Inspiring art August 2, 2011Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 3. Castle Books, Beyond Death and Dishonour.
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The other night I was watching a re-run of the excellent TV series presented by Justin Paton called ‘How To Look At A Painting‘. It was the episode about New Zealand landscape painting.
I was fascinated by the discussion about Robin White’s 12-panel piece, ‘Summer Grass’, not least of all because one of the stories that sparked White’s imagination comes from one of our books.
‘Summer Grass’ is a painting about the Featherston Prisoner of War Camp where over 800 Japanese prisoners were held during WW2, and where 48 prisoners died in 1943 under fire from camp guards during a riot. White related reading the story of one prisoner who heard the quote ‘they shall mount up with wings as eagles…’ This prisoner realised that the quote was from the Bible and began reading from the beginning of the Bible until he found the words. Moved by this story, White incorporated the text from Isaiah 40, written in Japanese script, into her painting.
The story that so inspired White is found in Beyond Death and Dishonour by Michiharu Shinya. Starting in 2000, at the request of the author, who wanted to give his memoirs as a gift to the people of New Zealand, we started work on revising and updating the text that was first published as ‘The Path from Guadalcanal’ (Outrigger, 1979). It was a fascinating project as we edited the original translation and worked alongside the family of Hessell Troughton (the padre at Featherston who gave Shinya a Bible), and with people such as Noel Earles (who had been a guard at the camp at the end of the war). The story attracted quite a lot of attention when it was published in 2001 and continues to be popular today.