Kia Kaha Christchurch: One year on

A guest post from UC CEISMIC Consortium Member Te Papa


Te Papa recently opened a small display commemorating the devastating Canterbury earthquake of 22 February 2011, called Kia Kaha Christchurch: One year on.

The display consists of 'Lyttelton Heart' brooches by Lyttel Stitches (as pictured), and is anchored by a poignant short film called Love in a Little Town by James Muir. James was very generous in allowing us to screen his film about his hometown of Lyttelton. It captures the strength and love of this community, and features the heart brooches being made.

One week after the 22 February earthquake, a small group of Lyttelton women banded together in a local school. They began making little hearts from scraps of felt and other fabric, which they handed out to residents and emergency workers.  'Join us, have a chat', their sign read - and so others stopped by to help. As the group remember, 'When our hands were busy, it became possible to forget for a while the … terrifying reality around us.'

The group met for six weeks, becoming known as Lyttel Stitches - a much-needed hub of support. The brooches were their gift of love to those who helped get Lyttelton back on its feet.

'Lyttelton heart' brooches, 2011, various makers. Gift of Lyttel Stitches, 2011. Te Papa

Te Papa has been actively collecting such objects and stories around the earthquakes - particularly around public support, such as fundraising and spirit-raising initiatives, and around creative and entrepreneurial responses to the earthquakes. From precious jewellery to posters, these objects and their makers tell a multitude of stories from those at the epicentre to the rest of New Zealand.

Some of the objects are embedded with the most abiding symbols and sayings of the period. The heart in particular became the key symbol of care and support. 'Kia kaha' (be strong) became a common saying, inscribed on many objects. Several objects feature the Christchurch Cathedral at the heart of the city - the damaged church has become the key symbol of devastation, but also hope for renewal.

Te Papa's display has been well-received. Visitors from 30 different countries have recorded thoughts and heart-felt wishes in a commemoration book. Visitors from Christchurch were moved by the display too. One noted: 'Means a lot. Thanks Te Papa'.

The display closes on 18 March 2012.