The Gallipoli Exhibition at Te Papa is so very good – and here’s why

Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War    (on at Te Papa)

This was on my must-do list when I was in Wellington but I didn’t realise the queue-wait would be SO long.  I came back later but didn’t have as long as I would have liked because i had to catch my plane home, so now I want to go back. I had NO idea what was in this show. It took me by surprise. I didn’t make any notes. I didn’t have so much time. But I experienced something very deep. I do hope I get to go back, so I can write more. On the web site it suggests it is suitable for Y4 upwards

 

This is part of what I have loved about visiting the show:

It is free – what a gift to New Zealand.

You walk into the first room and you meet an huge, life-like soldier. You can see the hairs on his arm. It makes the hairs on your arm stand on end. He is larger than life but he is life. But he is also death. He is the scale of war. The poor excuse of war. You can’t miss him. It is not like peering at a tiny old photo or facts and figures. War is immense how ever you look at it.

Looking at this towering soldier (he almost reaches the roof),  I began to think of a mother’s love and a father’s love (on both sides, on all sides of war). That’s what I thought of to at the start.

I was drawn to the uniform on a stand. It was like a soldier (normal size) was standing in the room but there was no body in it. I found this so very powerful. Sad. Moving. It was like every soldier that had ever been, that is, and that will be, was stepping into those clothes. Inside the uniform were hopes and dreams and regret. Fear and trembling. Incomprehension. All these things.

I saw weapons. Again it is as though stories clung to each one.

I saw film clips. I heard words as I looked at the next towering solder and then the next and then next. Six rooms in total.

What caught me. What stopped me. Was the look on the faces of the giant soldiers. I was pulled in to something that felt real. In its made-up-ness by the skill of Weta Workshop. Yes I have read numerous books on Gallipoli that have made me feel so much. But just to stand by this immense soldier – I couldn’t look away. These were men. Like pawns on the battlefield. I could feel the hunger and the loss and the fear as never before. The waste.

I listened to the last letter home by a soldier in the little dug out.

I walked down the tunnel with the ground swaying and the pound of gunfire.

I stood by the weeping nurse and I looked into the little rooms of the hospital ship. Each person and each thing a story.

 

This show isn’t just for your eyes and ears. It is for every bit of you. It takes you into war and it does that by taking you to the soldier. The man with the beating heart and the lice and the homesickness and the heat and disease and wounds and despair. On both sides. On any side.

These men wanted to make the world a better place fort their children. There are still people who want this. No hunger no war no pollution no greed.

I sat waiting for my daughter to come out and I saw a different show. The show of looks on faces as people left through the exit door.  This exhibtion affects you. It gives you something to think about and take away with you. Not everything does this.

Thank you Te Papa, Weta Workshop, Peter Jackson and all those who worked on this, who contributed to it. This is a gift.

 

photo 3 photo 1 photo 2

photo 4

 

 

 

 

 

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