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Another woke leftie after our culture and history

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Kiwiana is past its use-by date. Is it time to re-imagine our symbols of national identity?

By Katie Pickles, Professor of History, University of Canterbury

What’s with those jandals, hokey pokey ice-creams, buzzy bees, Swanndris and gumboots? Far from being random and unrelated objects, these icons of so-called Kiwiana tell a story of late 20th-century nostalgia at a moment of rapid social transformation.

Definitions of Kiwiana vary and the term is widely applied to objects, expressions and pastimes that evoke a sense of national identity. But, as sociologist Claudia Bell has argued, it’s an identity where Pākehā culture is dominant.

When including Indigenous content, Kiwiana has occupied a largely aesthetic and apolitical place. The focus has been on flora and fauna, such as the kiwi itself, the silver fern, koru and pāua shell. Māori incorporation within Kiwiana involves myth-making, traditional costumes and objects such as kete, poi and tiki.

In the 2020s, then, Kiwiana is arguably no longer fit for purpose in a diverse, decolonising nation. Yet these relic symbols persist, part of art and culture in schools and still selling products.

Comfort in times of anxiety

When Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, New Zealand lost its major trading partner and status as “Britain’s farm”. Global oil shocks dealt a further blow, ending the post-war economic “golden weather”. Decolonisation spread from the economy to the social, cultural and political worlds.

As author Richard Wolfe put it, Kiwiana objects emerged as “reminders of who we are”, which served as anchors in a world of change. It was sentimental and looked backwards, nestled in nostalgia.

This all happened in the context of a wider popular “heritage moment” in the late 20th century. The British historian Raphael Samuel said these “historical fictions” were affectionately conjured up, often in reaction to change, with Americana, Canadiana and Australiana all part of the same phenomenon.

In the 1980s, however, economic deregulation meant cheap imports began to flood the local market. Iconic brands were subject to buyouts and takeovers, fuelling nostalgia for a post-war rural idyll.

Symbols out of time

In a sense, Kiwiana was about evoking the uniformity of a post-war closed economy. The farmed bounty of the land, in particular from the traditional meat and dairy industries, was the mainstay of New Zealand’s economy.

Comforting Kiwiana clothing revived a settler farming and rural mythology, such as the Swanndri, a New Zealand-made woollen bush shirt popular in the 1950s and ’60s with rugged outdoor men including farmers, deer cullers and timber workers.

Along with lamb chops and full-cream milk, nothing captured this quite as much as the breakfast cereal Weetbix. According to legend, Weetbix fuelled Edmund Hillary in his successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. By the 1980s it had captured an estimated 40% of the breakfast cereal market.

Similarly, Tip Top commanded the domestic ice-cream market. Its hokey pokey flavour, a local adaptation involving toffee nuggets in vanilla, became popular in the post-war years. From the 1980s it qualified as Kiwiana, promoted as an example of Kiwi ingenuity, originality and playfulness.

When local supermodel Rachel Hunter become the advertising face of Tip Top, she embodied the connections between the land, produce and consumption. Commercial interests were central in the construction of Kiwiana.

An expression of uniqueness

As cheap imports began to replace locally made objects, Kiwiana came to represent a strange kind of authenticity. The humble jandal is a case in point. Auckland businessman Morris Yock started making these “Japanese sandals” in his garage in 1957. Touted as an example of Kiwi ingenuity and adaptation, they were sucked up into the Kiwiana vortex.

The buzzy bee re-emerged in response to the plethora of plastic toys from overseas. Manufactured from 1948 by the Ramsey brothers, the local variation of the wooden pull-along toy was lodged in the infant memories of baby boomers.

Objects such as the buzzy bee and Crown Lynn crockery became valued for their manufactured localness — a response, as Claudia Bell put it, to “the risk of annihilation of difference through the impacts of globalisation”.

In the late 20th century, trade with China, Australia, the United States and Japan had overtaken Britain, and tourism had become a major industry. Ironically, kitsch Kiwiana souvenirs made overseas filled a new demand for symbols of an invented national story of Kiwi culture.

Meanwhile, massive social, socioeconomic and political change was challenging the post-war Kiwi consensus. Race and gender relations were shifting. The Waitangi Tribunal’s powers were extended in 1985 and te reo Māori became an official language in 1987. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986, paving the way for civil unions and same-sex marriage in the early 21st century.

The past isn’t what it used to be

Post-war family values gave way to a greater acceptance of divorce, blended families, and solo and gay parenting. Traditional Kiwiana was effectively out of step in this new world.

At the same time, migration from Asia and the Pacific was creating an ethnically diverse population with no cultural memory of Kiwiana or its origins in the fuzzy sameness of a New Zealand that no longer existed. The professional transformation of the once predominantly rural and amateur “national game” of rugby embodied the shift.

And yet, Kiwiana has been carried along in the visual, digital age by a wave of marketing and souvenir commerce. The symbols may have been past their expiry date, but there was still profit to be made in Kiwiana.

It might even be that Kiwiana filled a void left by the decline of religion and its icons in an increasingly secular age. As a kind of national symbolism it is broad, accepting and appealing.

But a closer examination reveals a narrow and nostalgic set of symbols that mirrored colonial settler narratives at a time of economic, social and cultural change. Comforting nostalgia on one level, it’s nonetheless the assertion of an imagined world that was fading away.

With international tourism paused for the time being, maybe now is the perfect opportunity to gently draw the curtains on our Kiwiana past and re-imagine the symbols of our national identity.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. All things change over time. Including acceptance or otherwise of what appears to me to be expensive load of academic claptrap.

    My view is the average New Zealander has a lot more depth of character than is portrayed in the piece.

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  2. Despite being sourced from Wiki (which is not necessarily a reliable source), this might be of interest, the same article noting that Ms Pickles Alma Mater is McGill University , Montreal, Canada

    ‘Academic career

    After an undergraduate at the University of Canterbury (including editing the student paper Canta) and University of British Columbia, Pickles completed a 1996 PhD titled ‘Representing twentieth century Canadian colonial identity : the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE)’ at McGill University. Pickles returned to the University of Canterbury, rising to full professor.

    Much of Pickles’ work is influenced by postcolonial and feminist approaches.

    Selected works

    Pickles, Katie. “Female imperialism and national identity.” (2018).
    Pickles, Katie. Transnational outrage: The death and commemoration of Edith Cavell. Springer, 2016.
    Rutherdale, Myra, and Katie Pickles, eds. Contact zones: Aboriginal and settler women in Canada’s colonial past. UBC Press, 2014.
    Pickles, Katie. “A link in ‘the great chain of Empire friendship’: the Victoria League in New Zealand.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 33, no. 1 (2005): 29-50.
    Pickles, Katie. “Colonial counterparts: the first academic women in Anglo-Canada, New Zealand and Australia.” Women’s History Review 10, no. 2 (2001): 273-298.
    Pickles, Katie. “Kiwi Icons and the Re‐Settlement of New Zealand 1 as Colonial Space.” New Zealand Geographer 58, no. 2 (2002): 5-16′.(1)

    It is interesting (but unsurprising) that the Herald decided to print such an article, although as Ms Pickles would seem to be a ‘progressive, radical feminist’, such an action would seem to be in keeping with that publication’s on-going attacks on New Zealand society as part of the larger NWO narrative.

    _________________________
    (1), [n.a.], ‘Katie Pickles’, [online], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katie_Pickles [accessed 6 January 2020]

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    • Go direst to source at the shitty UC, which has no world status in any topic anymore.
      A broken shell.

      https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/arts/contact-us/people/katie-pickles.html

      Qualifications
      Bachelor of Arts (University of Canterbury)

      Master of Arts (University of British Columbia)

      Doctor of Philosophy (McGill University)

      RSNZ James Cook Fellow

      Research Interests
      My work is in the often overlapping research areas of
      > female imperialism,
      >heroines in history,
      > decolonisation, and colonial and national identities
      (Transnational Outrage: the Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell, Palgrave 2007/2015; Female Imperialism and National Identity, Manchester University Press, Studies in Imperialism paperback edition 2009; and a series of articles on New Zealand women heroines). I have published on New Zealand, Australia and Canada as settler societies.
      blah blah puke

      Recent Publications
      Pickles K. (2021) Heroines in History: A Thousand Faces. Routledge.
      Pickles K. (2018) Female imperialism and national identity. 1-209.

      Executive summary
      She is a self loathing whitie and man hating cunt.

      [you can choose your own words]

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  3. these idiots forget who built those academic places for learning, that have now turned into worthless degrees, for people who have no idea about the real world where the rest of us live and work
    time to close these now useless universities or defund them of our hard earned taxes and see how they do
    leave our icons alone, everybody loves them, so butt out your busybodies
    how about they all go to an isolated island somewhere and they can build their perfect world from the ground up and see how long they last,
    one ticket though

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  4. Well, I thought lest just google this font of all things wize.
    Well here ya go.
    https://www.google.co.nz/search?sxsrf=ALeKk01Xj3_8igk3Xi01dyyz7cUk73gEmw%3A1609878147563&source=hp&ei=g8r0X632H6WG4-EP9caggAY&q=katie+pickles&oq=Katie+Pickles&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQARgAMgUIABDJAzICCAAyAggAMgYIABAWEB4yBggAEBYQHjIGCAAQFhAeMgYIABAWEB4yBggAEBYQHjIGCAAQFhAeUOcMWOcMYLA7aABwAHgAgAGwAYgBsAGSAQMwLjGYAQCgAQKgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6&sclient=psy-ab

    Please note that you have to be nice as she is a “mate” of porky pie woods.

    Katie is a recent Royal Society Te Aparangi James Cook Research Fellow. She graduated as a senior scholar with a double major in History and Geography from the University of Canterbury in 1989. After working as the editor of Canta, she undertook postgraduate study at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where she completed a first class MA in 1991. In 1996 her PhD was granted by McGill University in Montreal. Katie returned to Canterbury to lecture in New Zealand women’s/feminist history. Katie is the author of three monographs and she has edited six scholarly collections. She has published over 70 essays, journal articles and opinion editorials on a variety of topics. Katie was the President of the New Zealand Historical Association from 2014-5. She is an associate editor for Kotuitui and serves on the editorial boards of the Australasian section of History Compass, the New Zealand Journal of History and the New Zealand Women’s Studies Journal.

    So just another trough dweller. then.

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  5. I always think it so strange how these idiots think they need to change the world for what purpose I have no idea. Once a degree was worth something but if I were to employ anyone now it would not be someone with a degree from a lot of the universities in NZ or the rest of the world. They are all just a breeding ground for stupid.

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  6. My god, anyone looked at the swamp today.
    Unbeleiveable.

    Trump must have shat in farrars bed some night.
    Its just vitriol.
    No wonder the Nats are fucked if they followed his advice.
    Well they did for years.

    Note to Judith.
    Get rid of the fucking rino on your rump.

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    • I am not a fan of DPF,
      Also noting an earlier comment of his how he does not want “his party to be pulled down” 🙁

      Stephen Russell
      And what is the chance that juries would actually convict any – let alone all – of them?
      Trump once boasted that he could walk down 5th avenue shooting people and they would still love him. He was right. Probably a third of the US would vote to acquit even if they were shot by him.
      Regardless of the success or failure of such a plan, it would only increase the anger and increase the stakes.
      Soon enough, it would be turn about.
      Democrats would then be jailed for the treason of not overturning the 2020 result, or for speaking disrespectfully of the president or not carrying a handgun.

      David Farrar
      I think discovery could be very useful and interesting

      https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2021/01/what_i_would_do_if_i_was_joe_biden_at_1201_pm_on_21_january.html#comment-2868796

      DPF made that in reply.
      A two edge sword, as in their defence, a court case opens things up much more, like with “discovery”, subpoenas. etc… that democrats would rather not expose.
      Should be able to open up many can of worms, for the past 5 years?

      But DPF does nothing to regain credibility for me, and remains in the “political oligarchy” of seeming to know what is best for others.
      Like is he setting himself up to reposition himself later, with the “fomenting” fairy dust when it suits him, to catch his breath for a moment.

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      • Dpf is just being a typical jew and covering his arse, being a closet lefty thays trying to come out he certainly cant risk cancel culture taking him down for not being a woke prick and siding with the media and their no fraud hoax.

        Kiwiblog is dying a slow death via dpf wokeness and ott moderation.

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  7. In a pickle isn’t she?
    Have just bought yet another swanny, beats the hell out of the plasticised hi- viz gear every one seems to be jumping into.
    For those that actually work. ie lose some sweat ,wool is so much more comfortable and also a natural renewable product..
    Also some of us think bones are for dogs to chew on, not hanging around our necks.

    Our values are ours

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    • A-women to that.

      Swanndri.
      Use of natural resources in a useful and practical way- so not something a Tertiary twat would touch.
      They are all theory and piss an wind on saving the planet but will wear oil based polyester coats and jackets instead of wool.
      About right!

      UC.
      Deify arsewipes like this but leave Anne Marie Brady swinging in the wind.

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