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Stories of rumour and intrigue from Havelock North

Media Release
8 May 2014

Stories of rumour and intrigue from Havelock North

MTG Hawke’s Bay’s new regional history exhibition Dr Felkin and the Forerunners: visions of utopia, 1900-1930 opens on Saturday 17 May. This exhibition tells the fascinating story of the Havelock North Forerunners and their enigmatic leader, Dr Robert Felkin.

The Forerunners were a collective of writers, artists and philosophers who banded together to create a utopian community in Havelock North in the early 1900s. Dr Robert Felkin was an English doctor, missionary, personal physician to the King of Uganda and an international occultist who moved to New Zealand to lead them. Pieced together from brand new primary research, this exhibition reveals their extraordinary story.

‘In New Zealand we will have an opportunity such as has not occurred in thousands of years in going to an entirely new and clear atmosphere which will leave us free to form fresh symbols unprejudiced by any previous tradition.’ - Dr Felkin, 1912

Many will be familiar with Dr Felkin’s Havelock North arts and crafts home, ‘Whare Ra’, designed by celebrated architect James Chapman-Taylor. “Some may be less familiar with the ideas and practices of the Order of the Stella Matutina which spiritually curious New Zealanders discovered in the temple and vault beneath this house.” says Social History Curator Georgina White.

In collaboration with artists from the Keirunga Gardens Arts and Crafts Society, MTG is creating a replica of the Whare Ra vault – a visually splendid seven-sided room entirely covered in symbols that represent the elements, planets, and astrological signs as well as Hebrew letters to signify the Tree of Life.

”For the members of Felkin’s inner order, the vault played an integral role. This was the place in which advanced members endeavoured to commune with the spirit realm” says Georgina.

Relics and treasured belongings of the Felkin family are also on show, along with writing from The Forerunner journal, arts and crafts made under the banner of The Havelock Work, and images of the extraordinary Shakespearean Pageant of 1912. The exhibition celebrates the creative community of Havelock North.
Georgina says, “In many ways, Dr Felkin and the Forerunners were a century ahead of their time, and their rhetoric has resonance now.”

Georgina White will give a free curatorial floortalk on the exhibition on Saturday 31 May at 11am at MTG Hawke’s Bay.


Dr Felkin and the Forerunners: visions of utopia, 1900-1930
17 May - 2 November 2014

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