Nigel Ogle Recreates New Zealand’s People

P1010555 720365Driving past the grazing cattle on the straight road out of Hawera, we met one of New Zealand’s most creative people, busy in his workshop. Nigel Ogle has been in the business of making lifesize sculptures for 25 years. He has created an entire world within the walls of his Tawhiti Museum, where the history of New Zealand is revealed with lifesize figures who look as if they’d come to life if you turned your back.

We toured these realistic scenes two days ago. The first one was a mother cooking dinner with a screaming youngster tugging at her apron strings, and an infant in her hands. Ogle captures the expressions a la Madame Tousauds, but he adds the ditrius and bric-a-brac that makes the whole scene come to life. There are rusty old wagon wheels, boxes of Wheatabix, cans of creamed corn, and dusty old containers of Vegemite.

When we met Nigel, the bespectacled craftsman was hard at work on a prone Maori woman. He was applying her eyebrows with glue and a special type of hair that comes out looking very realistic. There were six other Maoris in the room, all undressed, waiting for the master’s finishing touches…they would be sent to a museum display in Riverton, he told us.

While today’s Tawhiti museum has many rooms to wander through, he has big plans for an expansion. “We want to tell more stories, like the one about Dickie Barrett, who helped defend a tribe of Maoris he had married into against a much larger hostile tribe. “It was 4000 armed men versus a few hundred,” he said, and he pointed to a row of 40 warriors, clad in loinclothes all holding rifles. “Imagine what it must have been like to have four thousand of these guys all coming at you.”

There will be a big new building and more of the detailed lifesize and micro sized depictions of Maori Pas, or fortresses, and of the early settlements in New Zealand. He will connect the new building with the Bush railway he runs on Sundays during school holidays, a lifesize recreation and extension of the museum.