longwhitekid

Licking the Tiki : The Definition of Identity

In Australians being racist, Australians making jokes of other cultures, Australians Stealing Shit, Chelsea Sugar Refinery, CSR sugar, Depot Artspace, Golden Syrup, Hi Life yoghurt, In Search of the Vernacular, Liki Tiki, Mr. Vintage, Museum of the Vernacular, Pavlova, Peter Alsop, Publication, Selling The Dream, The Cultural Mapping Project on September 30, 2014 at 10.46

chealsea goldie syrup repeat copy smaller gold

Inspired by Chelsea Sugar Refinery’s iconic CSR golden syrup, and a rather well-known, somewhat sentimental (some may even say syrupy) Kiwi artist of Māori portraits from times gone by, I created this Warholesque repeat design to accompany the article for the book.

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Ah, the quaint lacuna of Kiwi popular culture.
I am pretty sure it was actually “unpopular culture” until maybe Peter Jackson got famous in Hollywood, because I really don’t think the rest of the world was that interested until then.

So, what comprises Aotearoa’s “identity” in this respect? It is not actually the first time that these questions have been put to me to answer. The reason, I suppose, that they have been repeatedly asked is, because – much like “what is love?”, and more pertinently in this case, “what is art?” the answer is for the most part more slippery than holding an unwrapped Whittaker’s in a hot car on a summer’s day. I can definitely tell you that a “Hobbit” is not, and will never be Kiwiana, ever. As hard as they try to spin it. Sorry about it.

Geographical distance is really an over-riding factor in developing uniqueness I think. Distance also, as a long term ex-pat, gives me a great deal of objectivity. In fact if Aotearoa was further away from everything else, Australia would neither be able to make jokes about New Zealand being a sixth state, or steal most of our good shit and say it is theirs (Pharlap, Pavlova, Split Enz, the list goes on). However It would not, unfortunately, stop them from making jokes about our bumming sheep.

I am, of course, seeing these questions from a perspective of an artist-slash-designer, for the most part ex. I now spend more time researching and writing about Kiwi food and drink brands of time gone by, and sometimes recreating the lost artwork for what I consider, as a seasoned eye, the best examples of the genre. This is what I do with my Longwhitekid online journal.

Mr-Vintage-Liki-Tiki-Womens-T-Shirt-Small edit copy

The “Liki Tiki”  apparel design from the popular “Mr. Vintage” brand. Image courtesy of  www.mrvintage.co.nz. P.S., it looks like they’ve stopped making these however there’s a company in Australia called Mighty Ape that may still have some

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Truth be told, there isn’t anything that unique for the most part about New Zealand popular cultural/design identity until more recent times when we actually became conscious of having an “image”, and a need to articulate that accordingly. In fact, although the changeover to domestic manufacture was really a happening thing by the 1930s – well into the 1960s items from “the mother country” were unbelievably still seen as “better stuff” – and we still at least in part imported everything from chocolate to board games and toys, drinks, children’s annuals, sewing accoutrements, sticking plaster and pharmaceuticals, cleaning products, infant foods and formulas, and magazines.

Amazingly, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that we switched from “God Save The Queen” to our own anthem. The fact that we were tied to British apron strings so late in the piece probably makes a valid contribution as to why exactly we feel such a necessity to articulate so strongly an identity in the form of things undeniably Aotearoan, if that is a word (it is now).

This perhaps is a separate question if you consider it from a financial point of view – and the rewards that are to be reaped, by deliberately constructing a palatable package that sums up the country’s face. Actually, I only want to make it a separate question because I find talk about economics versus culture, and the corporatisation of anything and everything – not only boring, but repulsive. Hey, that’s just me.

Hi-Life Yoggit stickers circa 1980 freddie fruit salad

Sticker set published from 1980 through the first half of the decade to promote Hi Life Yoggit. These stickers were popular on leather school satchels and exercise books (well, maybe not this particular one). The dodgy stereotypes did not go unnoticed, apparently resulting in school age children dubbing the brand “Lo Life”. Image courtesy of Steve Williams collection. 

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Money matters aside, the concern likely has a lot to do with sentimentality; a luxury which is seemingly now afforded in lavish amounts to the X+ Y generation with too many things, and too much time on their hands to think about stuff. Certainly when I post examples online, undeniably the strongest reaction is for anything that dates between that late 1960s and the late 1980s. Apart from the reason I just explained – this is simply because the audience not only have the easy technology to inter/act on those memories – but also because they’re not dead (yet, but wait for it).

I view the shortlist of purported “Kiwiana” icons as a rather middling bunch – with no unique foodstuffs making it in besides perhaps Edmonds, Tip-Top, Wattie’s and L&P. Wouldn’t Muttonbirds be more appropriate than canned beans and fizzy drink? Just saying.
If you want to strategically pinpoint that uniqueness factor – it is actually a very narrow thing, and one definitely needs to utilize strictness when it comes to categorizing “true Kiwiana”. It needs to tick all the Paua shell boxes, so to speak.

Art and design from the tourism genre has always been unquestionably unique. This is something that has been focussed on recently and explored by Peter Alsop in his book “Selling the Dream” and the series of essays within which explore the marketing of early New Zealand tourism, so I need not elaborate.

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“Selling The Dream” by Peter Alsop, published in 2012 by Craig Potton, focuses on the beautiful and unique art of New Zealand Tourism. 

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When I look at examples that truly set us apart they often have a reference to indigenous culture, because quite frankly – it’s all pretty honkified and spongy white until you meld the two; sort of like sprinkling hundreds ‘n’ thousands on Māori Bread. There you have it! You know that you won’t find that unique aspect anywhere else in the world.

You can include anything with Kiwis, ferns, Tuis, and tikis. “Maori” apples and “Native” sauce are other, ancient, examples that spring to mind; They are brand trademarks that contained imagery that may have been acceptable at one time, but would of course be highly inappropriate now. And more pertinently, were done without any sense of humour – which is even more offensive in my opinion (but, as seems an almost full-time occupation for so many now, it would give the opportunity to tut-tut disapprovingly) .

Along with the Hi-Life yoghurt brand of the early eighties which issued a sticker set including “Freddie Fruit Salad” with his pink clogs, limp wrist and handbag – those hoary potboilers would never fly in contemporary times. And in a way I am sad, for the more inappropriate and ludicrous those old rarities are in our current PC-gone-mad climate, the more I like them. After all, who doesn’t like to point and laugh, particularly if it’s at ourselves? It shows how self-confident and sure of our identity we are. …doesn’t it. Well, doesn’t it?

chealsea goldie syrup no background  copy

Solo version of the can design in the original 1970s colours, to accompany the article for the book “In Search of the Vernacular”.

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The process during a period of the formulation of a conscious identity is always the fascinating part. It’s exactly the not knowing how it is going to turn out. It’s like baking something from a new recipe (not Lamingtons – I think the Aussies can claim that – and I say fair trade; they are welcome to that one if we get to keep our meringue icon).

There is always that “tipping point” – the moment where one becomes so self-aware of an identity that the next step is inevitably self-referential. And from there it rapidly descends into the fetid sewer of cliché and, ergo, parody. Which is great if it is done well and you are predisposed to cynicism like me; I don’t think anyone would argue that Kiwis aren’t experts at this when it comes to advertising (think the Toyota Hi-Lux “Bugger”, or NZI Insurance “Everyone Steals Your Stuff” campaigns in particular).

All that said, who has summed these aspects up best in my opinion? I think clothing company Mr. Vintage, when they did a brilliantly simple design called “Liki Tiki” just a few years back, which featured the traditional Māori figurine slurping lasciviously on a Frosty Boy cone. Enough said.

 

Licking the Tiki : The Definition of Identity was first published in 2013 as part of  “In Search of the Vernacular” a publication by The Cultural Mapping Project in association with Depot Artspace and The Museum of the Vernacular; a collection of artwork and writing documenting a quest to uncover Aotearoa’s rich, diverse, evolving and distinct cultural identity.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

Bite Size: Striking Gold

In baked goods, baker, baker and confectioner, Bread, Edward Boyes Gold, John Gold & Sons, soft drink on September 14, 2014 at 10.46

STRIKING gOLD LWK copy

John Cold (Gold) & Sons - BALCLUTHA sauce or soft drink  bottle edit copy

A John Gold & Sons of Balclutha crown cap soft drink bottle, probably 1920s. Image courtesy of Graeme, aka grayman on Trade Me, The Oddity, Waikouaiti. 

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This one really had me stumped this morning. Thinking at first it was a soft drink, being a typical early crown-cap bottle – I had no records coming up anywhere for a “John Cold”, which by now I know means something is not right. Then I noticed it stated “baker” in the embossing. What kind of product could it be? Tomato sauce was the first thing that crossed my mind. All that fruit and sugar goes hand in hand with preserves. Dozens of searches in my usual go-tos were fruitless, and that’s just not possible. Eventually I struck Gold. Literally. The name is spelled wrong on the bottle!

New Zealand Archives  passenger Lists 1839-1973 John and Edgar Gold Bakers 1915 Waitomo edit copy

The Waitomo departing New Zealand for the U.K. in April 1915 with two bakers aboard: John Gold and Edgar (sic) Gold.

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John Gold was operating in Clutha in the first quarter of the C20th. He was born in Scotland, 1873 where he won the majority of his thirty plus medals for his fine baking skills. He had arrived with his family in 1908 which included wife Margaret Boyes Gold, and offspring James and Edward Boyes Gold (1896-1968) who formed with him John Gold & Sons in the mid-teens. He possibly also had daughters Annie and Mary, Records of the family coming into Wellington on the “Tongariro” show two females whose names both begin with M. A later record shows John leaving on the “Waitomo” in 1915, no doubt on one of his many trips back to the U.K. for shows and conventions, with an Edgar, also a baker (obviously a mistake with the name).

First residing in Dunedin, he came to Balclutha in early 1915 and purchased the business of A. Hutton in Clyde Street, in early February 1916. He immediately developed a beneficial strategic relationship with a client – The Dominion Pressed Yeast Co (later D.Y.C Vinegar, which many will remember) – enough so that they wrote a glowing testimonial for his bread in 1916 which was used publicly as an advert.

J (John) Gold Clutha  bread testimonial from DYC Clutha Leader 21 April 1916 and bottle edit copy

L: A John Gold & Sons of Balclutha crown cap soft drink bottle, probably 1920s. Image courtesy of Graeme, aka grayman on Trade Me, The Oddity, Waikouaiti. R: Advertisement for  J (John) Gold’s baked goods with testimonial from D.Y.C, Clutha Leader, 21 April 1916. Image Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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By the mid 1920s his importance was such that he was vice-president of the New Zealand Master Baker’s Association. He continued to operate through the 1920s and died age 64 in 1936.

I was guessing the container was for Tomato sauce – as that is often associated with bakers, pastry cooks and confectioners – and I have run across quite a number of them that had lines of sauces, chutneys and jams. However, very occasionally in the past John Gold & Sons soda syphons have turned up at auction mentioning his plethora of British awards – along with other crown cap bottles – that indicate they definitely dipped their toe in fruit cordials, soda, and soft drink manufacturing at some point. All these items are considered very rare so I would say it was a brief foray.

Interestingly, John Gold & Sons crown caps are also known with a misspelling – some with “medalist” and others “medallist”. Grammar was clearly not this family’s strong suit. The AGM markings on the base of one indicate it was likely manufactured post 1922. A scarce tan-top jug issued as a promotion by the business indicates they also had a branch at Milton for some time. It’s still just weird there’s no mentions of the family’s association with soft drinks, cordials, soda or sauces anywhere.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

Catching Up With The Kid

In "K", "K" Brand, Canned Goods, Centennial Kirkpatrick House, Kirkpatrick, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, S. Kirkpatrick & Company on June 28, 2014 at 10.46

Kirkpatricks Nelson Melon & Lemon-Plum  jam Tin  copy

As I have passed the milestone of publishing one hundred articles quite a while back – I now find I backtrack on a regular basis to add interesting titbits as they come up. These may be things that I think will enhance a story I’ve previously considered I’m done with. This may be as new information comes in, or I run across relevant images – or perhaps a descendant or collector contacts me to offer something I may be interested in; data they have that fills in a gap in a story.

This week I’ve made small updates to quite a few previous articles with pictures and revisions, and these are noted at the foot of the article with an addendum.

Here’s several images of an incredible stash of ancient “K” products from S. Kirkpatrick & Co which came up for sale a while back. I am guessing these date from the late 1910s-through the early 1920s. It’s rare enough to find any labelled and unopened cans, particularly this old. I’ve maybe seen one or two from this brand over time. But a few at once? I was intrigued.

I contacted the seller to satisfy my curiosity and they explained that they were found stashed in an old, forgotten cupboard of a long-abandoned house they had recently acquired. I also contacted the buyer, wondering why someone I didn’t previously know of as a collector had bought them all in one go. As it turns out they are the current owners of the renovated Kirkpatrick House that I feature in my previous article – and have decided to collect anything associated with the former owners.

Most of the envelopes further down, as well as the ginger tin, came up for auction around the same time, albeit from a different seller. You can see the previous story on Kirkpatrick and the “K” brand  here.

Kirkpatricks Nelson Marmalade Tin  copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Baking Powder Tin copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Tomato SoupTin  copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Cayenne Pepper Tin copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson K Damson Tin  copy
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KirkpatricksTin tops copy
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K Brand Kirkpatricks Ground Ginger Tin  copy
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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope Solpak apples 1940s edit
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K Brand Tomato Soup, 1940 colour advertising cvrKIRKPATRICK  North Shore Stamps crop

“K” Brand Tomato Soup, 1940 colour advertising cover, image courtesy of North Shore Stamps.

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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope spagetti in tomato sauce  1940s edit
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K Kirkpatrick Spaghetti with tomato and cheese 1945 NZ Bill envelope with advertising edit

“K” Brand  bill envelope with advertising, 1945.  Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library collection, ref Eph-A-FOOD-1945-01.

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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope baked beans flavoured with pork and tomato sauce  1940s edit
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Other updates as follows:

 

The Creamy Dragon Strikes Again

Continental Love

Bite Size: Reconstituted Retro

When It Finally Dawns: Sunrise Cordial and The Galliens

Edible And Credible

Fruits Of Commerce: The Bountiful Depictions of Joseph Bruno Moran

Don’t Mess With The Classics

A Trail Goes Creamy and Cold

Man’s Best Trend: Commercialising Our Critters

Perfitly Preserved

In My Cups

Somewhat Wireless, But Not Brainless

Coupon Conquest

Projecting The Past

When Lactose Goes

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

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