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Laban: Joseph Churchward World of Type Exhibition

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban

21 August, 2008
Letterman: Joseph Churchward's World of Type Exhibition Blessing

Speech at the blessing ceremony for the Letterman: Joseph Churchward's World of Type Exhibition, Te Papa Museum, Wellington

Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste, Kia orana, Ia Orana, Gud de tru olgeta, Taloha ni, Talofa, Kia ora tatou and Warm Pacific Greetings to you all this morning.

It is an honour to be asked to attend and speak at the blessing ceremony for this exhibition of Joseph Churchward’s works.

I would like to acknowledge and honour Joseph Churchward – it is because of your inspirational work that we are all gathered here today for this very special occasion. I would also like to thank Te Papa for exhibited 'World of Type', and in particular Chief Executive Dr Seddon Bennington, Director of History and Pacific Cultures Dr Claudia Orange and our Pasifika Curator Sean Mallon.

Joseph Churchward and significance of his work
Generations of Pacific peoples, including our parents, have taken the journey to New Zealand. They have brought with them hopes and dreams of a rewarding life, for themselves and for their children. They have worked hard to build a new life here, step by step.

Joseph Churchward brought with him from Samoa an artistic flair and the confidence that, with hard work, he could use his talents to realise his dreams.

He is a man who, through a combination of his innate creative talents and early technical training, has enriched the world of lettering and design. He made his Pacific dream a reality when he set up his own business, which became such a success through his skills, initiative and determination.

Joseph has chosen his creative path wisely. His hand-lettered fonts have moved seamlessly through rapid technological changes - from the printed page of the 20th century when he started creating them, to the electronic media of the 21st.

Here at Te Papa, his lettering for the title font of the wonderful Tagata o le Moana exhibition is as outstanding on the screen as it is on the page. He also helped create the masthead for the Dominion Post newspaper.

The quality of his work is also reflected in his international reputation. Churchward fonts appear on many websites offering typefaces, and they’re on billboards, newspapers, and other printed media around the world. I have as an example the website of the Klingspor Museum, a museum of typography and calligraphy, in Germany w- hich lists Joseph Churchward amongst eminent typographic artists.

It’s clear that Joseph Churchward’s work speaks in an international language about his passion for graphic arts and lettering. That international language connects us all globally.

The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and its role in supporting Pacific artists
Joseph Churchward is a great role model. Many emerging Pacific artists can draw inspiration from his success. He has created lasting works of art that also have functional value, and they live on in print and digital media.

One of the most visible of his designs, to Pacific peoples in particular, is the logo for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, which has been in use on letterheads, promotional materials and the website for over ten years.

Joseph Churchward’s contributions to this image, and his designs for a new Ministry symbol, were recognised earlier this year at a ceremony to honour the winner and runner-up in a competition for a new concept design for the Ministry.

Our Labour-led government recognises that creative artists like Joseph do much to express and define our cultural identity. We also know that Pacific art, music and languages have helped to shape New Zealand as a unique Pacific nation. Not only are they an illustration of Pacific culture and life, they are also a platform for the economic development of Pacific communities.

Through the Pacific Economic Action Plan we want to ensure that Pasifika creative arts are preserved and promoted, and encourage and support the development of our Pacific artists.

One of the strategies that will help meet this goal is the new “Pacific Starmap” website, which is being launched next week. This website has been developed as a tool to encourage and support emerging Pacific artists. Through this website Pacific performing and visual artists will find links to New Zealand resources, Pasifika role models and mentors through a one-stop web portal.

In whatever career we choose, we all need role models. We can learn so much from those who have already travelled the paths, and who can give encouragement and advice to next generations.

Significance of this exhibition and closing remarks
This exhibition at Te Papa is a wonderful tribute to Joseph Churchward’s contributions to the art of lettering design, to the world of typesetting, and to his ability to inspire others, in a creative career that has spanned over 50 years (and is unstoppable!!).

It offers visitors to Te Papa, especially those who share his passion for fine design, an opportunity to explore his works and understand his fascination for print and the creative arts that underpin it.

It is an opportunity to celebrate the “Letter Man’s” contributions, and to honour Joseph Churchward the man, who is clearly much-loved by his family and friends.

My warm congratulations and thanks to Joseph for his life and work achievements. My thanks to our hosts and all at Te Papa who have had a hand in planning and preparing this exhibition, especially Sean Mallon and Safua Akeli.

Thank you again for asking me to join you today. I wish you all the greatest success with Joseph Churchward’s World of Type exhibition.

Ia manuia and God Bless.


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