Karol London with the New Zealand panel

You never know who is going to walk into the exhibition here at Kendal. This week it was lovely to meet Karol London, the designer of Quaker Tapestry panel F14 New Zealand/Aotearoa, all the way from New Zealand to visit family and Friends.

Karol was delighted that we had this panel on display and kindly told us the story of how she came to be involved.

”During the Quaker summer gathering of 1985 in Oamaru on the South Island of New Zealand. A group of about ten people were throwing around some ideas to include in a Tapestry panel to represent New Zealand or Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud) as it’s known.

I was a costume and set designer at the time and began to sketch as the ideas came flowing. Eventually producing three possible designs and this is the one they chose.

Camouflaged within the base of the pohutukawa (Christmas tree) are a kiwi bird and flax plant. A tui (parson bird) is eating honey from the flax flowers and two fantails or piwakawaka, as these tiny birds with beautiful tails are known, are foraging for insects on the wing. In the centre of the panel grows a yellow tree known as kowhai.”

Volunteer Jane Chattell was also there to meet Karol. Jane had previously written about the panel for one of our calendars. Here’s what she wrote…

F14 New Zealand/Aotearoa written by Jane Chattell

Spending a year at Auckland Quaker Meeting House in New Zealand (Aotearoa) eleven years ago, we looked after a Kowhai  tree (centre, middle, of panel): we were relieved when, in October, brown dead-looking bits unfolded to yellow flowers! Pohutukawa trees (centre, left) flower red at Christmas, summer in New Zealand. Around this tree on the panel you can see birds found only in New Zealand: the brown kiwi, the tiny fantail and the tuneful tui. At the top left of the panel Quakers make a Christmas posy for each prisoner in Auckland gaol.

New Zealand Quakers were, and still are, keen to promote fairness between Maori and other peoples (pakeha). Top right are the Masons, having their sheep returned to them peacefully after a misunderstanding was resolved. The Maori leader is wearing a traditional feather cloak. Designs such as the one beside them can be seen in Maori marae buildings, where community activities are held. At Rotorua, we were able to visit an inspiring Maori Christian church, where a figure, in a traditional cloak, is engraved in glass beyond the altar, so the figure appears to be walking on the water of the lake.

New Zealanders’ care for the environment has been a strength, and Maori have particular responsibilities for the foreshore. The statement on the panel links justice, peace and the health of the land as concerns of Quakers. Climate change has huge implications for a country with mainly low lying coasts.

The buildings shown are of Wanganui Quaker Centre in the South West of North Island. Several families live in community here, growing food and several species of flax (below the pohutukawa tree). The Centre hosts local community events, courses and Quaker learning nationally. Simple visitor accommodation is provided, and a large Meeting room designed for Quaker Worship in a circle.

“Wonderful exhibits, a great museum.”

Sylvia Rutter – Northwich, Cheshire