Nelson’s Grace Darling


Nelson’s Grace Darling




The Suter might have been the

Guggenheim for all its

inaccessibility… a bus ride

8 miles or a trip in Aunty’s car

a special treat, the way we

climbed to the ‘Centre of

New Zealand’ that once

seemed like a mountain

but is really just a knoll


Back then my world of art

contained Peter McIntyre’s

Pacific paintings and my

sister’s subscription to

The world’s most complete

Gallery of painting  7/6d

for each edition – Picasso

was number 50.


But a painting that still draws

me in each time, is not by

Toss Woollaston, nor McCahon

it is the portrait of the woman

we knew as Nelson’s ‘Grace Darling’

Huria Matenga from Whakapuaka

who swam with her husband Hemi

risking their lives to catch a rope

from the sinking sailors on the Delaware.


She is my Suter touchstone, the

portrait I return to, staking my

claim to art, story and childhood












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