Humans are diurnal creatures; we operate in the daytime and rely on vision as one of our principal senses (if not THE principal sense). For that we need light. Arguably, our ability to create light – fire, candles, electric lamps – has transformed human culture, allowing us to work, play, create during the hours when the Earth is naturally dark.
Light is one of the oldest, most powerful and most pervasive symbols. It can invoke knowledge, enlightenment, spirituality, purity and the divine. We use the word “enlighten” to mean sharing or imparting knowledge – literally to shed light upon. Religious teachers speak of spreading light in darkness. It has also been co-opted to underpin centuries of racist oppression and discrimination in the contrast of “light” and “dark” skin.
In New Zealand, as in much of the world, we take light for granted. Our electricity supply is reliable and largely affordable. For how long -who knows? But it does mean that light has become decorative; we illuminate buildings and structures because it looks good and we can.
Sometimes we illuminate buildings to share more than beauty. For a few days around the 25th April, the Auckland War Memorial Museum stages the Anzac Illuminations; with archival footage of New Zealand’s war stories projected onto the facade of the Museum. Hundreds of Aucklanders visit on each nights of the illuminations. We take blankets and cushions, picnics, friends and children and we watch a few moments of silent film played against one of city’s iconic buildings. It is part of the way we remember those who have served in the many conflicts our small, relatively young country has been involved in.
And here are some other posts on the theme that I’ve enjoyed: