Hero photograph
Photo by St Paul's Collegiate School

Reflecting on the year that's been

Headmaster Grant Lander —

As 2019 winds to a close Headmaster Grant Lander reflects on a year that has seen a number of milestone events in the school's history - the most recent of which was the installation of The Journey, a sculpture by world-renowned kiwi artist Paul Dibble.

Dear Parents and Guardians

This year has been very much a year of celebration, with many special events, including: the unveiling in February of the timeline in the Sports Centre and the cutting of the cake to mark the sixtieth year of the school’s operation; through to the 60th Anniversary Collegians’ weekend events in March; the recognition of six decades of rugby at the televised 1st XV match against St Peter’s School in July; through to the honouring of the 40th year of the Tihoi Venture programme in September. On the first day of Term 4 (14 October 2019), the culmination of these unique historical milestones was marked with the unveiling and blessing ceremony for the sculpture which is to be referred to as The Journey. Commissioned last year, the sculpture was produced by one of New Zealand’s most respected artists, Mr Paul Dibble, ably assisted by his wife Fran.

Paul Dibble was born and raised in the greater Waikato region and was brought up on a farm on the Hauraki Plains. He has produced many of this country’s best-known bronze art pieces, including the New Zealand War Memorial on Hyde Park Corner in London, unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The talents of Paul and Fran Dibble are proudly on display around many parts of our country and in many locations around the world. The only other major piece of work by Paul, in our region, stands in a quad within the University of Waikato.

Paul and Fran spent many hundreds of hours at their bronze foundry in Palmerston North, to provide their interpretation of The Journey undertaken by our students, both while at school and in later life. The end result is an imposing and impressive four and a half metre high piece of artwork that is highly visible as you travel down the main driveway and enter the main school property.

'The Journey' at night — Image by: St Paul's Collegiate School

Generously funded from within the school community, including significant donations from the St Paul’s Collegians’ Association, Parents’ Association, St Paul’s Foundation, Great Oaks Trading (School Shop), the large sculpture is sure to be a point of great discussion both currently and in the future. Like all major artworks, it will be open to the interpretation of the individual reviewing it.

The artist’s use of a tent in the sculpture was inspired by the architectural vision behind the St Paul’s Collegiate Chapel of Christ the King. The Chapel was deliberately designed in the shape of a Middle Eastern tent. Symbolic of Saint Paul, a tentmaker who travelled the Middle East region preaching and repairing tents as a way to pay his way. The figure who emerges from the tent could be interpreted as symbolic of Saint Paul’s journey in life – who changed and transitioned from Saul, the persecutor of Christians, to Paul the champion of the faith taught to him by the prophet, Jesus.

The use of a tent can also be seen as reflecting that students don’t stay long, they ‘pitch’ their tent and after their time at school, they move on, hopefully better prepared for the life experiences that await them, accompanied by a back-pack of skills and tools. The essence of adolescence is captured in the figure looking awkward and a bit confused. Many might draw parallels to our Year 10 young men, as they emerge from their outdoor experiences of Tihoi, facing the journey and the challenges that life holds for them as they move into manhood. But for me, the interpretation I like the best is not gender or age-specific. The figure represents each and every one of us. We, at different points in time, pitch our tent in different jobs, careers, relationships and locations. When we emerge from the comfort of that tent into the challenges of the unknown, we naturally do so with a bit of trepidation and insecurity, but with a skillset on our back, that has come or been borne from past experiences and learnings, we take up the challenges that await us.

The tent itself has many words added onto it. Bible references from Paul’s writings to others, the words of the school Haka, (which tell the story of Saul’s journey and conversion to Paul), Virtues promoted by the Tihoi Venture programme that form an important point of reference for use in later life, the cross – a gift from St Paul’s Cathedral School in London, representing the Lamb of God – Jesus.

We hope that you will take the time when you next visit the school to stand before The Journey sculpture and to reflect on what, if any, message that you get from looking at it. Whatever your views or interpretation, there is one thing that is certain, that its presence will provide a lasting legacy, that in 2019 we celebrated in a memorable manner, the powerful influence that this school has had on so many young people as they have gone through their journey in life.