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Eid Mubarak! Blessed Eid!

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During June in the Sir George Grey Special Collections Reading Room, there are two items from the Eastern Manuscript collections on display. EASTMS S294 and EASTMS S297 were selected to celebrate Eid al-Fitr or Eid, as it is commonly known. Meaning the "festival of breaking the fast", this joyous celebration is held over a three-day period and marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The exact date of Eid varies each year depending on the rising of the Shawwāl or new crescent moon during the tenth month of the Islamic or lunar calendar. Each Islamic country has its own traditions and ways of celebrating Eid, but generally Muslim communities come together to pray, spend time with relatives and friends, visit graveyards to pay their respects to loved ones who have passed, give gifts and share food.



Both manuscripts were collected by bibliophile Henry Shaw (1850-1928) whose interests included items displaying fine calligraphy and illustration. Shaw’s collection contains …

Charlie Dawes: Everybody’s artist photographer

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The Hokianga Harbour - Te Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe ("the place of Kupe's great return") - is the ancestral home of many Northern iwi, including Ngapuhi. By the 1830s it was also the heart of the New Zealand timber industry, with the small settlement of Kohukohu at its hub.


Kohukohu no longer resembles the bustling township it once was. But through the work of local photographer Charles Peet Dawes we can see for ourselves the people and communities of the Hokianga in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, before fire, cars and intensive farming changed the landscape completely.



Charlie Dawes ran a photographic studio in Kohukohu from at least 1892 to around 1925. Many of his portraits were taken outdoors, often with a white cloth as a backdrop. He took photographs of customers posed with their horses, family groups, social gatherings and events, and was commissioned to photograph crops, livestock and houses. He also took many photogra…

Portal to a brighter day: narratives of progress and the Auckland harbour bridge

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From 1955 to 1959, Aucklanders watched as a bridge gradually began to take shape across their harbour. The Waitematā, beautiful and usually so serene, was transformed into a stage for one of the largest and most complex construction projects in New Zealand’s history. Those on the quiet North Shore were particularly affected. Where residents of Northcote Point might once have looked over a tranquil harbour scene to the city on the opposite shore, their view now bustled with building activity. For those who lived in close proximity, excitement about the construction might quickly have worn off, but for plenty of Aucklanders, the project’s progress was a matter of ongoing fascination. In 1957, a watchman at the Northcote building site reported that as many as 50 sightseers would clamour to the area during weekends. Much larger numbers visited on the city side.


The most widely observed episode in the bridge’s construction came in November 1958. This was the famous “pick-a-back” operation,…

Going gloveless in New Zealand 1880-1910

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In New Zealand in the 1880s, it was customary for women to wear gloves at all times when in public – at least, for Pākehā women of a certain social group. Men also wore gloves in public, but social expectations were somewhat more lax: as “Alice” wrote resentfully in the Otago Witness in 1891, “We dare not, as men do, go gloveless into the streets, although many would be only too delighted to have their hands free.”

For women, glove fashions changed rapidly, and new trends for colours, lengths, and embellishments were published weekly. Clean, tidy gloves were important not only for reasons of fashion but also as a marker of respectability. The author of 'Woman’s World' in the New Zealand Heraldreminded readers: “shoes and gloves are indicative of the character of the wearer, [and so] it is well to bestow a little extra care on them.” Holes, ripped seams, missing buttons, and dirty fingertips indicated a lack of virtue, and women who wore anything less than perfectly neat gloves…

Propaganda and political cartoons from the Russo-Japanese war: Part 2

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The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) had far-reaching effects around the world for all the major European powers. Following last week's post about propaganda cartoons from the Russo-Japanese War, we take a look at some more political cartoons published in the New Zealand Graphic that reflect this.

When the war began in February 1904, the Czar and his officials viewed it as an opportunity to divert the Russian people’s attention from their own domestic problems, instead focusing their patriotic loyalty on Czar Nicholas as their ‘Little Father.’ The officials complacently assumed that Russia would achieve easy victory over an insignificant Asian country in a small eastern war. However when the Russian defenders of Port Arthur surrendered to the Japanese in January 1905, things began to go awry.

The significance of the Russo-Japanese War for the rest of the world was that for the first time in modern history an Asian country had defeated a European power. Before the war Great Britain …

Propaganda and political cartoons from the Russo-Japanese war: Part 1

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The New Zealand Graphic achieved a satirical milestone in its 8 July 1905 issue when, perhaps for the first time, a New Zealand journal published cartoons from a foreign viewpoint. These were an intriguing series of Japanese propaganda cartoons about the Russo-Japanese War.

The Russo-Japanese war began in February 1904 when the Japanese attacked the Russian naval squadron at Port Arthur, in Liaoning province, China. In March the Japanese army invaded Korea and by May had encircled the Russians in Port Arthur. The Russian army in Manchuria tried to relieve Port Arthur but could not get further than Mukden. In January 1905 the Russian defenders at Port Arthur surrendered. Then in February 1905 the Japanese forced the Russians to retreat from Mukden back into Manchuria. After the naval battle in the Tsushima Strait in May 1905, when the Japanese virtually destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet, the Russians grudgingly negotiated and signed a peace agreement at the Treaty of Portsmouth.

The p…