and landscape. Recent projects, including her MFA work in the College of Creative Arts at Massey, demonstrate a keen interest in contested memories within specific sites and seek to elevate oral histories as a means of recording the past. In this essay Kilford writes about her experience of visiting Pukeahu National War Memorial Park multiple times. She combines her experience as an artist guiding people around the park with reflections of the site's history and her own connection with the land. Read more.

Lena Fransham is a Massey University student living in Wellington. Her essay Arrows responds to her experience of researching for this anthology on a summer Pukeahu scholarship, following on from a paper in creative nonfiction. She explores problems of place and identity, moving through spaces and stories that have shaped her understanding of, and her relationship with, Pukeahu / Mount Cook. Read more.

Contesting Histories / The Stream that Runs Under

'Main staircase, National Museum and Art Gallery, 1996' is part of Te Papa Tongarewa's Collections Online. It captures the atmosphere of quiet reverence for the taonga of Aotearoa New Zealand present in the old National Museum and Art Gallery at the apex of Pukeahu / Mount Cook. View image.

Bill Manhire is a New Zealand poet and fiction writer. He was Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington until his retirement in 2013. His poem 'After the Movie' is a strange, evocative and musical meditation on icons and iconography, including the New Zealand War Memorial Carillon. The poem appears in his collection Lifted (2005). Read more.

Elsdon Best was a prolific ethnographer who contributed to the recording of Māori tradition. In 1910 he was appointed as ethnologist at the Dominion Museum. Drawing largely on the teachings of the Wairarapa tohunga Moihi Te Matorohanga, The Land of Tara and They Who Settled It includes an account of the invasion of a Ngai Tara pa, Uruhau. This excerpt, first published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1917, offers glimpses into the significance of Pukeahu to the earliest residents of the area. Read more.

'Tomb of the Unknown Warrior' and 'Naming the Unknown Warriors' are from Rachel Buchanan's The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget (2010) which documents Buchanan's research into her family's Taranaki and Te Āti Awa ancestries and the histories connected with them. These pieces visit the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and the National War Memorial on Pukeahu / Mount Cook, calling to light forgotten histories and examining the cultural agendas at work in our selective national remembrances. Read more.

Robin Peace is an Associate Professor at Massey University's School of People, Environment and Planning. She leads the wider Pukeahu research project, of which this anthology forms a part. Her poem 'Dawn contra dicts' is a reflection on the dawn blessing ceremony for Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on ANZAC day 2015, and the many histories of the area. Read more.

The Wellington War Memorial Carillon is a 51 metre tall tower at the centre of the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Pukeahu / Mount Cook. The Carillon was built in 1932 with 49 bells, each with a name and dedication inscription as seen in this booklet of the bells and their inscriptions, published in 1932. The Carillon now has 74 bells, including the 'Peace' bell, which is the largest carillon bell in the Southern Hemisphere. Read more.

Lynn Davidson is a poet, fiction writer and creative writing teacher. She undertook a PhD in Creative Writing at Massey University and is one of the editors of this anthology. The poem 'Drift' references the stream that runs under the Carillon. It imagines the sound of this hidden stream rising up from underground to play a different music. Read more.

Confinement / Arrows in the Bricks

There is a particular sadness in this image of a solitary albatross inhabiting a hard bench rather than the sky (from Aberhart 2007). View image.

In the 1870s and 1880s Taranaki prisoners were brought to Wellington from Parihaka, the centre of a peaceful resistance movement led by Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. This excerpt from important Māori novelist Witi Ihimaera's The Parihaka Woman (2011) describes a group of characters, led by Te Wheoro, visiting the gaol at Pukeahu. They are there to enquire after three prisoners who were transported with the original 170 men brought from Parihaka. Read more.

Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington in 1888. This excerpt comes from her short story, 'Ole Underwood', which first appeared in 1913 in the London literary journal Rhythm. Inspired by her memories of the notorious Wellington personality George Underwood, the story's images of the prison on the hill evoke the Mount Cook prison that loomed over the Wellington of Mansfield's childhood. Read more.

In 1916, Archibald Baxter (father of poet James K. Baxter) refused to fight in the First World War on the grounds that 'all war is wrong, futile, and destructive alike to victor and vanquished.' As punishment, Baxter was imprisoned in various locations around New Zealand. The following passages are from his book We Will Not Cease (1939) and detail his time first at Alexandra Barracks in Wellington then at Mount Cook Prison. Read more.

David McGill is a social historian who provides a glimpse into the military history of Mount Cook in these passages from The Compleat Cityscapes (2012). From the first troops of the 96th Regiment in 1843 to the Royal Tiger Hotel, to the first glimmerings of the location as the site for a university in 1901, McGill paints an interesting picture of military life in Pukeahu. He also explores the unrivalled quality of the prison-made bricks, and muses over the unique architecture of the Mount Cook Police Barracks on Tasman Street. Read more.

Pat Lawlor was a journalist, editor, author and poet. He was born in 1893, grew up on Cuba Street and went to Mount Cook school. His memories of growing up in the area were shaped by seeing prisoners marching through the area which he notes in his diary in 1901. 'February 3...Saw the prisoners again...' Read more.

Inhabiting Pukeahu / Roads, Children, Bicycles

Māori figures stand on a road, probably Tory Street or nearby, with the harbour in the background, flax on either side of the road. On the right can be seen a windmill (probably Simmonds' and Hoggard's flourmill) and the lower slopes of Mount Victoria. View image.

The moreporks in this image (from Aberhart 2007) seem to return the viewer's gaze. Read more.

Robin Hyde was born as Iris Wilkinson in Cape Town in 1906 and moved to Wellington with her family as a baby. She went on to become an important novelist, poet, and journalist. In this passage from her autobiographical novel, The Godwits Fly (1938), Hyde vividly evokes what life around Pukeahu / Mount Cook was like for a young family in the early decades of the twentieth century, as well as a sense of the associations of nearby Newtown, Melrose, and Haining Street. Read more.

Alison Wong is a New Zealander of Chinese descent. Her novel As the Earth Turns Silver (2009), set in the Mount Cook / Te Aro area of Wellington, portrays a relationship between a Chinese immigrant and a New Zealand European woman in the early twentieth century, the era of the poll tax and of the notorious white supremacist Lionel Terry, who murdered a Chinese man in Haining Street in 1905. Unlike the Haining Street imagined by the characters in Hyde's Little Houses, Haining Street in this excerpt is a place to go for 'soupy wontons and noodles.' Read more.

Tim Beaglehole's A Life of J. C. Beaglehole (2006), includes an account of his historian father's early years growing up on Hopper Street and attending Mount Cook School. This excerpt describes John and his brothers attending school and enjoying a warm extended family life. It also reflects on the political atmosphere of the times, including how Mount Cook school was taken over to house the special constables during the 1913 waterfront strike. Read more.

David Lee grew up on Hopper Street. His family memoir This is not a Dummy Run includes this article from the Evening Post — June 21, 1954 — where his father, Ted Lee, recounts how a tram driver suffered a heart attack, causing the tram to lose control and crash into the Kwok's fruit and vegetable shop on Webb Street. The tram driver and a woman who attempted to put on the handbrake both died in the crash. Read more.

My Brilliant Suburb (1985), David McGill and Grant Tilly's collection of drawings and articles about Wellington, features broadcaster Peter Harcourt's account of the shifting image and character of Mount Cook and his own changing relationship with his home suburb over time. Read more.

In this piece, Massey creative nonfiction student Oscar Mein reflects on another 1950s collision in Mount Cook (see David Lee's story on the tram crash). This time on Tasman Street at the corner by the Police Barracks, between a Ford truck and a Delage car. Read more.

Janis Freegard is a Wellington poet and fiction writer. Her character, Alice Spider, first appeared in AUP New Poets 3 (2008). This poem vividly describes eighties underground culture in and around Mount Cook. Read more.

Poet, author and playwright, Vivienne Plumb, was a Mount Cook resident for many years in the 1980s and 1990s. The poem 'To the Woman who Bought my House' describes the complexity of selling her family home in Mount Cook where so much personal history resides. Read more.

Migrations / The Gathering Place of Eels

Mounted albatross create an unsettling approximation of flight in this image from Aberhart (2007). View image.

Alf Rune's blogs, detailing his walks through greater Wellington, have been posted by The Wellingtonista since 2011. 'Notional Significance: Resistance' follows Rune (aka Thomas Beard) as he walks in and around Mount Cook, Te Aro, the Basin Reserve, and the 'ever hungry motorway' that encircles or divides those places. As he walks he reflects on a history of protest, persecution, and the ghost of Wellington past. Read more.

Thomas Aitken is in his final year of studying Expressive Arts and Journalism at Massey University and spent his summer working on the Pukeahu project via a summer research scholarship. This piece fuses together writing and drawing to guide the reader on a late night stroll through the streets of Wellington, ANZAC day 2015. Read more.

Lynn Jenner is a writer who blends poetry, fiction and nonfiction in her collections Dear Sweet Harry (2010) and Lost and Gone Away (2015). Lynn has written extensively about the Holocaust from a New Zealand perspective. In 'Thinking about Waves' Lynn describes thinking about contemporary 'waves' of immigrants to New Zealand and Australia while visiting Holocaust museums in those countries. This excerpt from the essay mentions the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand on Webb Street, Mount Cook. Along with preserving the voices and memories of survivors, the museum presents talks and exhibitions, such as the 'Auschwitz to Aotearoa' exhibition about nine Jewish women who survived Auschwitz to make a life for themselves in Aotearoa New Zealand. Read more.

Alice Te Punga Somerville (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki) was born in Wellington, raised in Auckland and currently teaches Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. Her research is about locating, contextualising, and analysing texts written by Māori, Pacific and Indigenous people. Her first book was Once Were Pacific: Māori connections to Oceania (2012). In 'Culvert: the slipperiness of place' Alice reflects on eels that continue to swim through streams, visible and hidden, despite the contested and changing arrangements of place. Read more.

Hinemoana Baker wrote the lyrics for a haka/waiata that names the mountains, iwi and hapū who occupied Te Aro Pā, in central Wellington and those who are still mana whenua today. It was first performed by several Wellington choirs at the Cuba Dupa Festival in 2014 celebrating the history, diversity and energy of Cuba Street. Read more.

Image Gallery

Pukeahu / Mt Cook has been imagined and represented in paintings and photographs for at least the past two centuries. Our image gallery collects the largely photographic images presented with the pieces of writing within the anthology, and presents them here in chronological order, as representations of moments and places in time. The gallery also includes a number of additional contemporary photographs. View images.