You can order The Jaded Kiwi here.
Two couples, a kung fu happy gynecologist and theoretical physicist meet a classical violinist and an actress in a pub in Ponsonby one Friday night. They stumble upon a Maori activist and help him escape a Police dragnet only to become engulfed in a series of conspiracies beyond their control. There is a false flag kidnapping, the sickest torture scene with a lawnmower ever written and a disturbing rape scene. A cockney criminal mastermind and a creative Police inspector stalk each other and start what becomes the war against drugs in New Zealand.
Set in 1976 Auckland, New Zealand over 10 days, this is a love story and a twisted crime mystery with intense action sequences. Available on Amazon here.
When I first arrived as Exhibitions Curator at the Gallery I discovered a "School of Poussin" painting, uncatalogued and hidden away having been a victim of a botched restoration. I informed my new boss who suggested I write to his old friend Anthony Blount. I sent the Queen's curator a color slide of the painting and a description. Blount wrote back that the slide was too small and we should send an 8 x 10 print. (And he was trained by the KGB!) He promptly identified the painting and referred us to an old Burlington magazine where we were able to ascribe its provenance and real title. A few years later Anthony Blount was identified as a Russian Spy and part of the Cambridge Five or Six, depending on how well you can count.
In an article I wrote for a catalog of Conceptual Art at the Christchurch Art Gallery in 2000, The Art of the Heist, I referred to Pat as he gave his blessing for our stint as curators for the National Students Art Festival.
"Our Director, Melvin Day ... liked to be called Pat and our job was to make him look good while also challenging just about everything he stood for. Pat was a solid Art History scholar, a product of the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London and a relic of a wonderful but bygone era; the gentleman art history scholar who wore perfect hand tied bowties and told charming and witty anecdotes. In the tiny but brutally politicized world of art politics in Wellington, he was ill served by his many masters, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Academy of Fine Arts and the NAG Council. He also, and this is where I really sympathize with him, had to deal with us, Andrew and Nick, the terrible duo."
With the many exhibitions we staged and the increase in attendance at the National Art Gallery, I like to think we made him look good. There was not a bad bone in Pat's body and he was a perfect gentleman with his conviviality, scholarship and decency.
When I finally had the grand opening of a new traveling show I had curated "Three Contemporary Maori Artists" that had taken a long time to organize and involved speaking on many Maraes around the country, Pat received huge accolades for the show. I recall standing to one side and witnessing every VIP patting him on the back and praising him for the exhibition. He deserved it. (More on this show and how it relates to The Jaded Kiwi in a later post.)
Pat Day, after he left the National Art Gallery, went on to continue exploring his painting as well as his art history research. He received the recognition he deserved and I regret I never got to see him again. He was a great boss.
Posted by Nick Spill at 9:45 PM
The Dead Lands
The Dead Lands, released on DVD, is an instant classic that can be compared to Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”. It is also a challenging film for its portrayal of violence and the warrior code. Maori warriors and samurai venerate their ancestors, believe in honorable death through combat and have sophisticated and deep beliefs. This action packed film is both extremely violent and deeply mystical. The plot points keep changing and the dialogue embraces a Shakespearean majesty that elevates the ensuring story and its inevitable bloodbath.
Set in “pre-contact” times, before Europeans arrived, the film is spoken in Maori with English subtitles. Every detail looks authentic from the elaborate vocabulary, the style of dress and weaponry to the cosmological beliefs Maori lived by. The filmmakers are the first to admit they created an imagined world, as we do not know how Maori looked or acted in the 16th century. Although early European artists clearly articulated certain aspects of Maori, including their hand to hand combat weapons.
Maori close combat tools, war clubs drawn by John Frederick Miller, 1769-1770.
John Frederick Miller drew various types of Maori war clubs after Captain Cook’s voyage to New Zealand in 1769-1770, made from wood, stone and pounamu (greenstone). Most violent encounters involved close quarter fighting with such weapons. Maori had no access to metals before the coming of Europeans. Maori had a highly evolved form of martial arts developed in isolation. Such fighting style was similar in concept to Bram Frank’s edged weapon techniques and Filipino blade fighting that demonstrate the universality of proven methods. The warriors who triumph went on to teach another generation of their successful ways. It’s a fighting style that works. There are no fake martial arts schools. You either can fight effectively or you die in battle.
The previews make the film look extremely violent. But the resulting shape of the film is both mythical and pragmatic, like Maori cosmology, the film embraces the sublime and magical yet appears very authentic and humorous at times. It helps if you have slept on a marae, know a little about Maori culture: utu, tapu, maketu, who a Tohunga is and what a Maori burial ground means, but the film stands on its own just like a sophisticated Samurai film by Kurosawa.
It is a must see film for any visitor to New Zealand, student of Maori history, martial artist or edge weapon enthusiast, or plain admirer of Samurai films.
Nick Spill is the author of “The Way of the Bodyguard – knowledge not gossip” and
“Reluctant Q – the true story of a Quartermasters survival in the jungles of Burma in World War II” available on Amazon as paperbacks and e-books.
He is about to release “The Jaded Kiwi” on March 1, 2016 as a paperback and e-book, everywhere.
Posted by Nick Spill at 4:48 PM