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'Paradise' Featured In National Library Exhibition

For immediate release
21 January 2005


Long before Lord of the Rings showed the world our breathtaking landscapes and glamorous people, New Zealand was depicted as a land of hope and beauty, a paradise on earth.

Visitors to Paradise, a new exhibition opening today in the National Library Gallery, will see a long history of New Zealand's paradisal imagery. The items on display, from the rich collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, show how the idea of paradise was brought here in many different ways.

The 'new world', discovered by European explorers, travellers and colonists, was described to audiences back home as idyllically beautiful and inhabited by exotic creatures, including people. Captain James Cook collected samples of beautiful tapa cloth from the Pacific; later travellers drew and photographed landscapes, plants and birds to illustrate the fresh potential of this part of the world.

Paradise is also what you bring with you, like the family Bible brought to New Zealand by the Bidwills of Pihautea in 1843 or beautiful illustrated books such as Eric Gill's Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ and JMW Turner's illustration of the Fall of the Rebel Angels from Milton's Paradise Lost.

Representations of New Zealand as a 'paradise' soon became part of our own artistic and cultural production. The idea of New Zealand as a 'paradise' fills our history - and is now a standard marketing cliché.

Highlights in the exhibition include:

. A book of tapa cloth samples collected during the three voyages of Captain James Cook . Poems by William Golder, New Zealand's first published poet . Postcards and posters promoting New Zealand as a tourism paradise . He korero tipuna pakeha no mua, ko Ropitini Kuruho, tona ingoa - the first English-language classic to be translated into M*ori, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe . Leo Bensemann's quirky drawings in Fantastica, published by Caxton Press

The exhibition has been organised in conjunction with the international conference Paradise: New Worlds of Books & Readers (National Library, 27-29 January 2005) and will be on display until 20 March 2005.


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