Entrenchments – War commemorations in New Zealand

Julian Peters interprets a war diary entry from Lt. Col. William Malone.

A sample of Julian’s work.

Dr Sydney Shep, Director of the Wai-te-Ata Press, talks about her inspiration for the event.

The exhibition launch was well attended.

High Commissioner Caroline Chrétien notes New Zealand’s and Canada’s contribution at Gallipoli.

April 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) forces landing in Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I.

To commemorate this occasion, numerous events were held throughout New Zealand, including the unveiling of a new national war memorial and the launch of two large-scale, interactive museum exhibitions. The High Commission of Canada in New Zealand was proud to contribute to the commemorations by supporting the “Entrenchments 2015” project, in partnership with Victoria University of Wellington’s Wai-te-Ata Press and New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation.

Flanders Fields remix

Canadian officer John McCrae was inspired to write the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” after the burial service of a fellow officer during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium in May 1915. The poppies referenced in the poem have become one of the most recognised symbols of fallen soldiers in Canada; New Zealand and across the Commonwealth, worn in the lead-up to Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day.

Throughout the month, experts; artists and students from the Entrenchments 2015 project contributed to a series of miniature zines on campus and translated “In Flanders Fields” into several languages, including the indigenous language of New Zealand, Māori.

Artistic reflections

Two artists-in-residence at the university made an important contribution to the artistic output of the Entrenchments 2015 project: Canadian comic artist Julian Peters and New Zealand-based creative writer and graphic designer Sarah Laing.

Julian Peters, who is based in Montréal, has a background in adapting historical narratives and classic poems into comics. During his time at the university, he created daily glass panel sketches of life on the front lines, based on excerpts from the war diary of Lt. Col. William Malone, commanding officer of the Wellington Battalion at Gallipoli. He also re-imagined McCrae’s poem as a graphic novel and drafted drawings in response to a selection of poetry from New Zealand Poet Laureate Vincent O’Sullivan.

For Entrenchments, Sarah Laing illustrated excerpts from New Zealand author Patricia Grace’s Tu, a novel that follows the journey of a young man who joins the Māori battalion. Alongside this effort, she also produced comics and posters based on fragments of Ms. Grace’s work. A short radio piece was broadcast on Radio New Zealand while the project was underway.   

Entrenchments exhibition

The month of artistic endeavours culminated in an exhibition launch, featuring all the work produced by those involved in the project. The Dean of the University’s Humanities department officially opened the exhibition, while Ms. Grace and the two artists in residence took part in a panel discussion on their work. High Commissioner Caroline Chrétien acknowledged the role that the Gallipoli campaign has played in shaping New Zealand’s history and identity and Canada’s contribution to the campaign, notably the role of the Newfoundland Regiment.

The High Commission of Canada in New Zealand was proud to contribute to this memorial initiative, and will continue to honour the Canadian men and women who served during the First World War.