06 Jan 201 624km // CHRISTCHURCH // NEW ZEALAND
Different from our usual just-the-two-of-us trips, we recently took a Trafalgar tour, for a group-travel experience of a lifetime. 10 days, 1 sensational country made up of 2 contrasting islands, and a collection of 39 strangers who have proven that the best part of travel is the people you meet along the way.
The third city on our Contrasts of New Zealand tour was Christchurch.
I remember when we arrived in Oslo in mid-2015, just a few months into our journey. I felt somewhat nostalgic, as the “slick architecture with globally-known brands plastered on top” reminded me a lot of home.
When our Trafalgar tour stopped in Christchurch for a night (giving us just enough free time to mingle around the South Island’s largest city), I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic again – this time not because the architecture looked like Johannesburg’s (although the Re:Start Mall – a.k.a. the central hub – with the shipping container stalls and hipster-ish vibe, and the pedestrian zones around Cathedral Square in the CBD, did remind me heavily of Joburg’s bustling Maboneng Precinct), but because I saw a town reborn – a town whose people had clearly suffered and mourned, and a town whose people turned to creativity to cope with the stress and sadness.
*I noticed one of the murals (which adorn hundreds of walls throughout the demarcated buildings), looked very similar to the work of Nick Brandt – an artist who creates work exclusively in Africa. The mural’s scene is of a family of elephants that appear to be strolling through the rubble created by the earthquake. I loved the mural and love Brandt’s work – if you haven’t seen his stuff before, you should check it out.
Similarly to Johannesburg, Christchurch had been through a massive disaster causing its people to feel angry, sad, in disbelief and in despair. For Christchurch this came in the form of a natural fault, causing two detrimental earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, killing 185 civilians and causing widespread damage across the city.
For Johannesburg, the disaster was one of mankind’s faults, caused by racial segregation, and political upheaval (I won’t go into too much detail because this post is about the positivity of creativity, but if you’re curious, you can easily research South Africa’s struggles between 1948 and 1994).
Both cities, now beyond the mourning phase, and well into the resilient phase, I felt, found beauty in the chaos, and turned to creativity to embrace, move on, and polish the rough edges into something beautiful.
Impromptu art installations, vibrant murals and colorful interactive memorials left me feeling hopeful and inspired. I love that we got to see Christchurch in this light. It reminded me that creativity is the perfect weapon for anything sad and toxic. It allows the individuals to cope with their emotions and embrace a rebirth. Stimulating and inspiring, to say the least.
Thank you Christchurch – we hope to see you again one day, stronger and more hopeful than ever.