‘Kia Kaha Puke: we’ve got this!’ Exhibitions reflecting on COVID-19 during Matariki 2021

When Denise Matene designed her COVID-19 photography exhibition, currently showing at Franklin Arts Centre in Pukekohe, she imagined there could be a part of the gallery for the community to add their stories.

Matene and staff from Franklin Arts Centre connected with Tracey Aramoana, kaiako from Pukekohe Intermediate School, Debra Vonk from Pukekohe Library, and Sharon Smith, Senior Librarian, Archives and Manuscripts at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library, to make the exhibition 'Reflections’ happen as a whole community event. 'Reflections' combines interactive questions to the public, a video by Pukekohe Intermediate School rangatahi and a sample of Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections’ region-wide archive of COVID-19 memories. This exhibition is on display till Thursday 22 July.

Matene’s ‘Kia Kaha Puke: we’ve got this!’ exhibition portrays daily life in Pukekohe during the first COVID-19 lockdown and reveals her wonderful way with colour. This exhibition is on display till Friday 25 June.

Let’s look at some of Matene’s photographs, interspersed with images from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. The heritage images show the region around Pukekohe during another time of tension, worry, uncertainty and stress, the time of the First and Second World Wars.

Image: Denise Matene. Shelter for patrons outside supermarket during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020.
Image: Denise Matene. A tractor ploughs the field outside
a farmhouse during the first lockdown, Pukekohe, 2020.

Image: Unknown photographer. Pukekohe First World War Memorial, 1921. 
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections Footprints 02374.

Image: Denise Matene. Flowers decorate the ANZAC Day
outside the Pukekohe Town Hall, 2020.

Image: Denise Matene. ANZAC Day observed, Pukekohe, 2020.

Image: Arnold C. Bettany. Road block erected by the Home Guard on the Tuakau to
Onewhero Road, 1942. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections Footprints 04333.

Image: Denise Matene. Road closed, Pukekohe, 2020. 

‘Reflections’ is made up of two community exhibitions which share the theme of the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic both locally and across Tāmaki Makaurau. ‘Reflections’ is on display in the Community Gallery at Franklin Arts Centre till Thursday 22 July. All the exhibitions on show acknowledge Matariki in their own way, inviting viewers to reflect, take stock, and to think about the future.

The first part of ‘Reflections’ features a documentary film created by Pukekohe Intermediate School students: Jayden McLaren, Vincent Watson, Foueti Finau, Ariana Grieg, and Honey Schaumkel. The students created interviews with people from across the community. Their film grew into an integration project that ran alongside ‘Kia Kaha Puke’, connecting with the central theme of the region of Franklin and the community’s response to the first COVID-19 lockdown. It is a time capsule piece looking back on people’s thoughts and feelings in a positive way.

Image: Pukekohe Intermediate School. 'Reflections' time capsule project, 2021.

The second part of ‘Reflections’ shows a selection of images from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections ‘A snapshot in time: COVID-19 archive’. The images display a broader geographic focus across the Auckland region and have a wider timeframe. This collecting initiative was set up by members of the Heritage Engagement team at Auckland Libraries. The archive captures the responses of Aucklanders to life under Alert Levels 1-4 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the material in the archive includes diary entries, poems, photographs, drawings, screenshots of social media posts, and sound recordings. This collection will provide a valuable resource for researchers and whānau in the future.

The community gallery has an invitation for visitors to add their own reflections of that time. These will be collected up at the end of the exhibition and added to the archive. If you can visit the exhibition in person, please consider adding your own reflection.

Image: Natasha Barrett. ‘Be Kind Karangahape', Central Auckland, May 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, COVID-19 Archive, NZMS 3952 s12

Members from the Libraries' Heritage Engagement team in the newly formed Arts, Heritage and Culture Unit provide a regional focus and engagement with people from across Tāmaki Makaurau. In this instance, the Heritage Engagement team worked with the local Community Delivery team, Franklin Arts Centre and Pukekohe Library, who offer a local focus and engage with artists and community groups from the Pukekohe area.

The content found in these exhibitions has been gathered within the last year and a half. Items created or collected in this way can give a sense of immediacy -- documenting people’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Contemporary collecting gathers the first-hand experience of people during a particular period.

Image: Josie Halpin. A big, bright ‘We thank you' to Essential Service workers, Onehunga, April 2020. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, COVID-19 Archive, NZMS 3952 s24. 

Ngā mihi nui to all of the people who have donated to the 'A snapshot in time: COVID-19' archive. We are continuing to collect items. Please remember to make copies of your digital photographs and documents, especially those on your cell phone, that way you can still look at them, and share them with your whānau in the future. Please contact Sharon Smith via email (sharon.smith@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz) if you would like to take part.

View more items from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections' 'A snapshot in time: COVID-19 archive' and see material collected from across the motu in this blog post from the National Library of New Zealand.

Exhibitions information

Franklin Arts Centre, Pukekohe

Kia Kaha Puke: we’ve got this! Denise Matene
21 May - 25 June 2021

Reflections - Pukekohe Intermediate School film and Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections ‘A snapshot in time: COVID-19 archive’ images
11 June – 22 July 2021

Author: Sharon Smith, Senior Librarian, Archives and Manuscripts.