Gallipoli: The Scale of our War – A Te Papa Exhibition, New Zealand

Harriet Lodge, November 26, 2018

New Zealand

I have just completed an eight-month sabbatical travelling in New Zealand. As a member of Alchemy’s Fine Art Team, I found I couldn’t keep away from the art world for too long. Whilst exploring the ‘land of the long white cloud’, I visited various museums and galleries, enjoying cultural and local artworks. One exhibition really resonated with me; Te Papa’s ‘Gallipoli: The Scale of our War.’ This piece is particularly relevant to this year’s First World War Centenary.

Gallipoli: The scale of our war

Te Papa is situated in Wellington, New Zealand’s ‘windy city’. As the national museum of New Zealand, Te Papa offers plenty of exhibitions focusing heavily on the history of the Pacific peoples. Remembering the Battle of Gallipoli, the ‘Scale of our War’ exhibition explores the journey of eight ordinary New Zealanders caught in extraordinary situations.

Weta Workshop

The exhibition also exhibits 2.4 times life-size models. These were strikingly realistic - from hairs on their fingers to beads of sweat on their foreheads, the models are so accurate (apart from their size) you’d be pushed to believe they weren’t real without someone standing next to them for scale. This realism has been crafted by the world-famous Weta Workshop (the special effects studio behind the Lord of the Rings and other blockbuster films).

24,000 hours

It took over 24,000 hours to painstakingly scale and project to create the perfect proportions of each character. My favourite was Charlotte Le Gallais, a seated nurse reading letters whilst silently crying. The tear rolling down her cheek captured her heartache as she realised letters she had sent her brother at war had all been returned. The only woman within the eight characters, she represents every non-military person doing their part for the war effort.

Sincere Reality

Emotion is prominent in all of the models presented. The characters or scenes are situated in their own space, with blacked out backgrounds and spotlights illuminating their faces. Some characters' voices can be heard whilst viewing the pieces. The diary pages that flicker on the black backscreens show excerpts from real diaries. Their words echo as the characters stand still. Nothing distracts your attention and the sincere reality of their situations is overwhelming.

NZD$8 million

The exhibition presents soldiers injured in war, comrades fighting together, and the loss experienced by thousands during only one battle. ‘The Scale of our War,’ is more than apt at describing the effect of those involved or lost during The Great War. The exhibition cost NZD$8 million to produce (approx. £4 million) and is free to enter. Before you get to the models the exhibition provides a timeline of events, clothes and original documents from the Battle.

Educating the young

Te Papa has suggested that the exhibition also provides education for younger visitors. They stated that 37% of their visitors have been between the ages of fifteen to thirty-four. The younger generation also suggested that the exhibition helped them to get a more realistic interpretation of the Battle, helping them to understand the more human element.

Sensory trench

Also in Wellington, Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, developed a sister exhibition to work alongside Te Papa’s, ‘The Great War Exhibition.’ Jackson’s sensory trench experience combines the smells, sights and sounds of fighting from a trench in Gallipoli. Not only will visitors coming from Te Papa get a sense of what fighting was like, but they’ll also be able to imagine the characters they’ve just witnessed living in these conditions.

They Shall Not Grow Old

This exhibition costs $15 to enter (£7.50) but with that, you have the option of a full guided tour through a replica trench. The exhibition also boasts full-colour pictures forgotten from wartime, bringing the past to life. UK viewers may also be aware of Peter Jackson’s WW1 documentary ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ which aired on the BBC on Remembrance Sunday 2018 to mark the centenary.

Hand coloured footage

2.1 million people tuned in to watch original black and white footage transformed into glorious technicolour; bringing those captured on film back to life. Each frame of the film was treated by experts whom I believe are artists in their own right; hand-colouring the footage to allow the audience to truly see the war through authentically coloured lenses. New Zealand has contributed massively to the memorial of both of the great wars.

One hundred years

Whilst remembering the Centenary of WWI, it’s not only important to wear your poppy and uphold the minutes’ silence, but also to educate yourself about the war and how many people were involved. Te Papa’s ‘Gallipoli: The Scale of our War,’ and Jackson’s ‘The Great War Exhibition,’ both provide excellent experiences for all age groups to really become involved in memories spanning one hundred years and to appreciate the scale of our war.

Written by Harriet Lodge - Recruitment Resourcer - Fine Art & Gallery Services at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

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