Object Stories from the Presbyterian Archives

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The Presbyterian Historical Network met again at Knox College last week on Thursday the 18th.  One of our photographic people, Antje Lübcke, spoke about her research into our photograph collections of Vanuatu New Hebrides, talking about the social biographies of the physical albums.

Vanuatu is made up 80 islands in the Pacific.  It was the New Zealand Presbyterian Church’s first mission field.  While New Zealanders continued to provide missionaries to Vanuatu, the mission was handed over to the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides in 1948, later the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu when Vanuatu became an independent nation.

The archives holds thousands of photos awaiting analysis.  About three thousand are in the New Hebrides collection.

Antje focused for this talk on two albums, the Foreign Missions Album, and the ‘Nellie’ Album.

The Foreign Missions Album was put together about the late 1920s, by either Rev. Barton, or Rev. Mawson, two successive mission secretaries of the time.  There is written evidence that Barton was asking for photographs from the missionaries at this time.  It is an album for the promotion of the mission work, showing the islands, the people, and the missionary institutions that they built.  It was kept together in a large scrapbook to be displayed.  Photographs have been removed from it during its history.

The Nellie Album was put together by the missionary Helen Smail.  It was a personal album, focused on people, especially Thomas and Helen Smail’s daughter, Nellie, who appears in a third of the photos.  The photos are more biographical than the Foreign Missions Album.  It was a personal album until it came into the archives for preservation toward the end of Helen’s life.  It presents a different purpose for the album.

Beauty and Brokenness – Reflections on the Syrian Crisis

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Chris ClarkeThis was an address by Chris Clarke, CEO of World Vision New Zealand.  This originally took place on the 14th of May in Dunedin.

There are twelve million displaced from Syria, six million of them are children, 2.8 million of them are no longer going to school.  No one ever expects the conflict to reach as far as their village.  Then in the early hours of the morning the bombs fall over their village.  Apparently Assad’s regime favours barrel bombs full of incendiaries, stocked up from American suppliers, targeting schools and markets to cause fear and injury.  To save families senior members encourage younger generations to flee and take the children with them, abandoning the obligation to an older generation less able to escape.

Jordan and Lebanon have kept their borders open to refugees.  Lebanon has closed theirs now.  A third of the population in Lebanon is refugee.  With a permanent Palestinian refugee population Lebanon does not want to absorb a second refugee population.  They expect them to go home and no permanent services will be provided for them.  Refugee camps mushroom on any vacant land and they are expected to supply rent to landlords.

These are people who still want to show hospitality.  Aid workers are greeted with coffee, even if it has to be begged or burrowed from somewhere else.  Aid workers need a strong bladder to cope with this hospitality to strangers.  There is no happy ending for these people.  Silence accompanies their poverty.  They need to tell their own stories.  They need to regain their emotional health.  Children can play, women will focus on the day, men are left sitting around – they cannot be successful men, the protectors and providers for their families, they are humiliated.

These are vulnerable children.  There are few child-friendly spaces for them.  They are forgetting the songs of their childhood.  There are 1200 different factions in the Middle East, so many blurred boundaries.  How do we avoid creating a generation of angy fighters?  Where is the hope, and the aspiration?  The hope of the Middle East lies in its communities.  It is up to us to respond with compassion to injustice.  Make a difference.

The National-led government of New Zealand argues that joining the coalition of the willing this time will be a Just War choice.  This is what they are up against.  Aid agencies challenge the government to prepare for a Just Peace – for every dollar spent on war spend a dollar on peace.

We were shown this video during the presentation.  Adel with his mother and sisters fled to Lebanon and were in a camp during Clarke’s visit.  Adel is the man of the family now.  If I passed such children on the street, would I notice them? They could easily be refugees who could fit into New Zealand, not noticed as different among our population.  Instead one night they slipped out of the camp and returned to an uncertain future in Syria.  They could not afford to remain in the camp.

Who do you think you are, Global Dunedin?

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Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith at Toitu Settlers Museum, photo from the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture webiste.

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, photo from the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture website.

An lecture hosted by the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture by Lisa Matisoo-Smith, haplogroup T2B4, held at Toitu Settlers Museum on Sunday 10 May 2015.

Evolution leads to a dead end, but everyone has ancestry.  Mitochondrial DNA is separate from nuclear DNA.  Nuclear DNA is half and half from both parents.  Mitochondrial DNA is passed directly from the mother.  Men do not pass on mitochondrial DNA.  Mutations occur in mitochondrial DNA about every ten generations.

We can trace back to a common ancestor in Africa, sometime between 150 000 and 200 000 years before present.  60 000 years ago our ancestors left Africa.  The T haplogroup spread out mostly into Europe, some into India, the Near East, and Asia.

New Zealand was the last landmass settled by humans, about 750 years ago, a diverse population who came from Africa to Aotearoa, of Maori and Pakeha.  For this study a random sampling was taken at farmers’ markets in the main centres.  By all accounts volunteers were keen to get their results.

Maori and Pacific Islanders come out of Haplogroup B.  There are 30 lineages found in New Zealand.  Most results for Maori support oral tradition.   This research can find out the population of pre-European New Zealand.  Eight lineages mapped out for Pacific Islanders now number 200 lineages.

The most common group in the British Islands are Haplogroup H.  They make up about 40% of the population.  They are descendents of the first agricultural population, replacing the hunter / gatherer population, Haplogroup U, that preceded them into Europe.

Dunedin is 36% H1 and H3 from Western Europe, 14% descended from U, the early European hunter-gatherers, and 6% B, Maori and Asians.   There’s more variable distribution than other New Zealand Centres where the results have been examined.  Auckland and Hamilton have more Asian and Pacific Island lineages.  The Lebanese community in Dunedin has ancestry going back to the start of the Neolithic expansion in Europe.  The Chinese Association results bring in the East Asian lineages.  I was surprised to hear that Dunedin Chinese are only 4% H, despite the history of inter-marriage.  Dunedin represents almost all the major non-African mitochondrial DNA.  There are a couple of Native American ancestry, and Australian Aboriginal ancestry, that are not found in Dunedin.

Who we are is a social construct.  There is more diversity in who we have come from than is recognised in our race-based identities.  I wonder who a test of my ancestry would reveal?