Friday, February 23, 2024

Stitch in time…

FARIDA MASTER talks to the quilters involved in reviving the fascinating patches of history on panels.

Are the priceless panelled quilts stolen from the centre column at the Howick Information Centre? Asked one of the concerned regulars at the Howick War Memorial building.

All those who have noticed that the quilts are mysteriously missing, can be rest assured that they are in very good hands!

The local treasure that tells the story of Howick and its people, has been dismantled so that the Fencible Quilters can dust, vacuum and repair the four panels that were created on the occasion of Howick’s 150th anniversary.

The panels that depict the unique geographic, historic and the ethnic mix of Howick will be on display at the Art Lounge, Howick from October 1 – November 5.

The display is part of Howick’s 175th Anniversary celebration and will give people an opportunity to admire the detailed work of art

It was in the year 2001 that Howick Village manager Louise van Campfort noticed that the column needed some dressing up. The idea was discussed, and the decision was made by Manukau City Council to cover the centre column with four panelled quilts that told a story each.

The quilts would have different themes: Flora and Fauna of New Zealand, the Settlement of Howick and the Maori influence in Howick.

Jeannie Balemi, a renowned local quilter was asked to oversee the making of the much anticipated centrepiece.

Balemi first approached the Fencible Quilters, a dedicated group to create a quilt depicting the Settlement of Howick.

“We decided to make a background of green hexagons and show the road running through the centre of Howick, up to Stockade Hill where there was a stockade set up by the Fencible soldiers,” says Val Williams, who along with Jan Salter has been involved in meticulously brushing, vacuuming and repairing the panel.

The women who were first involved in the creation of the centrepiece titled ‘Heritage (early history)’ have been having fun revisiting the panels that unfolds a different moment of time.

Pointing to the three ships that the Fencibles arrived in, from England and Ireland as well as buildings, people, historic locations of interest in the panels, such as the Shamrock Cottage, Star of the Sea Church and the Keppoch Sea Lodge — it is easy to see that a lot of thought and creativity has been woven in.

The group of quilters drew inspiration from the 1850s and were advised by historian Alan La Roche regarding the houses built around the time.

The other panel made by Howick College students as part of their school curriculum, depicts diversity with different ethnic backgrounds that represents the cultural diversity of Howick ward. The names of all the students who worked on the quilt in the year 2001 are listed on the quilt.

The third panel painstakingly created by Balemi, depicts the flora and fauna around Howick, complete with cliffs, birdlife and sea life. The detailed quilt has a painted background which Balemi cut and then sewed onto the panel.

The quilts that took around six months to complete also included a panel titled ‘Life from the beginning onwards’ the Māori creation story of Rangi and Papa, representing the Tangata Whenua representing Ngai Tai by Taini Drummond.

Marin Burgess, president of the Howick and Districts Historical Society and heritage coordinator of Howick’s 175th Anniversary celebration, whose idea it was to showcase the panels after they have been refurbished, says, “In these changing times it is good to make people aware of our glorious heritage every now and then.”

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