Learning & Research - Akoranga me Rangahau
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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.



Mt Egmont Expedition (1890), oil painting by Edith Halcombe. Image: A66.436 Puke Ariki

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Painters, sculptors, film-makers, writers, musicians and photographers find more than just a home in our region – they find inspiration. Taranaki's wild coastline, an ever-present mountain, a rich history and a blend of cultures all help talented creative Taranaki people to produce work that is often seen on the world stage.

‘Art Chooses You’

It seems entirely appropriate that at the door to Susan Worthington's house, a message has been spelt out in fresh camellia blooms. The words 'I love you' form a special greeting from two young granddaughters on the occasion of Worthington's sixtieth birthday.  Born in Stratford, Worthington grew up in Waverley, and from there went to Samuel Marsden College in Wellington.  An... more

A Bulky Man of Large Enthusiasms – Ronald Hugh Morrieson

In small-town Hawera, he spent his nights drinking, gambling, womanising, playing jazz and generally raising hell in dance halls and pubs. Rumours abounded about the excesses in his life. Yet he lived and died in the very house where he was born and only ventured out of Taranaki on less than half a dozen occasions.    Too much for one small town Morrieson was born in 1922 and came to... more

A Life-time Legacy in Pictures

If every picture tells a story, then Robert Wells has thousands upon thousands of tales to tell. With the turning pages of his folios and albums, the 98-year-old's life pours out in torrents, just like the many rivers he has captured on film. From 1919 until 1996, Robert photographed the beauty of New Zealand, a hobby he was born to embrace.   His pictures continue to appear in glossy... more

A Long Friendship

The Andrews and Messenger families have a friendship that goes back over 140 years. It was during the Battle of Waireka that John Andrews fought alongside William Messenger. John was in the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers and William was an ensign with the militia. The friendship passed on from father to son, grandson and great grandson.   John's great grandson Russell Andrews can remember his first... more

A Man Mad on Mountains – Bernard Aris

Bernard Aris was said to be rich in spirit and humble in a way that lifted him above the common man.  He poured out a steady stream of paintings that graced many New Zealand homes. Born in Sussex, England, Aris came to New Zealand in his early 20s in 1908, after a doctor told him his heart was twice the size it should be and warned him he was unlikely to live much longer.  “I believed doctors in... more

A Penchant for Pranks and Beer

Malcolm Robinson and Ronald Morrieson grew up pretty much joined at the hip.  Two parts of the Terrible Four along with Gerald Patterson and Len Flavell, Robinson describes his mate Morrieson as a chameleon, 'a total charmer'.   “We were an average group of 12 to 14 year-olds having tons of fun on our bicycles,” he says of their teenage years. “Morrieson's most valued possession was a Rudd... more

A Singular Depth and Vision - Artist John McLean

First impression: He's a paradox, ordinary but not commonplace. High on a long-legged stool, tattoos covering both arms and shoulders, dressed in a paint-splattered singlet and pair of well-worn pants, he might well be elevated, but he's far from acting elite, though the words that drop from his mouth often seem to be snatched from a higher plane.   John McLean, award-winning artist of Urenui,... more

A.H Messenger - an artist with a passion for Pukearuhe

Artist A.H Messenger had a passion for Pukearuhe. A childhood spent playing in the bush around his family's home, 40 kilometres north of New Plymouth, was the catalyst to a life-long love of art and environmental protection.   A bush playground Arthur Herbert was the sixth son of Captain William and Arabella Messenger. Arthur was born in November 1877 and raised in the bush around the military... more

Ancient journey names a town: the story of Whaitara

The Short Story whai (to follow) tara (the dart) – Whaitara The name of Whaitara (commonly spelled as Waitara) town is said to come from the story of Whare Matangi, the estranged son of local Ariki (chief) Ngārue, and his quest to be reunited with his father.  Whare Matangi was given a  dart (tara) imbued with magic that his mother foretold would lead him to his father. His... more

Art for fun – Harry Fryer

Harry Fryer's art studio is barely big enough to wield a paintbrush - never mind swinging a cat. So when a local women's group wanted to come and view where the New Plymouth artist worked - he had to put them off. "Can you imagine 20 women in here?" he laughs, drawing aside the curtain to his cubby hole and revealing just enough space for a small desk, a multitude of paint brushes, a few pictures,... more

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