A Well Timed Care Package

Behind the scenes

One of the best-timed gifts my family and I have ever received arrived at our home on Mt Pleasant in May. 


This was about three months after the quake, and we'd just come back from a stay in Sydney. I think we were secretly hoping to discover that the whole city had been cleaned up, or indeed that the quake never happened. But the twenty tonnes of bricks that the quake shook off our house were lying exactly where we'd left them, and the rooms still looked freshly shredded. You could have seen our Sydney afterglow fading.

Just then—and I really do mean just then: it was about forty seconds since we'd entered the house—there was a woman standing at the front door with a gift basket, sent by family in Wellington. I've got to admit to being a former sceptic when it comes to the gift basket cult: ye olde hampers filled with gourmet chutneys aren't exactly my idea of fun. But this one was full of good stuff, and above all came at a very good time. To put it in a corny but heartfelt way, it was simply nice to know someone was thinking of us.

I mention all this because a few months later that feeling kicked in once again, when the Wellington art collectors Jim Barr and Mary Barr sent a post-quake care package to the Gallery, in the form of a big black plastic box. What came out of the box was Michael Parekowhai's Cosmo, the monstrously cute inflatable rabbit that peers out through the cover of B.166

Commentators, myself included, have had a lot to say about Parekowhai's rabbits, connecting them—often all too tenuously—to colonialism, settler politics, and more. Having spent a memorable recent morning with colleagues inflating Cosmo in the Gallery's offices and corridors, I'd say his main reason for being is simpler and more sublime. Call it the gift-basket effect: what he does is make you smile.

That said, I'm glad he wasn't delivered to the family doorstep. The kids would never have given him back.