Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

But Wait There's More: Why Pie Carts Are Classic Items of Kiwiana

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

But Wait There's More: Why Pie Carts Are Classic Items of Kiwiana

Article excerpt


This article proposes a conceptual framework outlining the elements identifying an object as "kiwiana" by examining four items of existing kiwiana; The Buzzy Bee, jandals, the Swanndri and the Wattie's brand. Using the framework developed from this analysis this article then argues that New Zealand's remaining "stinker" shaped pie carts should also be classified as kiwiana because of their congruence to existing kiwiana. To achieve a fuller understanding of kiwiana and its association to Pakeha (the group most associated to it within academic literature) this article questions the relationship between Pakeha and kiwiana. The article then recommends that in order to fully understand this relationship research is needed within the other descriptors of New Zealand's early settler/colonizers, (New Zealander, Kiwi and European), that investigates their relationship, thoughts and feelings about kiwiana.


Kiwiana reflects New Zealand's vernacular culture because it includes everyday items of cultural significance that are popularly assumed to be uniquely New Zealand (Bell, 1996; Wolfe and Barnett, 2001). Bell (2004: 175) defines kiwiana as positive 'symbols of the nation', while Wolfe and Barnett (2001) note that kiwiana not only provides an aesthetic, but also a vehicle for individuals to form and recognize an identity. Consequently, kiwiana enhances themes of nationhood that for many Päkehä New Zealanders provides a cultural text serving to differentiate them within an increasingly cosmopolitan/globalised world (Bell, 1996; 2004; 2012). Wolfe and Barnett (1989) note that kiwiana often evokes personal and social narratives reflecting the wider social changes that New Zealand and New Zealanders have experienced over time.

According to Wolfe and Barnett (2007), the classic list of kiwiana includes:

- five mass-manufactured items: the Buzzy Bee, iron roofing, jandals, New Zealand Railways cups, the Swanndri;

-ten commercial items: bungee-jumping, rugby, sheep (farming), stamps, number 8 wire, Footrot Flats, Four Square shops, the 'Taranaki gate', Black (All) and the bach/crib;

- six food-based items: Wattie's peas; cheese (Ches and Dale), ice cream, baking powder; Lemon & Paeroa and Weet-Bix; and

- seven items reflecting New Zealand's flora and fauna: grass, the godwit, the kiwi, paua, cabbage trees, the silver fern and the pohutukawa.

While these items promote themes of identity, community and nation, they are overlaid with a thick veneer of nostalgia. The nostalgia inherent to kiwiana is akin to that evoked by Mason's (1962) play The End of the Golden Weather,; a reflection of times gone by that in retrospect appear to be more comforting than contemporary life. This reassurance was 'officially' represented in November 2012 when many items of classic kiwiana were featured as decorations on top of cakes made to celebrate Prince Charles's 64th birthday held at Government House in Wellington.

Many kiwiana items reflect New Zealand's primary industries: the land and agriculture. Items of kiwiana have emerged over time but, generally, have gained popularity since the 1940s. This timing is significant because, as Wolfe and Barnett (2001) remind us, kiwiana reflects characteristics of our nation's commercial growth and spirit of enterprise - the renowned ability for New Zealanders to "turn their hand to anything", the "number 8 wire mentality". These themes find their genesis with New Zealand's pioneer culture, one pragmatically based within the necessities of everyday life. However, the identity that kiwiana reflects is one that is firmly anchored in past achievement, not future prospect.

Kiwiana and Päkehä Identity: More Research is Needed

Kiwiana is a key part of New Zealand's vernacular material culture. Lowenthal (1979; 1995) suggests that material culture provides a focus for shared values and narratives. This links to Bell's (2004, p. 175) notion that items of kiwiana are not only 'symbols of nation', but also identity touchstones. …

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