Memory of Mankind - 50th Anniversary Programme


On Saturday morning, 17th August, the day after Aratoi’s 50th anniversary celebrations kicked off, the museum received a message from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage which began:

“Happy 50th birthday to Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History”.


Luit Bieringa was guest speaker on the opening night.

He wrote his speech out at his bach in Castlepoint.

The former Director of Aratoi and of the National Art Gallery (Te Papa) offered many poignant remarks – a favourite: a museum is an education hub, conservation centre, and a "memory of mankind" all in one.

Aratoi’s 50th anniversary programme embodies this, with a free exhibition of more than 100 items from its growing collection, a free lecture series, an education programme, and a fully illustrated book - written by Gregory O'Brien, Jill Trevelyan, Lizzie Bisley, Sian van Dyk, Bronwyn Reid and Susanna Shadbolt - will be launched on its 'real' birthday, 11 October.


Have you seen moa bones?

What about 19th century photographs of the Wairarapa?

Now is the time to visit Aratoi and see many taonga and work by cultural icons from near and far.

Enjoy sculpture by Barbara Hepworth from England, portraits by Czech-born Gottfried Lindauer who made Woodville his home, paintings by Colin McCahon who lived across Aotearoa, and work by Dame Robin White, Aratoi’s Honorary Patron, who lives a few blocks away from the museum.


Not often are the two words spoken in the same breath.

Yet, they both require precision, imagination, sweat, skill and support.

Athletes and artists work hard to achieve that grand slam or grand prize.

Luit Bieringa told the audience on Friday that each year, about 140 million people attend sports events in the United States, and 850 million people attend museums.

Visitors to Aratoi have risen by 84% in the past three years, and donations to the collection have tripled.


Barb Roydhouse, Chair of Aratoi Regional Trust and an advocate for the museum for decades, spoke about the first item in Aratoi’s collection, Galliard – Forms in Movement, the 1956 sculpture by Barbara Hepworth.

A single ribbon of highly polished copper creating four loops, centrally fixed on a bronze base, Galliard is named after the lively 15th century dance with complicated turns and steps” in triple time, which Barb said was a “great analogy” for the work done at Aratoi for the 50th celebrations.

Aratoi is the first institution in New Zealand to collect a work by Hepworth.


Galliard was purchased in 1963 – ‘at a very good price’ of  £500 – by a group of Wairarapa residents, including John Maunsell of Hansells, to advocate for the establishment of an arts centre in the region.

The strategy worked. The doors of the Wairarapa Arts Centre opened six years later, on 11 October 1969.

Aratoi remains the first and only Wairarapa institution with a public collection of art works.


More than once, guests walking through the exhibition said, “I remember that.”

The 100-odd items from the collection on display are like friends, some old, some new, all remembered, valued, cared for.

The Galliard is there, shining.

Dame Robin White’s 12-panel Summer Grass – you can almost feel the heat.

A chainless bicycle from 1869, mounted high on the wall, as if E.T. might come for a ride.

Tīpuna painted by Lindauer, Korowai woven by weaving artists.


Over the past while, David Moriarty, Deputy Chair of Aratoi Regional Trust, has been reviewing Minutes and records of various Aratoi governance meetings over the past 50 years.

He has seen two threads repeated year after year: Insufficient funding and dedicated people.

He is hoping to change that first thread.

David made a preliminary announcement of the Aratoi Patrons Trust, an independent, incorporated, and registered (as of 19 August) charitable trust to help secure a stable future for the museum, and the wider Wairarapa community, so that “our future generations are to be able to celebrate again in 50 years’ time”.  

MC Bob Francis called David a “local boy” with “significant” international skills – Bob invited guests to sign up right then and there with David as an Aratoi Patron!


Aratoi raises about a third of the money it needs to exist, for exhibitions, educational activities, and to meet many behind-the-scenes costs, like the electricity bill that averages $6,000 a month.

The museum has many local supporters, as seen in the sponsorship of the 50th anniversary programme.

Hansells, one of Masterton’s first businesses, an early supporter of the arts centre, and of Hansells Sculpture Awards, 1974-1981.

Goodeye, an international yet Wairarapa-based design consultancy creates for many iconic Kiwi brands.

Resene, New Zealand's largest privately owned and operated paint manufacturer, allowed a beautiful palette for the exhibition.

Trust House, a community-owned company working to enhance people's well-being, supports the whole exhibition programme at Aratoi.

Friends of Aratoi, our membership organisation, is providing many volunteer hours for the 50th events.

Copthorne Solway Park is supporting the 50th anniversary dinner on 31 October.

Masterton Trust Lands Trust has given Aratoi a beautiful building for all its activities.

On the opening night, Aratoi Director Susanna Shadbolt said that her speech was an expression of gratitude to all, and to Masterton Trust Lands Trust: “if it weren’t for you, Aratoi would not exist.”


The exhibition would not exist without the curation of Bronwyn Reid.

To curate means to care for.

As Collections Manager, Bronwyn cares for whole collection – about 4,000 items of Taonga Māori, art and social history.

She also is a guide for many exhibitions – each year, Aratoi mounts 25-30.

On Friday evening, Bronwyn was presented with flowers to enjoy, and at the public talk the next morning, she said, “I feel privileged to have this job [she’s been on staff since 1996] and to have put together this exhibition.”

Her wish: “I hope people enjoy it.”


The three Wairarapa mayors officiated the opening celebration.

Lyn Patterson (Masterton), Viv Napier (South Wairarapa) and John Booth (Carterton) sang Happy Birthday, led by Meg Hunter, a recent winner of Talent Wairarapa.

They cut a tiered cake, beautifully designed by Sandra Debney, Chair of Friends of Aratoi.

Lyn spoke on behalf of the three mayors, saying “It’s all about you and what Aratoi means to you.”


Aratoi is enjoying two recent gifts, both lasting three years.

Tranzit Group, a fourth-generation, family-owned business based in Masterton, offered a three-year sponsorship: “We are proud to support another long-standing local establishment and in particular, one that provides creative education programmes that benefit the whole community.” 

Provincial Insurance Brokers, part of the largest insurance broker network in Australasia, also recently committed to a three-year sponsorship, choosing to support the museum because it feels that “art and history bind a community”.

Another gift is from Breadcraft, since 1924, one of the region’s oldest family-owned businesses. They have been sponsoring our annual exhibition of student art for decades – in 2019, the exhibition opens on 2 October, with a public gathering on 5th October, 2pm.


Luit Bieringa closed his speech with the remark, “A museum is all about a conversation with time.”

The celebratory evening closed with korero by kaumatua Mike Kawana.

He chose a 500-year-old waiata to acknowledge the precious taonga in the Aratoi collection.

Many of the 300-strong audience joined the song.