Project inspiration from camp stones

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Elaborate stone constructions and stone boundaries were made by reinforcement groups at the military camps. PHOTO/FILE
Elaborate stone constructions and stone boundaries were made by reinforcement groups at the military camps. PHOTO/FILE

Children will be collecting stones from Wairarapa rivers, whitewashing, and decorating them to pay tribute to the soldiers involved in the Featherston Military Training Camp.

The Featherston Camp Stones Project, devised by the Friends of Aratoi Committee, will encourage Wairarapa school students to engage with Aratoi Museum's monumental Featherston Camp Centenary Exhibition, which opened last month.

Students will take inspiration from the elaborate stone constructions and stone boundaries that were made by reinforcement groups at the military camps last century, and create their own versions which will be installed outside Aratoi in time for Anzac Day.

Friends of Aratoi Committee member Megan Slight said the project will "involve schools more and get more education out there about our history and art".

"Kids will go to the river, find beautiful stones, anything that takes their eye really, and straight away they'll have a little bit of an after-school project with their families," she said.

"It's about combining community and history. Immediately it gets kids involved with their families, it gets them talking about people who were involved with the camp -- perhaps their great-uncle.

"So that's the first step, to open up the dialogue and find a stone.

"Then we will be asking them to whitewash the stones and then really use their imagination to decorate and assemble them."

Aratoi Museum director Alice Hutchison said it will be "spectacular to see all the schools work together to collaborate on quite an exciting project", and that "art just happens naturally with kids".

The decorated stones will be arranged within 1 metre square wooden frameworks built by the Henley Men's Shed. These individual frameworks will be installed in the vacant lot adjacent to Aratoi, once they are complete, to complement the exhibition inside the museum.

"We'll do a beautiful installation shot of the stones that everyone can have," Ms Hutchison said.

"What we do after that becomes part of the whole Featherston WWI commemorations. We could in fact take it to the Anzac Hall -- there's a lot of different possibilities."

The decorations will stay in place until the Aratoi exhibition ends on July 31.

Any organisations, schools, or individuals interested in participating in the project can contact Aratoi Museum on 370 0001.

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