© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

A New Plymouth Culture Crawl: From Museum to Barber Shop Gallery

© NZPocketGuide.com

44 Days on the Road

The more we stay in New Plymouth the more surprises we’re encountering. It’s got the mountain. It’s got the sea, the surf and the islands. It’s got the music and the art (which we are going to see a lot more of this evening). Today, we’re about to discover it’s got the history at the free Puke Ariki Museum.

At the Ducks & Drakes hostel, we work and we have a quick lunch of cheesy bread mixed with more cheese that we picked up at a dirt cheap price at Pak n’ Save, conveniently the next street from the hostel. We also tuck into a couple of shortbread biscuits left on the free food shelf in the kitchen (God, we are so cheap!), then we are off to Puke Ariki… for free… because, did we mention we’re so cheap?!

Big on the outside…

The first thing that strikes us about the museum, on Ariki Street and just behind the Wind Wand, is the architecture. The uneven design of metal panels are woven between each other looking much like the traditional Maori clothing and baskets made from woven flax. The whole building looks like it is on a bit of a lean. What we didn’t know, however, that half of Puke Ariki is a museum and the other half is a library, so the museum is a little smaller than it appears on the outside.

Laura’s metaphor for the Puke Ariki Museum: Think of Doctor Who’s Tardis… Now, think of the opposite.

Robin’s metaphor for the Puke Ariki Museum: A padded bra.

Our museum voyage

Nevertheless, there is a lot packed into this museum! We decide to start from the bottom floor and work our way up, starting with a temporary exhibition: Voyage into the Deep. There is an interactive submarine that we spend way too much time in for grown adults. There’s a two-player submarine simulator where the players control the submarine. There’s old scuba diving outfits to feel the immense weight of. There are puzzles, periscopes, aaaaand an escape hatch. We time each other who can escape from the climbing frame and slide down the escape hatch first. Robin wins.

Moa, Maori, butter churners, and Kokako video games

Now, we go to the adults’ part of the museum, the settlers exhibition… There are no slides here, but there are oil drills and butter churners…

As Peter was telling us on our kayaking tour yesterday, there’s a wealth of Maori history in the area which you can get a real scope for in the Maori exhibition. There’s a great collection of Maori artifacts found in the region mixed with some clothing made for a recent Maori fashion show.

Taranaki is a region of mountains to sea, so there’s lava tubes to crawl through (or read about, if you are indeed an adult), to real whale bones from whales that have beached on Taranaki’s shores, including blue whales. We are also pretty fascinated by the moa bones, a huge bird that once roamed New Zealand.

Video game-crazy Robin is stoked to find a 2D video game based on a kokako, a bird species we released on Mt Maungatautari, where you progress through levels by climbing trees before nightfall and help other birds to safety.

Check out the settler’s exhibition

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Eventually, we peel ourselves away from this cool little museum and head back to Duck & Drakes where we’re going to be meeting Brett, the owner, later tonight who insists we go to an art gallery event happening inside a barber shop. Whaaaaat?! Intriguing!

The Gallery at Jetcharm

We arrive at the Jetcharm Barber Shop on Egmont Street and everything seems sort of quiet. Brett introduces us to Rose, from the US, who created the Gallery at Jetcharm during her working holiday in New Zealand – a venue and an event the community in New Plymouth have fully embraced, as we are about to find out.

She explains that there is a new themed exhibition every month in the Gallery at Jetcharm. Opening night is on the first Thursday of every month with an opening party starting at 6.30pm. There are snacks and drinks to buy for a gold coin donation, and guests are encouraged to write a theme idea for next month’s exhibition on a piece of paper and submit it into a draw. Then, every artist, no matter who they are or where they come from, has the equal opportunity to submit one piece of art to exhibit in the gallery based on the theme.

Demi-gods & roses

Within the next 30 minutes the Barber Shop and gallery upstairs is full of people. Drinks in hand, cupcakes in mouth, and everyone is chatting together whether it’s old friends or people new to the town, like us! There’s also a bit of live music and general good vibes.

And… AND we even bump into the guy who picked us up on the side of the road after the bus completely missed us the other day. Crazy!

This month’s theme is “Demi-Gods and Roses” where artists have submitted everything from sculptured heads, rose paintings and photos of “Demi-Dogs”. (Even quite a few pieces got sold throughout the night). Robin’s theme submission for next month is “backpacking” (how original), while Laura, being the creative mind that she is, submitted “worms”.

Luckily for the artists, none of our submissions were picked, as next month’s theme is “masks”.

We have a few more drinks, which carry us into the pub next door to the barber shop, but we can’t stay here all night because not only do we have our usual early start for work in the morning, but Robin has a hair appointment at the Jetcharm Barber Shop! Thank f*ck!

See you tomorrow!

The awesome staff of the Gallery at Jetcharm

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See you tomorrow!