The LUX Light Festival of Wellington has ended. Over 10 nights, thousands of visitors came to watch an ever-changing play of light and dark in a series of sculptures and installations around the city.
I spent last weekend in Wellington, visiting friends and enjoying the LUX Light Festival; a free public event that attracts thousands of people onto the streets and waterfront area to enjoy clever, whimsical and creative light sculptures.
LUX is incredibly family-friendly; the works are easily accessible and there are performances, activities, street food, and a range of glow-in-the-dark merchandise (including ice-cream) to delight kids.
On Tuesday as I waited for my flight home, news of the Manchester Arena bomb began to appear. By the time I reached Auckland, it was known that people had died, amongst them children.
With each terror attack, each mass-shooting and atrocity that occurs in the world, I struggle to comprehend how anyone can feel enough hatred and anger to knowingly kill and maim complete strangers going about their day-to-day lives.
I think of the people who rugged up and went out to enjoy street art, and of the people who dressed up and went to a pop concert; of those whose memories are of a fun night out, and those whose lives were taken or forever damaged.
Festivals, concerts, public events; these things are essential to the fabric of our communities. They build and strengthen the bonds between us though the sharing of food, music, art and fun. That they seem increasingly a target for terrorism, is worrying. If we become too afraid to go out and share in the joy and camaraderie of public events, we lose not only personal happiness, but community strength.
Yet in adversity people do come together, looking for ways to connect with our shared culture and common humanity. Manchester’s Tony Walsh has shown how art is integral to this, reading his poem, This is the Place at a vigil for the Manchester Arena victims.
Today is International Museum Day (IMD). Museums and art galleries have always been amongst my happy places — oases of culture, history and learning. Places to make discoveries, to connect with the past, and to dream.
The theme of this year’s IMD is “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums.” According to the International Council of Museums:
This theme focuses on the role of museums that, by working to benefit society, become hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people. It also highlights how the acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation. Media release for launch of IMD: ICoM, May 18, 2017
Like most cultural institutions, museums have traditionally represented culture and heritage from a particular perspective — that of the society’s dominant groups. Women, ethnic and religious minorities, and members of various sub-cultures have tended to find our stories either absent, or told through a lens not our own.
Definitions of “culture” are themselves contested, and in fact I can remember a time in New Zealand when there was widespread popular debate about whether this country could be said to have “a culture” — and if so, of what it might consist.
In 1980, Kiwi band, The Knobz, released the song, Culture, in response to then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s assertion that pop music was not “culture.”
Thankfully, New Zealand, and the culture sector has moved on a bit.
I hope that this year’s Museum Appreciation Day theme will encourage both dialogue, and popular engagement with cultures, heritage and museums.
And ok: I’m trying to cover a few bases with this post:
Apologies to those who have seen this photo before, but when I think of how joyous solitude can be, it is to be alone with my thoughts before great art.