Topic: "Passchendaele 1917 Remembered" Exhibition

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This topic describes the inaugural exhibition of 23 contemporary Belgian prints, etchings and lithographs at the Chamber Gallery, Trevor Inch Memorial Library, Rangiora.

The works were gifted by the people of Zonnebeke-Passchendaele, Belgium to the people of Waimakariri with whom they entered into a formal twinning arrangment in October 2007. Waimakariri was chosen because of the similarity of its landscape and its people and in recognition of the numbers of soldiers from this district who remain burried in Passchendaele. During the ceremonies marking the twinning, the delegation from Waimakariri presented a book published specially for the occasion. In the form of a "scrap book" it contains images and diary entries from the soldiers of our district who served on the Western Front during the Great War. In return, the collection of prints were gifted to us.

The collection was commissioned by the Belgian government as part of the wider commemorations of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (or the 3rd Battle of Ypres). One of the bloddiest battles of the 1914-1918 war, it remains the greatest loss of life ever suffered by the New Zealand army in a single action and indeed ranks as the greatest single loss of life in any one day in New Zealand's history. By the morning of 12 October 1917, there were more than 2,700 New Zealand casualties, of which 45 officers and 800 other ranks were either dead or lying mortally wounded between the lines.

The artworks, using a variety of techniques such as etchings, lithographs and linoblock, are the work of young Belgian artists at the RHoK Academie of Visual Arts in Brussels. These young arts students are now three generations removed from the titanic battles that scarred their country and an entire generation of men and women. But the profound trauma of that war lingers even now - in Belgium especially.  The generation that suffered directly are almost all gone now, but their children, who lived with silent parents, are still alive and still affected. The countryside was transformed by four years of bombardment. The town of Zonnebeke itself was erased from the map during the conflict  - after a history dating from at least the middle ages - and had to be completely rebuilt after the war.

These art works represent the students'  exploration and reflection of their responses to the battle and the wider war.

The Collection is in the guardianship of the Waimakariri Arts Collection Trust and the exhibition held at the Chamber Gallery in the Trevor Inch Memorial Library from 8 September to 16 October 2008 was held to receive, acknowledge and show our respect for this gift from the people of Passchendaele.


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